MIAMI — Understudy Geoff Torretta did his job well Thursday night, and now can slip back to the wings and let Vinny Testaverde lead the Miami Hurricanes into college football's version of the Super Bowl.
Torretta, subbing for the injured Testaverde, passed for 328 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead top-ranked Miami to a 36-10 victory over East Carolina to set up a national championship showdown with Penn State.
By completing its first unbeaten regular season, Miami (11-0) earned a berth in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 opposite the second-ranked Nittany Lions, at 11-0 the only other unbeaten team in major college football.
"This team was so bound and determined that they would finish this season undefeated that they never let anything get in their way," Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson said. "They focused on their goal, and we've got one step left in our way.
"Now we can think about Penn State and, really, we've been thinking about them for a long time."
Torretta, a senior who had thrown only 45 passes as Testaverde's backup the last two years, completed 20 of 30 attempts, including touchdowns of 42 and 50 yards to Michael Irvin in a 2:23 span of the second period. The other touchdown pass was a 29-yarder to Brett Perriman with 7:53 left in the game.
"It's like a dream come true," Torretta said. "I was excited when I knew they were going to blitz because I thought we could beat them deep.
"I was confident. Even though I hadn't played a whole game in two years, all the quarterbacks get the same amount of work in practice."
East Carolina Coach Art Baker was impressed with the Hurricanes' quarterback, who was sacked six times for 38 yards in losses.
"Torretta came in and did an excellent job under adverse circumstances," Baker said. "We put a lot of pressure on him, and he still completed some excellent passes. Of course, their skill players are as fine as any team I've ever seen."
Testaverde, the Hurricanes' career record-holder for passing yardage and touchdowns, watched from the sidelines. He had suffered severe cuts and bruises when he fell off his motor scooter Tuesday night and was held out of the game.
Testaverde, whose No. 14 jersey was retired by the school Thursday night, is expected to be healthy in time for the Fiesta Bowl. The Hurricanes didn't need him against the Pirates (2-9).
Torretta hit 3 of 5 passes for 56 yards as Miami drove 77 yards to a 22-yard field goal by Greg Cox on the opening drive of the game.
East Carolina answered with a 71-yard drive, capped by a 21-yard field goal by Chuck Berleth.
The Hurricanes used the Torrette-to-Irvin connection to take control early in the second quarter. The first pass, covering 42 yards down the left sideline, came on the first play of the second period. The second was with 12:31 left in the quarter and covered 50 yards down the right sideline.
Irvin also caught a 44-yard pass to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Alonzo Highsmith with 9:28 left in the third period to make it 23-3.
The scoring catches pushed Irvin's touchdown total for the season to 11, breaking his own school record of nine set last year.
The Miami defense shut down East Carolina from the first drive until late in the third period. Then the Pirates put together a 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a five-yard scoring run by backup quarterback Travis Hunter with 13:19 left in the game.
A fumble recovery by Miami's Jerome Brown set up the Perriman touchdown.
The Hurricanes added their final score on a 12-yard run by Warren Williams with 23 seconds left.
The Pirates gave the Orange Bowl crowd of 30,202 a scare by running the ball down the Hurricanes throat on their first possession. The 15-play march featured 14 running plays.
But when East Carolina got inside the 10, the Hurricanes stiffened and forced the field goal.
The Pirates stopped Miami on three plays on the next series and started another drive. But a fumble by Pat Bowens was recovered by Miami, triggering a 13-point eruption on the two Irvin touchdown receptions.
Torretta ended the first half with 11 completions in 17 attempts for 203 yards.
Torretta came to Miami from Diablo Valley Community College two years ago. He had completed 24 of 45 passes for 468 yards and 2 touchdowns in his Miami career going into the game.
Highsmith's touchdown gave the senior running back 25 career touchdowns, equaling the school record set by Eddie Dunn from 1936-38.
Irvin finished with 8 catches for 194 yards.