MIAMI — Holder Jeff Feagles ran 24 yards on a fake field goal to set up Melvin Bratton's 4-yard go-ahead touchdown run in the second period, and second-ranked Miami held off eighth-ranked South Carolina, 20-16, Saturday night, setting up a national championship showdown with Oklahoma.
Steve Walsh, successor to 1986 Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, threw his 18th and 19th touchdown passes of the season on plays of 46 yards to Michael Irvin in the first quarter and 56 yards to Brian Blades in the third quarter.
The Hurricanes became the fourth team to put together consecutive 11-0 regular seasons since the NCAA went to an 11th game in 1970. They will meet No. 1-ranked Oklahoma, also 11-0, in the Orange Bowl on New Year's night.
The game was marred by a fight in the fourth quarter. Miami had apparently recovered a South Carolina fumble at the Hurricanes 40, but after a delay of several minutes and numerous conferences among the officials, it was ruled that there was an inadvertent whistle on the play and the Gamecocks would keep the ball.
South Carolina was called for illegal procedure on the ensuing play, but Miami's Dan Stubbs broke through the line and threw quarterback Todd Ellis to the ground, causing several Gamecock players to jump on Stubbs. Both teams spilled onto the field, and although several punches were thrown, no penalties were called. Miami linebacker George Mira intercepted an Ellis pass on the next play.
The game was the finale to college football's regular season. South Carolina, 8-3 after having a six-game winning streak snapped, will play LSU in the Gator Bowl.
In stretching its regular-season winning streak to 31 games, Miami had to come from behind twice in the first half, the first time on Walsh's scoring pass to Irvin.
South Carolina took a 6-0 lead less than 6 1/2 minutes into the game on field goals of 40 and 48 yards by Collin Mackie, who added a 28-yarder early in the fourth quarter. The second followed a fumble by Walsh at his 28-yard line when he was sacked on Miami's first play from scrimmage.
The Gamecocks took a 13-7 lead five minutes into the second period when Sterling Sharpe turned a short pass from Todd Ellis into a 47-yard scoring play.
On the first play after the kickoff, Irvin caught a short pass from Walsh and raced 42 yards to the Carolina 36.
After a six-yard Walsh-to-Irvin pass and two incompletions, Greg Cox lined up for an apparent 47-yard field-goal try. But Mike Pigza snapped the ball directly to Feagles, and he burst through the left side for 24 yards.
A face-mask penalty put the ball at the three, and, after Warren Williams lost a yard, Bratton circled right end, barreled into defensive back Robert Robinson at the one and drove him backward into the end zone.
At 5:21 of the third quarter, Blades beat cornerback Norman Floyd at the South Carolina 29 and caught Walsh's pass for the decisive touchdown. That made it 20-13--Cox's extra point was blocked--and Mackie kicked his third field goal on the third play of the final quarter.
Except for a 69-yard drive, which included a questionable pass interference penalty, Miami's defense kept the Gamecocks' explosive run-and-shoot offense in check in the second half.
Mira intercepted a pass from Ellis at Miami's 38 with 9:09 left to play, Stubbs sacked Ellis for a six-yard loss that forced South Carolina to punt with 5:50 remaining and Ellis threw three consecutive incompletions that turned the ball over to Miami at the South Carolina 38, enabling the Hurricanes to run out the final 1:24.
Despite throwing his sixth and seventh interceptions of the season, Walsh passed for a career-high 310 yards, completing 22 of 40 attempts.
Irvin caught seven passes for 121 yards.