BOULDER, Colo. — Pompons in hand, Colorado cheerleaders scurried up an end zone embankment in search of safety. School band members deserted their tubas and took cover. Fans hurled insults and cups of ice.
Surprise--like Kilroy, Miami was here.
The Brawl in Boulder, which was almost as eventful as the third-ranked Hurricanes' 35-29 victory over No. 13 Colorado on Saturday at Folsom Field, might be remembered more for a second-quarter melee than a final score. Then again, that's what the Hurricanes can do to you: beat you up and then beat you down.
This time it wasn't all Miami's fault. By all indications, members of Colorado'skickoff team were as much to blame for the fight, which came with 20 seconds to play in the first half, as the Hurricane return team. But rather than walk away from the confrontation, the Hurricanes fought back.
"No way we're going to let part of our family get roughed up like that," said Miami defensive end Kevin Patrick.
Soon there were six separate skirmishes, complete with punches thrown and facemasks grabbed. By the time order was restored--and it took nearly 10 minutes for that to happen--12 players, seven from Miami and five from Colorado, had been ejected by the Big East officiating crew.
Banished from the game were Colorado star receiver Michael Westbrook and starting right cornerback Dennis Collier, among others. The Hurricanes lost starting fullback Larry Jones and three second-team players.
"I just got blindsided, turned around and I started swinging at anyone that I saw," Collier said. "People just wanted to help their teammates. My first instinct was to fight, but I regret that now."
Everyone did, including Miami Coach Dennis Erickson, who has done his best to put a leash on the Hurricane emotions.
"It's a crime," he said. "Nobody likes it. I'm not proud of it. The football team is not proud of it. I'm sure Colorado is not proud of it, either."
But even with Westbrook and Collier gone, even with the Colorado secondary in near shambles, even with Miami (3-0) owning a 20-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Buffaloes (2-2) almost pulled off the comeback in front of a sellout crowd of 52,391. Not until quarterback Kordell Stewart's pass to wide receiver Charles Johnson fell incomplete with 12 seconds to play was Miami's victory secure.
"It went from me coming out of the game . . . to us almost losing," said Miami quarterback Frank Costa, who completed 18 of 27 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. "Things can happen, and they almost did."
Shortly after backup tailback James Stewart scored on a 26-yard run with 8:50 left in the game, Costa returned to the sidelines and took off his shoulder pads. Miami led, 35-15, and second-team quarterback Ryan Collins was already warming up, ready to enter the game on Miami's next offensive series. "I figured, 'That's it, it's over,' " Costa said.
But then Colorado took the kickoff and drove 73 yards for a touchdown. The scoring play: a seven-yard pass from Stewart to Johnson, who finished with eight receptions for 111 yards. The extra point cut the Hurricane lead to 35-22 with 6:34 to play.
Then Colorado recovered an onside kick and promptly drove 36 yards for another touchdown, this time on a five-yard scoring run by tailback James Hill. Suddenly it was 35-29 and Costa had his shoulder pads back on.
The Hurricanes took the kickoff with 5:04 to play and moved to the Miami 43 when Colorado made another big play. Cornerback Chris Hudson, an all-Big Eight Conference selection who didn't even start the game because of a bruised knee, somehow wrestled the ball from Stewart at the Colorado 36.
"Once I stripped it, I just knew we were going to win," Hudson said.
The Buffaloes tried. They had second and four at the Miami 11 when guard Heath Irwin, nephew of pro golfer and Colorado alumnus Hale Irwin, was called for a facemask penalty. That pushed the ball back to the Hurricane 29-yard line. Colorado would get no closer than the 17.
"I'm embarrassed," said Patrick, who fumed afterward about Miami's uncharacteristic lack of killer instinct. "That's our problem and we'll never do that again. From this day on, the work ethic will improve 100%."
The Hurricanes, as well as the Buffaloes, might also want to improve on their on-field manners. Football is one thing, brawls and ejections and a total of 14 penalties for 160 yards is another.
According Big East game referee Buddy Ward, the fight had its beginnings during the kickoff return. "It was just two guys that were going together and weren't going to turn loose of each other," he said.
That's when the benches cleared and reputations revived. For Miami, it was the fifth time in recent years that its players have been involved in such incidents: 1988 against Notre Dame, 1990 against Kansas and then San Diego State, 1992 against San Diego State and then Saturday against the Buffaloes. Hurricane officials are quick to say that only one of the fights--one of the San Diego State games--was truly Miami's fault.