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Miami Win Comes Out of Left Field

No. 1 Hurricanes win, 28-27, when Beitia adds to Florida State's litany of field-goal failure in series with miss at :01.

October 13, 2002|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI -- It is too little for a curse, and way too much for coincidence.

Florida State quarterback Chris Rix hugged himself tight as he sat in the locker room, bowing as if in pain.

Another kick had sailed wide Saturday.

Just one more kick in the gut for Florida State.

"It must be something in the air," Rix said.

The only variation in the mind-boggling procession was that Xavier Beitia's 43-yard field-goal attempt with one second left was wide left -- not wide right, like the three famous Florida State misses against the Hurricanes that came before.

Add Beitia's name to the somber roll call: Gerry Thomas in 1991, Dan Mowrey in 1992, Matt Munyon in 2000--games known in Seminole history as Wide Right I, II and III.

"I simply can't believe we lost the game like that again," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said after No. 1 Miami escaped with a 28-27 victory after trailing by 13 points in the fourth quarter.

"I thought we had it. I went out to shake his hand. I thought he hit it. I've had that picture so many times before in my career. I can't stand it. Our kids did not deserve to lose this game."

The Hurricanes (6-0) can't say they deserved to win. They just did, extending the nation's longest winning streak to 28 games despite trailing at halftime for the first time since the streak began.

Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey couldn't watch Beitia's kick after leading the Hurricanes back by directing them to two touchdowns in less than three minutes to take the lead with 5:17 left.

Neither could tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who let the Orange Bowl record crowd of 81,927 tell him the news.

"I personally thought he was going to hit it," said Winslow, who had a breakout game with six catches for 84 yards. "I couldn't watch. I closed my eyes. Then I heard the majority of the crowd yell, and I knew we had won."

With that, Beitia -- who made field goals from 45 and 42 yards earlier in the game -- inherited a place in the Seminole kickers' circle of pain.

"What was going through my head?" Beitia said in a statement issued by the school because he was sobbing too much to talk to reporters. "I was not nervous. I was thinking, 'Just make the kick. Just make the kick.' The same thing always goes through my head. Was it a bad snap or a bad hold? I don't know the answer. It was a blur."

Rix, the Seminole quarterback from Santa Margarita High, winced for his teammate.

"I feel for him," Rix said. "I know if we had it to do again, we'd want him to do it. The guy kicks 50-, 60-yarders every day in practice.

"We were one point, one inch from beating the No. 1 team in the country.

"We showed we can play with the best. We showed what we're capable of. That we can play with the No. 1 team in the country, and we should have won."

Ninth-ranked Florida State (5-2) was given little chance of beating its rival this season and was a 13-point underdog.

But Miami's ballyhooed defensive front crumbled against Florida State's offensive line, and Seminole running back Greg Jones had 134 yards by halftime in a season in which no back had gained more than 89 on the Hurricanes in a game. He finished with 189 in 31 carries.

The Hurricanes were causing their own problems too.

Blessed with the recovery of a fumbled punt at the Florida State 15 in the first half, the Hurricanes gave it right back when Dorsey fumbled the exchange on the next play as Miami hurried to the line of scrimmage, and Florida State recovered.

Dorsey's late-game heroics bailed him out of one of his more dubious performances. He completed 20 of 45 passes for 362 yards but threw two interceptions -- one at the Florida State six in the first half, and the other at the Florida State 14 on the first possession of the second half as the Hurricanes tried to come back from a 17-14 halftime deficit.

Miami committed 14 penalties for 109 yards, including a chop block that wiped out a 53-yard gain in the third quarter and a personal foul in the fourth quarter that helped extend the scoring drive that gave Florida State a 27-14 lead with 11:44 left.

"It just seems like there was always something we did wrong," Miami center Brett Romberg said. "We lacked discipline, focus, excitement."

Coach Larry Coker agreed.

"We made a lot of mistakes. We turned the ball over twice in the red zone," Coker said. "[But] we never flinched, never gave up."

No, they just came back.

Trailing by 13 with 9 1/2 minutes left, Miami got the ball at the 30 and Dorsey needed a mere 1:22 to direct a 70-yard drive keyed by passes of 37 and 19 yards to Andre Johnson.

Florida State gave the ball back after a five-play drive fizzled with Rix under pressure.

This time, Dorsey needed only two plays and 19 seconds, connecting with tailback Willis McGahee on a screen pass that went for 68 yards to the 11.

Jason Geathers carried the ball in on the next play to tie the score, and Todd Sievers' extra-point kick gave Miami its first lead since the first quarter.

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