There are many traits associated with Canes football: swagger, speed, intensity, pride, and a winning mentality to name a few. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes had them all and more. After being robbed of a deserved spot in the national championship following the 2000-01 season, the Canes came back the next season wanting to leave no doubt in anyone’s eyes. The result was the Miami teams of the 80s and early 90s on steroids. The Canes scored 512 points (42.6 per game) that season while only allowing 117 points (9.75 per game). 10 players were finalists for national awards that season, with 4 bringing home the hardware. 17 members of that team were drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft (38 if you include all rounds), making up a who’s who of the NFL for the next decade. Ken Dorsey, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Bryant McKinnie, Brett Romberg, Vernon Carey, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow II, Vince Wilfork, Jerome McDougle, Jonathan Vilma, DJ Williams, Ed Reed, Antrel Rolle, Sean Taylor, Mike Rumph, and Philip Buchanon all ran through the smoke that season, giving Miami their fifth national championship. The game itself was a microcosm of the whole season.
Nebraska was a familiar opponent at the national stage for the Miami program, having played the Cornhuskers thrice prior in games that decided the national championship (Canes won in 1984 and 1991, Nebraska won in 1995). However, the 2001 Nebraska team was not as highly regarded as the teams of the 80s and 90s. Running their familiar I-formation scheme, the Cornhuskers were led by Heisman-winning mobile quarterback Eric Crouch. In a similar controversy to what left the 2000 Canes squad out of the national championship game, Nebraska finished the regular season ranked 2nd in the BCS standings despite losing to Colorado in the last week of the season, and not making their conference championship game (Colorado would win that as well). The main factor responsible for their high ranking was their strength of schedule, but none of their previous opponents would prepare them for the Category 5 beatdown they would receive in the Rose Bowl.
The Canes had superior talent on every part of the field, which is how you beat opponents by 32 points per game on average, and against Nebraska it was no different. Almost every Cane that touched the field in Pasadena had a great game that night, and very few Cornhuskers could say the same. From kickoff, the national championship belonged to the Canes, as the offense did whatever it wanted. The first touchdown was a wide open 49-yard bomb from Ken Dorsey to Andre Johnson, which became a concept too difficult for the Cornhuskers to solve that evening, as Johnson hauled in 7 receptions for 199 yards and 2 TDs. All-time tight end Jeremy Shockey would join in on the fun, pulling in 5 receptions for 85 yards and a TD of his own. The Canes could have won this game any way they wanted, as Clinton Portis had no problems running through the Nebraska defense to the tune of 104 yards on 20 carries (with a touchdown of course).
What really made this game look like a contest between men and boys, was the Canes’ defense. Nebraska’s success was based off of their potent rushing attack, as they averaged nearly 400 yards a game on the ground. Not only did Miami hold Nebraska to under half of that (197 yards on 49 carries) the way they did it was just terrifying. If you watch the highlight video below, all of the defensive plays look like an advertisement for the Madden 2005 Hit Stick. The Canes forced and recovered two fumbles in the span of 3 plays in the first quarter (the in between play was the first Dorsey to Johnson TD pass), and neither fumble was a result of a well-timed strip, both fumbles came as a result of an earth-shattering collision caused by Miami defenders being in the exact right spot and hitting the runner at full speed. The sideline shots of Eric Crouch show a sense of hopelessness and downright fear. All of what I’ve described to you in this game so far happened in the FIRST HALF. As both teams headed back into the tunnel, the Canes were up 34-0. It was the most lopsided football game I had ever seen, and it just happened to be in the National Championship.
The second half was pretty uneventful, as the celebrations basically started in the third quarter. If it was any consolation, Nebraska outscored Miami’s bench players 14-3 in the second half, but the final score of 37-14 was very generous to the Cornhuskers. Full throttle, the Canes could have scored 70 POINTS in a national title game. Larry Coker led the team that Butch built to the most dominant season in college football history.
This game was extremely important to me. As a 11 year old in Norristown, PA (right outside Philly), I fell in love with the 2000-01 Canes (Santana Moss is one of my all-time favorite players) and I remember having hot sports opinions with my dad about how they were robbed by being left out of the national championship (for Florida State....). I followed the 2001-02 college football season more fervently than I had followed any sports season at that point, and to watch the greatness that was the Miami Hurricanes cemented me as a Canes fan for life. It put me on a path that eventually led me to attending/competing for the school from 2008-12, and now to write about that same school. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are still my favorite sports team of all time (although they are now tied with the 2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles), and the 2002 Rose Bowl was the most fun I’ve had watching a title game (once again, tied with the 2018 Super Bowl). That’s why I love this game. Where does this game stack up for you? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to come back at the end of the week and vote for your favorite!