The 2003 Miami Hurricanes were on a mission to right the INCREDIBLE, UNCONSCIONABLE WRONG from the 2002 National Championship game (WHICH WAS WRONG AND CHEATED MIAMI OUT OF BACK TO BACK NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS BY AN ALUMNI — TERRY PORTER — OF THE WORST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD — THE SCHOOL IN THE STATE SOUTH OF MICHIGAN — AND I WILL NOT HEAR ANY DISCUSSION ABOUT IT). It is during this redemption tour that we find our latest Miami Hurricanes Games We Love entry.
Heading into another Thursday Night home game, the #2 ranked Canes were 4-0 on the year, having previously beaten Louisiana Tech, #18 Florida (LOLOL scrubs), East Carolina, and Boston College.
Their opponent on this night was Big East (yeah, remember that?) foe West Virginia. The Mountaineers were scuffling badly, starting just 1-3 on the year. They had beaten common opponent East Carolina (they were REALLY BAD then), but lost to #20 Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Maryland, the last 2 in the weeks directly preceding this featured game.
Entering this game as 4 touchdown favorites, the #2 Canes were picked by everyone to roll to another huge Big East win. With concurrent streaks of 36 regular season wins, 25 Big East conference game wins, and 24 home wins at the Orange Bowl at stake, the Canes were the epitome of a dominant team, and West Virginia were, in a word, not.
This game was UGLY to start. West Virginia got the ball to start the game, and these are the first 6 combined possessions in order: Fumble, Punt, Fumble, Interception, Punt, Punt.
West Virginia got on the board first after QB Rasheed Marshall hit RB Kay-Jay Harris for an 83 yard gain, and then Quincy Wilson (no relation to the son of the former Canes CB who played DB at Florida) finished things off with a 1 yard score. 3 plays, 79 yards, and 11 seconds later, Miami was down 7-0 to the Mountaineers.
The teams traded punts — and standout RB Frank Gore tore his right ACL on an inside run play after having torn 2 ligaments in his left knee in 2002 against Pittsburgh —before Miami finally settled in and got on the board. Mixing the run game with RB Jarrett Payton and passing game led by QB Brock Berlin, the Canes hit paydirt on a 22 yard pass from Berlin to WR Jason Geathers. This tied the game at 7, and gave Miami a new start to a game everybody thought they’d win in a walk.
WVU, undaunted by the Canes’ roster that was loaded with current CFB superstars and future NFL talent, hung in there. After Miami’s next drive stalled at the WVU 4 yard line, leaving the Canes to settle for a short Jon Peattie FG to push the lead to 10-7, WVU answered with their own short FG after their drive stalled at the 8 yard line to tie the game at 10.
Miami marched down the field on the next possession, looking to bookend TDs to end the 1st half and start the 2nd half to give themselves some breathing room. That plan was thwarted, however, when Berlin’s pass on 2nd and goal from the 4 was intercepted by WVU CB Adam “Pacman” Jones in the endzone. Another great scoring opportunity had gone by the wayside, and WVU had all the momentum heading into the half. Crazy to say of a team that was tied with a team like the 2003 Canes, but it’s true. The simple fact that they weren’t getting blown out was a major win for the Mountaineers.
Miami wouldn’t pull all the way away from West Virginia, but the Canes did turn 3 consecutive possessions in the 3rd and 4th quarters into Jon Peattie Field Goals. These possessions, sandwiched around several WVU punts, pushed Miami’s lead to 19-10. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t the dominance that we all expected, but the Canes were slowly pulling away.
Early in the 4th Quarter, WVU finally found their stride again. After a kickoff out of bounds gave the Mountaineers the ball at their 35 yard line, they marched 46 yards to the Miami 15 before settling for a FG. This made the score 19-13 in favor of Miami, and opened the door for WVU to pull a massive upset, if things fell their way.
After the teams traded punts, star Miami RB Jarrett Payton fumbled with 3:30 left in the game. The ball was recovered by WVU deep in Miami territory, and the Mountaineers had their chance to dethrone the Canes.
It is in this moment that WVU made one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen.
Faced with 3rd and 13 from the Miami 34 yard line, WVU went for the killshot. HC and spread offense guru Rich Rodriquez knew that the Canes would bring pressure against his athletic but inaccurate QB, so he did what teams do often in such situations: he called a screen pass.
Faced with intense pressure (by design since WVU let the Canes’ DL get up the field to use their speed and aggression against them), QB Rasheed Marshall floated a well-placed screen to RB Quincy Wilson (yup, him again). Wilson caught the ball and made a run for the ages.
Right after he caught the ball, Wilson found himself 1 on 1 in the flat withone of Miami’s superstars: DT Vince Wilfork. Wilson put a quick juke on the big Miami DT to find some room. DT John Square, a tall and thin speed rusher, was pursuing the play and went for a tackle, but he took a bad angle which ran him out of position, so he missed a diving arm tackle on the 5’9”, 210lb Wilson.
The defensive line also featured freshman DE Bryan Pata (RIP), whose 2006 murder is still unsolved. My friend and former SOTU contributor Aaron Dunlap wrote this piece years ago vowing never to forget Pata, and I sincerely hope you read it, and remember #95 as you do.
As Wilson made his way up the WVU sideline, star Miami S Sean Taylor (RIP) came downhill for the tackle. Taylor, however, missed a diving tackle attempt on a quick juke Wilson made while running up the field.
Miami’s loaded defense had LBs DJ Williams and Jon Vilma chasing the play as well, but both were taken out by key blocks from WVU linemen who were escorting Wilson toward the endzone.
So, in the space of 15 yards, Wilson had juked, evaded, and outran Vince Wilfork, Sean Taylor, DJ Williams and Jon Vilma, among others. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
The last line of defense was not starting S Maurice Sikes. Miami’s other starting Safety (the one not named Sean Taylor) had left the game earlier with a knee injury. Sikes’ absence took the 5’11” 209lb player out of the equation and forced sophomore Brandon Meriweather into a key spot. At just 5’11 174lbs, Meriweather was a heavy hitter — he BLASTED a WVU TE over the middle earlier in the game — but didn’t offer great size for the position. This would become an issue momentarily.
With a head of steam after the previous jukes and sprint, Wilson approached Meriweather near the 17 yard line. Meriweather broke down to make the tackle, but Wilson trucked him — sent him FLYING — continued down the sideline, hurdled the discarded Meriweather, and sprinted to the endzone, completing one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.
I know it seems like the description of the play I’ve authored over the past few paragraphs is outlandish. But, here is the play — Quincy Wilson’s catch and run — and I promise you, I didn’t oversell it.
With the ensuing extra point, West Virginia took a 20-19 lead, and were on the precipice of a seismic win that would be felt across the college football world.
Miami, however, would not blink in the face of pressure. But, that didn’t mean things were smooth to the finish, either.
After a penalty, 2 short passes, and an incompletion, Miami faced 4th and 13 on their own 25 yard line. West Virginia was one play away from an epic upset. But, that upset never came.
After a timeout to find the perfect play, QB Brock Berlin took the snap, waited while his receivers ran their routes, then floated a perfect ball up the seam. It went over the LB and was snagged by a leaping Kellen Winslow II for an 18 yard gain and a HUGE first down.
That play gave Miami new life, and got the Canes moving towards a game-winning score.
After completions to Jarrett Payton, Ryan Moore, and Kevin Beard — and a Personal Foul on WVU to boot — Miami had the ball at the WVU 6 yard line. After 3 consecutive WVU timeouts, K Jon Peattie hit a 23 yard FG to give Miami a 22-20 lead, and an almost certain escape from disaster.
WVU’s last gasp Hail Mary attempt was intercepted by the late, great Sean Taylor on the last play of the game, giving Miami the win and gave us another Miami Hurricanes Game We Love.
Full Game video is here, and the highlights of the game, with all the plays described above (and more) is below.