The Canes did everything they could.
They had finally topped their rivals from the capitol city, winning in thrilling fashion in one of the greatest games in Orange Bowl history.
They blew the doors off of Michael Vick and the Hokies 41-21 - the Hokies only loss of the season - as Santana Moss ran circles around the Hokies’ defense. They followed that up with a combined score of 113-13 over Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Boston College to cap off a 10-1 regular season.
Oklahoma was a lock for the BCS Championship game in Miami. But 10-1 FSU, Miami, and Washington - who beat the Canes 34-29 in Seattle in the second week of the season - all were jockying for that second position in the rankings. Miami had beaten FSU, had the best win of the three with their throttling of then-number 3 Virginia Tech, and finished the season in commanding fashion.
However, on December 3, 2000, the magic BCS computer spit out its final rankings. By the slimmest of margins, Florida State would play Oklahoma for the BCS national championship. Miami finished a measly three-tenths of a point behind the Noles.
The Canes’ consolation prize? A trip to the Sugar Bowl - their first appearance in the Crescent City since the 1993 Sugar Bowl. Their opponent would be the Florida Gators, the schools’ first matchup since the 1987 season. Talking heads cried foul on the BCS, having relied on computers and their seemingly-inexplicable formulas and calculations that only a select few individuals that held the physical appearance of college algebra teachers could try to explain.
Regardless, the show had to go on. Both teams arrived in New Orleans on December 28. Apparently the two sides couldn’t wait until the game to resume hostilities pent up over a decade. A handful of Gators and Hurricanes were involved in a scuffle on Bourbon Street that evening. Two Gators were handcuffed, taken to the police station, and questioned for close to half an hour, but no arrests were made and police did not file an incident report.
Suddenly, with days to go until kickoff, the oldest major intrastate rivalry that had laid dormant for over a decade had come to life, and the Canes’ “consolation prize” matchup was about to become a no-holds-barred blood feud.
The Gators started fast and physical, going 70 yards on their opening drive for a 7-0 lead. RB Earnest Graham found daylight early and often. For the day, Graham would carry 15 times for 136 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown that gave Florida the lead back 17-13 after halftime.
However, with the game still in reach until late in the fourth quarter, Spurrier opted to rely heavily on the arm of his redshirt freshman quarterback, Rex Grossman, something Davis and the Miami defense was ready for.
Davis’s mix of coverage and blitz packages with his NFL-caliber linebackers was the difference in the game, and the result was a rude awakening for Grossman. He completed only 18 of 41 passes for 252 yards, throwing two picks to only one touchdown.
Many of those errant throws were the result of constant pressure on Grossman, which Miami was able to generate all night with defensive lineman William Joseph and Damione Lewis.
Offensively, Miami’s balanced attack kept the Gator defense off-kilter (43 rushes to 40 pass attempts), and the Canes’ athleticism out of the backfield paid dividends. Dorsey found D.J. Williams on a wheel route for a 19-yard touchdown to put Miami up for good, and he hit FB Najeh Davenport for a 2-yard touchdown to push the lead to double-digits late in the third quarter. Dorsey would take home MVP honors, throwing for 270 yards and capping an 11-1 season with a statement win.
Butch Davis would resign on January 29, 2001, but he had already brought Miami back to the top of the college football world, even if stupid formulas and computers prevented that from being literally true. I firmly believe Miami was the best team in college football in 2000, given their wins over Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Florida. But a Sugar Bowl championship and setting the table for a magical run the following season was a moment that Canes fans can still fall back on. The 2000 team was one of the most talented in school history, if not the most talented, in all honesty. Here’s to them always having a place in our hearts as Cane fans.