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100 Greatest Plays in Miami History: #70 Willis McGahee’s Sixth TD Run

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Willis found the endzone plenty of times in this game, but he saved his best TD run for last.

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Not all touchdowns are created equal. Unlike the AI from Madden 2000, real football features plenty of adjustments, counters and strategy on a series-by-series basis. That said, you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t distinguish Willis McGahee’s six touchdowns from one another dating back to his historical performance against Virginia Tech in 2002.

In the final game of the regular season, the Hurricanes found themselves in a wild back-and-forth contest where the Hurricanes owned a 42-21 lead in the third quarter. The Canes Heisman trophy candidate in McGahee continued to leave his imprint on the game for Miami. The junior running back had TD scores of 1,4,3,10, and 1 yard away from the goaline. McGahee may have saved his best TD run for last.

It’s second and 10 with the Hurricanes once again driving into Virginia Tech territory. Miami was lined up in I-formation with fullback Quadtrine Hill and McGhee lined up in the backfield. The ball is snapped and Ken Dorey hands the ball off to McGahee while the blocks begin to form in front of both men. Hill gets a piece of VT DE Colas Cols, displacing the defender just enough for McGahee to zip by him behind the line of scrimmage. The entire left side of the Hurricanes’ offensive line (Carlos Joseph, Brett Romberg and Chris Myers) along with TE Kellen Winslow Jr. completely wall off the VT defense to create a running lane.

After left guard Sherko Haji-Rasouli pulls over to kick out VT linebacker Vegas Robinson, McGahee is able to display his blistering speed, running by the rest of the Hokies’ defense to celebrate his sixth rushing touchdown of the day. The score would also be McGahee’s 27th TD of the season. The abundance of trips to the end zone only served to pad his single-season record for rushing scores in a season — having surpassed the previous record of 17 set by Edgerrin James.

By the time the final whistle had blown, the Hurricanes would go on to win the game 56-45, remaining undefeated during the regular season and earning a spot in the National Championship title at the Fiesta Bowl.

Back to McGahee, his effort this game shattered plenty of program rushing records. His 39 carries tied him with Ottis Anderson and Edgerrin James for the most rush attempts by a Canes back. McGahee finished the day rushing for 205 yards and broke UM’s rushing TDs in a single-game record with six TDs. The game also marked the sixth time that McGahee had rushed for more than 100 yards, a first in program history.

Perhaps as iconic as the run itself, is the image of McGahee posing in front of the camera and the lights of the Orange Bowl shining on Miami’s orange uniform. In the background you can still see the banner that reads: “The City of Miami Welcomes You to the Orange Bowl.” Willis McGahee didn’t serve as a one-man welcoming committee, yet he forever left an impression on the ’Canes fans and the rest of the nation that day.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!