After Miami’s 61-0 humiliation of Rutgers in week two, the Hurricanes next opponent was scheduled to be Washington the following Saturday. However, because of the tragedy and events of September 11th, that game was rescheduled for later in the season, as college football cancelled all games that week, and the entire country looked to get back on its feet.
Miami was then off for 19 days, but on September 27th, the Canes traveled to Pennsylvania for a Thursday night showdown with the 1-1 Pittsburgh Panthers. Ranked number one in the country for the second game in a row, Miami didn’t take their opponent lightly, as the Panthers were led by South Florida native, talented wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who had won the Biletnikoff Award the year prior in 2000.
Newly built Heinz Field was packed that night, as Panthers fans filled the stadium to see their team take on the top program in college football. There were also stars in the house, former Pitt legends Dan Marino and Mike Ditka were in attendance, as was Jerome Bettis, who was the running back for the Steelers at the time.
Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless The U.S.A.” prior to kickoff, reminding everyone that even in those dark times, this country would prevail. Even watching replays of Greenwood that night, it’ll give you goosebumps.
Anyway, it was time to kickoff and play some football, and the Hurricanes’ offense took the field first.
Najeh Davenport, Miami’s athletic fullback, took in a pass from Ken Dorsey on the games first play for 24 yards, and already the Canes were on the move. If there was any rust from the 19 days break, Miami’s offense certainly didn’t show it on their first drive.
Dorsey connected with Andre Johnson on a 3rd and 5, and then running back Clinton Portis did his part. Portis’ 22-yard gain made it first-and-goal, and then he did the rest with a touchdown run from four yards out, finishing an impressive seven play, 63-yard drive. A missed extra point made it 6-0, Miami.
Clinton Portis caps off Miami’s opening drive with a touchdown. 7-0 Canes pic.twitter.com/NZ8QuzPbe8— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) April 3, 2020
However, Pitt responded on their first drive. In just four plays, Panthers RB Raymond Kirkley ran all over the Hurricanes defense, and QB Rod Rutherford snuck it in from just outside the goal-line for the touchdown. All of a sudden, Miami was trailing for the first time that year, and Pitt led 7-6.
The Hurricanes weren’t phased at all however, and the offense quickly went back to work. On Miami’s second offensive drive, they faced four 3rd downs, and converted all of them. Big part of this was the protection for Dorsey given by the Canes unbelievable offensive line. Portis finished the 13-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
Miami converts its 4th 3rd down of their second drive, Clinton Portis finds the endzone again. 13-7 Canes pic.twitter.com/FQvns0jb6w— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) April 3, 2020
Portis was magnificent all night long for the Hurricanes, waiting patiently for holes to open up and using his shiftiness to total 131 yards on the ground and 3 touchdowns.
The ensuing Pitt drive was the start of several minutes filled with wackiness. Miami defensive end Andrew Williams caused a fumble, which the Canes recovered, only to have Dorsey throw an interception two plays later. Then, on the very next play, the Panthers fumbled again because of a high snap, which Williams recovered for the Hurricanes.
Give Miami enough opportunities, and they’ll make you pay. As the Canes again took over at the Pitt 18-yard line, Dorsey went to the end zone and found receiver Andre Johnson for the touchdown, and UM was suddenly ahead, 20-7.
First play after a Pitt fumble, Dorsey finds Andre Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown. 20-7 Canes pic.twitter.com/GQhiaALU3Y— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) April 3, 2020
The Hurricanes offensive line kept Dorsey’s jersey clean all evening, making it the third straight game where they had not allowed a sack. They were great blocking for Portis also, especially on a 3rd-and-14 in the second quarter. With left guard Sherko Haji-Rasouli pulling, add in a solid block by WR Daryl Jones, Portis scattered for 31-yards, setting up a short field goal by Todd Sievers.
3rd and 14. Miami runs it out of the shotgun, they pull LG Haji-Rasouli, great block by Jones, and Portis picks up 31 yards. BOOM pic.twitter.com/BGuNyTgb7v— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) April 3, 2020
Prior to halftime, freshman safety Sean Taylor laid a crushing hit on Pitt star-WR Antonio Bryant, giving Canes fans and the country a glimpse of what was to come, and Miami took their 23-7 lead into the locker room.
Miami to punt. Sean Taylor DESTROYS Antonio Bryant pic.twitter.com/9TZUIJW2iT— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) April 3, 2020
The second-half featured more dominance by the Hurricanes. On their first drive of the third quarter, Dorsey found Davenport as well as receiver Ethenic Sands for gains of 15 and 17 yards. On fourth and goal, Portis had a masterful cutback run and found the endzone for his third score of the night.
Miami’s defense didn’t allow the Panthers any freedom and denied any chance of a possible comeback. The Hurricanes forced three turnovers on the night, the last coming off an interception by cornerback Phillip Buchanon.
That interception set up another scoring opportunity for the Hurricanes offense, and freshman running back Willis McGahee scored from five yards out, the first touchdown of his Miami career. McGaheee was a great compliment to Portis against Pitt, as he added 74 rushing yards of his own.
Now up 40-7 in the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes knew they had the Panthers put away. Two touchdowns by Pitt gave the gritty team a little dignity, but Miami easily came away with a 43-21 victory.
Dorsey was 18-for-32 passing and had 208 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. His numbers weren’t fantastic, and at times threw dangerous passes, but it was ok, because his running backs were the stars of the night, as Miami combined for 243 yards total on the ground.
Miami was 3-0, though Lee Corso said during the Pitt game when talking about the Hurricanes, “I think Washington can beat them.” How wrong Corso would turn out to be.
Up next: Home against Troy State 10/6