Can Kenny Do It?

Some moments a true Cane never forgets. How they spent January 2, 1984 as Miami took down perennial power Nebraska in the title game. The way one leapt out of his or her seat in 1991 when Gerry Thomas sent it Wide Right... or a year later when Dan Mowery earned "Hack of the Hour" honors.

What about the bottomless pit feeling in your stomach when Vinny threw his fifth interception of the night against Penn State? Indelible in our minds.

What if? Miami fans hate to even think it. "Eagles Shock #1 Canes 14-12!!" was a play away from being Sunday morning's lead story. The perfect season blemished. The Rose Bowl dream shattered. A very long rest of the season.

Almost.

Instead, a miracle occurred. Not quite water to wine, but in the hearts of Miami fans equally as impressive. The Rumph-Walters-Reed trifecta saved a season. A near death experience came and went while a second chance at life remains . When the Canes take the field against Syracuse on Saturday, they will have a completely different outlook on the game. An opportunity to right a wrong. A zest for football that can only come from passing the season's ultimate test. So much has been gained from what was less than a minute from being lost.

That being said, how could anyone expect a less than fired up bunch of Hurricanes when the Orangemen come to town? Virtually impossible. Miami must feel some embarrassment after last week. The media's UM bashing began spewing as soon as St. Pierre had his Eagles at 1st and goal with less than a minute to play. Chants of "overrated" fell from the Boston sky. The Canes mettle had been tried. Still, the real test comes this weekend. The question has been posed -- "how good is this Miami team?" Answer loud and clear boys. Your chance comes at 3:30 pm EST. Bring the pain.

Good teams have close games. Great teams find a way to win those games when backs are to the wall. Someone must always step up. Every Cane goes down swinging. The credit doesn't go to Rumph's knee, Walter's reflexes or Reed's instincts. Against Boston College, Miami the team never quit. After the four interceptions, Ken Dorsey never quit. When the game came down to a 1st and goal from the nine yard line, it was the defense that wouldn't quit. Excuses invalid. Champions have to dig deep and find a way. Forget the critics. Focus on results. Still 8-0 and one step closer to Pasadena. Next obstacle is Syracuse. Prepare to forcefully move them out of the way.

Paul Pasqualoni's squad is on a roll. No longer the confused and lifeless 0-2 bunch they were eight games ago, SU will be ready to play come Saturday. Dwight Freeney can't wait to take his game up against manchild Bryant McKinnie. Freeney's mission is to rattle Dorsey. Expect him to die trying. 'Cuse tailback James Mungro is licking his chops after hearing how "vulnerable" the Canes are against the run. Linebackers D.J. Williams and Jon Vilma are undersized according to the media. Mungro should run all over them... in theory.

That's the hype and there's no doubt that Syracuse is buying into it. Miami proved beatable last week. The Canes aren't invincible -- especially when playing lifeless football. Still, is there a Miami fan out there who believes that the Canes will be sluggish come Saturday after last weekend's shot in the arm?

Rumor has it that practice has been a bit more intense the past few days. Harder hitting. Deeper concentration. An intense and renewed focus. Something was almost lost. A year long dream was almost squashed. The Canes are getting that second chance that everyone always asks for. This 2001 squad is reborn.

Saturday's game will be intense from the get go. The Canes must feed off a week's worth of pent up frustration. As cliché as it sounds, Miami needs to grind out sixty minutes of football. The margin for error is minimal. Their guard can never be let down. 'Cuse QB R.J. Anderson definitely watched tape of Brian St. Pierre's final drive against the Canes. He's studied the weaknesses. He is looking for holes while the SU offensive line is looking to make some of their own for Mungro to bolt through. Talk is that the Canes can't stop the run. Everyone is about to find out if talk is indeed cheap.

Syracuse has broken down the film. They know how to beat the Miami team that stunk up Chestnut Hill for 59:26 last weekend. Question is what kind of Miami team shows up this Saturday? The motivation is there. This is the BIG EAST Championship game. Last time Miami and Syracuse played for all the marbles, the Canes were on the wrong end of a 66-13 beating. Combine that with the negative energy swirling everywhere outside of Greentree Practice Field the past six days and Miami should have more than enough fuel in the tank to get through Saturday's enormous conference showdown.

Expect Dorsey to be electric this weekend. This young perfectionist wants to silence the critics. Last week his defense bailed him out. This weekend he'll return the favor. Freeney is Syracuse's only returning starter on the defensive line. Miami's offensive line will win that battle. Clinton Portis is due for another stellar weekend while Willis McGahee and Frank Gore are ready to run as well. With the potent ground attack, Cane receivers will get some good looks. Andre Johnson is due for a big game. In the huddles Jeremy Shockey must demand the ball.

It's far fetched to think Miami will come out undermotivated. The gauntlet has been thrown down. A line has been drawn in the dirt. The Canes have yet another chance to prove their worth. The college football world is waiting for the Canes to finally click on all cylinders and play that "perfect" game. The stage is set for them to do so. Does UM have what it takes? Will Miami dig down deep and play with passion this weekend? After last weekend's near death experience all signs are pointing to a Hurricane beatdown on the horizon. Look out 'Cuse -- you picked the wrong weekend to come on down. Unfortunately for you we had a rough week. Things are about to get nasty.

Canes 38 Orangemen 16

Born and raised in Miami, Chris Bello now lives in San Diego, CA and works as a freelance writer. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at cbello@san.rr.com

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