Smoke The Hokies

How hard is it to stay focused this week as fans? Imagine what the players and coaches are feeling? Anyone associated with University of Miami football has been on the edge of their seats since UW's Huskies came and went with a whimper. One more game. Sixty minutes against a conference rival. That is all that stands behind the Canes and their first title game since January 1993.

A way-too-long decade that brought some amazing highs combined with the pain of the lowest lows. Rock bottom. 47-0. A losing season. No depth. Pick your poison.

Fear not. Two years of hard work are about to pay off. The ultimate dream is four quarters away from being a reality.

That being said, how can anyone not expect this team of Hurricanes to be up for Saturday's game?

There were a few premature roses that found their way to the sidelines and into a few jersey collars. Griese and Nessler couldn't comment on Jon Vilma's boutonnière late in the 4th quarter. I say "so what?"

The media has been all over the "Miami is getting premature in celebrating – better hope the Hokies aren't seeing this" angle. Funny how little has been made about O-line coach Art Kehoe canning the premature celebration, grabbing roses from players and smothering them into the beaten Orange Bowl turf. How about the fact that Larry Coker has called out his entire squad on the fact that no current Cane had ever won in Blacksburg? That just isn't juicy enough to be front-page news.

There was reason to celebrate last weekend. 65-7 over Washington was cathartic. Utter dominance of that team was necessary. Demons were exorcized. Revenge was exacted. This was the beating Miami should have put on the Huskies in 1994 and 2000. These silently violent Canes were playing for the Ghosts of Miami's Past.

Former UM greats stalked the sidelines with an intensity that rivaled current Canes playing every down. I wouldn't be surprised if spectator Santana Moss was plotting a way to "borrow" Antrel Rolle's #6 jersey for a little special teams action to right some of last year's wrongs.

Washington didn't come out flat last weekend – they just flat out got beat. Yes America, the Canes truly are that good. There's even a part of me wants to believe the 58-point beating was no accident. One point for every game of the amazing win streak those fools draped in gold and purple ended seven years back. Miami doesn't just forgive and forget something like that. Payback always comes on Hurricanes' terms.

UM showed up to play. They were on a mission and Washington stood in their way. Being there was already hostility, Miami didn't politely asked the Huskies to step aside. They steamrolled ‘em. The atmosphere was electric. The entire evening was the release of pent up aggression. Washington got tagged early and quit at the half when down 37-0. Give credit where credit is due; the Canes gave their all for sixty minutes. Hell, it was Miami's second and third string that were responsible for the game's final 21 points. Larry Coker did everything to stop the bleeding but suit up rowdy fans in the west end zone and have them run a few drunken snaps.

How empty this season would have been if the Washington game were never rescheduled. An 0-2 record against that arrogant bunch was painful. UW needed to be put in check. They were getting a little mouthy and out of line. That 65-7 backhand to the jaw let every Pac 10 enthusiast know that the Canes are more than just back – they're better than ever. Two wins away from possibly being the best UM unit in an extremely rich history. Chew on those words for a few minutes, Hurricane faithful.

From Day One, this year's goal has been a National Championship. Anything less will be considered a failure. While few will vocalize it, the #2 motivator of 2001 is revenge and putting some vicious streaks to rest.

Ending an "unbeaten" streak at Doak Campbell was the first order of business. Mission: Accomplished. Surviving the inevitable letdown game that all great teams face in a title run came and went Boston College weekend. Caning Huskies until they were merely whiny puppies, limping 3,000 plus miles back to Seattle was the next order of business. The final chapter comes with a Rose Bowl win but the preview is this weekend with Miami walking out of Lane Stadium heads held high, with a Blacksburg win for the first time since 1992.

Make your airline reservations UM fans. Pack up the station wagon; it's "Pasadena or Bust."

The 2001 Canes didn't come this far only to stumble at the finish line. Don't believe the chatter. No one is overlooking the Hokies. Miami is playing like a team possessed. Full throttle ahead, on a mission and mowing down all obstacles. A light went on the moment Mike Rumph's knee sent a St. Pierre pass into Matt Walter's mitts and Ed Reed's breadbasket. It hasn't stopped shining since and will continue glowing into the early morning of January 4th.

Earlier in the year the rumor was the only team that could stop Miami was Miami.

Even that isn't true anymore.

Rumph's Knee of Destiny sealed this team's fate. It's almost as if the college football gods are paving the path for the Canes this season after last year's snub. Penance was paid when Miami took their lumps like men, throttled the Gators in the Sugar and never whined about being dealt a horrible hand. There was no, "we would've thumped Oklahoma" chatter coming out of Coral Gables. Instead the Canes took the, "we'll get you next year. So 11-1 wasn't enough? We'll make it 12-0 next time around."

Miami's time has come. Virginia Tech has showed weaknesses in embarrassing losses to Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Teams the Canes rolled by a combined score of 102-21. Beamer's bunch has already accepted their fate as third in the BIG EAST as well as a Gator Bowl bid against Florida State. They'll talk a good game about playing the roll of spoiler. Still, they are yet to be tested. Ducking ranked opponents all year, now #1 is headed to town and on a mission. Virginia Tech's season is about to go from zero-to-sixty in half a second. Buckle up, Pokies.

Truth be told Tech will start pulling first stringers once the game is out of reach to avoid any pre bowl game injuries. It won't take long before they realize the Canes came to play.

Saturday is Act III in the play called "Late Season Miracle and Beyond." Expect more of the same intensity. Miami is on a high that they won't come down from until after Pasadena. If you could bottle and sell what these Canes are living and feeling, you'd make a billion dollars.

Intense, focused, businesslike and on a mission.

The dominance seen against Syracuse and Washington will continue. The Hokies are just another bunch of nameless faces. Another roadblock on the Run for the Roses. Miami is fully aware of what is at stake. Complacency hasn't been in their vocabulary since the greatest 18-7 victory in UM history.

The Cane Train keeps a rollin' and breaks for nobody. Hokies might want to batten down those hatches – a storm is brewing and touches down Saturday morning.

Miami 41 Virginia Tech 13

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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