West Virginia Revisited

It was not too long ago that Cane fans circled their calendars for the annual match up with West Virginia. The Mountaineers were a rising BIG EAST power who stunned Miami in 1993 and again in 1997.

Scattered amongst the rivalry were a few games that were too close for Hurricane comfort, yet Miami was able to pull out the win.

These days it is a whole new ballgame. The dominance is back as the Canes have outscored the Mountaineers 92-13 in the past two meetings. Mountaineer Field gave the Canes fits in 1996 and 1998 but the 47-10 Miami victory in 2000 showed that the "mystique" of the Don Nehlen era was no more.

Last season brought WVU to the Orange Bowl. A rainy Thursday night contest a week and a half after the cathartic and emotional 49-27 win against Florida State at Doak. Would the Canes come out rusty after the bye week? Were the Canes as good as their 5-0 record? Could the Mountaineers make a splash with first year coach Rich Rodriguez?

If you were to ask this question after fifteen minutes of play, some Canes fans might have squirmed in their seats. The 3-3 tie going into the second quarter wasn't the type of football Miami needed to display on national TV against an inferior opponent. Still, in the blink of an eye the Canes can take a close contest and put it completely out of reach. A quick TD strike to Jeremy Shockey followed by a 74 yard interception return for a TD by James Lewis and the Canes were ahead 17-3 halfway through the second quarter.

While the Mountaineers couldn't get anything done of offensively after their early field goal, the Canes continued to pour it on. A quick Clinton Portis score early in the third quarter put the Canes up 24-3 and sent many of UM's first string to the bench for a well deserved rest.

Enter "the future."

While Ken Dorsey got his final touchdown of the evening early in the third quarter with a quick 14-yard strike to Andre Johnson, it was running back Frank Gore who stole the second half show. The true freshman tallied up 124 yards on six carries with highlights coming in the form of 49 and 45 yard touchdown gallops. Naysayers will mention that this was done against a mentally tired and beaten Mountaineer team. The rest of us saw the next great running back in Miami's history literally embarrassing starters on an opposing Division I team.

The previous year it was all about the present as Miami's defense set the tone for this meeting. Riding a #12 ranking into Morgantown, the Canes were coming off a bye week and a stinging loss to #15 Washington in Seattle. Again, how would this team respond? Could they shake off the unexpected loss? Would the bye week leave Miami lethargic or have them on pins and needles, anxious to attack?

While West Virginia struck first and took the early 7-0 lead, Leonard Myers' 25-yard interception return for touchdown that put Miami on the board. Moments later it was Reggie Wayne on the other end of a Ken Dorsey 38-yard touchdown strike.

Sitting on a 21-10 lead in the third quarter, it was a Howard Clark interception that put the Canes up 28-10. A quick field goal was followed by another Dorsey to Wayne hookup – this time for 47 yards and the touchdown.

The defense reared its ugly head one final time in the form of a Phillip Buchanon 77-yard fumble recovery for score. The final, 47-10 and another Miami victory. Further proof that on every side of the ball, the Canes are dominant. That when the money is on the table, Miami will get it done. That when coming off a loss and a bye week, UM will bounce back and deliver the goods.

Miami and West Virginia meet again on October 26th. Mountaineer Field will be the site, but gone are the thrillers that fans have witnessed in year's past. The outcome won't weigh heavily on Tremain Mack's shoulders as a blocked kick will mean little late in this game while it meant everything in 1996. It won't take a come from behind touchdown strike from Scott Covington to Daryl Jones and a missed 53-yard WVU field goal in the final moments for Miami to get out with a victory this year.

Recent history proves that the Canes are on the up and up while the Mountaineers will remain wedged in the middle of the BIG EAST pack. While West Virginia has given the Canes something to chew on a handful of times this past decade, those days are long gone. Miami will march onto Mountaineer Field late October and continue their dominance over this once formidable foe.

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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