Washington Revisited

September 9th, 2000 feels like forever ago. Probably due to me erasing that day from my brain. I am reminded of it only by the hole in my closet wall that I am yet to repair and the scar on my knuckles.

I choose to ignore them both as I am still in bliss over the 22-game win streak and the National Championship which put the exclamation point on an undefeated 2001 season.

The 12-0 "Perfect Storm" season aside, I put away my Cane happy face this weekend and took myself back to that dark place I've ignored for so long.

Miami's last loss.

I found my newspaper clipping from the Miami vs. Washington match up in Seattle and felt my blood boil a paragraph into my reading. That ol' thug tight end, Jerramy Stevens was running that mouth of his. In reference to Miami's pre game behavior Stevens mentioned, "They were yelping a bit in the tunnel – they found out who the real dogs were."

How does a Cane take that lying down? What is your comeback when your enemy is speaking the truth? UM's secondary let Stevens get open seven times for 89 yards and a touchdown. He had a right to talk some trash.

Miami took it on the chin that dreary day in the Pacific Northwest. Shell-shocked from the get go and with no ability to fight their way out of that dark hole until it was too late.

Albeit hobbled, Santana Moss' early fumble set the tone. The Huskies got a little extra momentum they weren't expecting. They capitalized, built a lead and had the No. 4 team in the nation on their heels.

This was to be a turning year for the Canes. A legitimate run at the National Championship for the first time since 1994. One step closer to the brass ring after a handful of seasons in the cellar. Rolling into Husky Stadium with a 1-0 record after the 61-14 pasting they put on McNeese State, the Canes felt they were ready for whatever was coming their way.

They weren't ready for Washington.

Post game, Ken Dorsey was quoted as saying, "The reason we lost the game was us. They didn't beat us."

Depends which half you're speaking of, Kenny.

The first 30 minutes of the contest the Canes got raked over the coals. Down 21-3 at the half, Miami didn't have an answer for anything Washington threw their way.

Offensively the Canes relied too strongly on Dorsey's arm. His inexperience showed and the Huskies remained in his face. On the ground, James Jackson was still hobbled by a previous injury which had him looking like an average back as opposed to the true baller he is.

On this Saturday penalties were a killer but fumbles were the early backbreaker. The field position that Washington received as a result of Miami's miscues should have been gift-wrapped.

Poor calls by the officials are hard to argue as so many times in history the Canes have been on the right side of those calls. Still, a blatantly wrong pass interference call on third down from inside the five-yard line that gave the Huskies a first down and the eventual touchdown didn't help Miami's cause. But that seemed to be par for the course in this Miami vs. Washington meeting.

Cane coaches used halftime to assess their first half game plan – or lack thereof. A rejuvenated Miami bunch took the field for the final 30 minutes and outscored the Huskies 26-13. Pressure was finally applied to Marques Tuiasosopo and the results were turnovers, a shaken confidence and some poor decisions. The one-dimensional running game featuring the hobbled James Jackson was upped by a youthful burst of energy that answers to the name Clinton Portis. It was that increase in the rushing game which bought Dorsey a few more seconds to find Reggie Wayne downfield.

With the Canes rolling and the Huskies backpedaling, Washington played the second half with an "afraid to lose" attitude instead of going in for the kill – a decision that should have cost them.

Instead, UW squeaked out their 34-29 victory over Miami and ran their mouths for the rest of the 2000 season and the better part of 2001.

History reminds us that Miami got the BCS snub in 2000 and had to settle for second place. Few would argue that the Canes didn't deserve an Orange Bowl bid to battle Oklahoma for the National Championship. An 11-1 season had to pacify Miami fans for another year. In the meanwhile it was the players who circled September 15th, 2001 on their calendars. The same loudmouthed, bigheaded Huskies on Orange Bowl turf battling a Miami team with 371 days of pent up aggression stored in their minds.

It took a national tragedy to postpone this highly anticipated meeting. Hours before kickoff it was decided that the teams plan to meet later in the season. A decision that on paper should help a young Washington team. Still, Miami would remain focused another 12 weeks while disassembling opponents left and right and riding a 9-0 record into the one game in 2001 that had a little extra special meaning.

The dictionary definition of the word revenge is, "to inflict punishment for injury or insult." Injury occurred on the field in 2000 and the insults came post game from a few too many chest-pounding Huskies.

Don't think any of that went unnoticed in Coral Gables.

The Orange Bowl was electric on November 24th, 2001 – the make up date for the most recent Miami vs. Washington match up. The Canes came out firing and never let up. The 65-7 score would have you believing Miami went to town on Rutgers or Temple. Nah. Just exorcizing a few demons and teaching a cocky, overconfident team a lesson.

Lots of chatter surrounded Ken Dorsey sub par outing in Seattle and this time around it was Miami's defense making a point of leaving the "other" quarterback wallowing in his sorrows. Cody Pickett was picked off five times by the Hurricanes' secondary and linebackers and the entire defense smacked the young man up all evening en route to tallying up four sacks.

While the Canes players and coaches spent the week of the game downplaying any talk of payback or revenge, actions on the field told a completely different story.

A wide-open game plan on offense, Dorsey spread the ball to seven different receivers for 192 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground Portis, McGahee and Gore ran for a combined for 168 yards and three touchdowns as well.

In a meeting that was truly the men against the boys, Miami never let up on Washington. Almost like big brother teaching little brother a lesson, just winning wasn't enough for these Canes. The point had to be driven home on an embarrassing level. Humiliation was part of the game. Not only did Miami prove that the 2000 loss to the Huskies was out of character, they shut the door on any notion that the University of Washington even deserves to be on the same field as Miami's Hurricanes.

There wasn't one Cane on the field the night of November 24th that didn't play that game as if it were his last. Linebackers were defending the ball as if they were defensive backs. Wide receivers jolted down the field as if fired by a cannon. Dorsey had the accuracy of a sniper and the all the poise he lacked in the previous meeting. Joaquin Gonzalez did his best General Patton impersonation half way through the second quarter. The 37-0 lead was not enough. No coasting the final 30 minutes letting the Huskies get a foot in the door to make the final score respectable. Miami needed to play like they were down five touchdowns – not ahead.

The 78,114 who witnessed it in person? Please. The atmosphere couldn't have been any more electric and National Champion-esque. Nothing compares to a night game at the Orange Bowl. Toss in the hush-hush revenge factor, the seniors' final home game – not to mention being one win away from the title game – and this night was purely magical.

There is no Washington on this year's schedule. No one that this current Miami team has any beef with, at least. Sure, Hurricanes of old will speak of the deep-rooted Florida hatred but the only Gators these Canes know are the ones they smacked up in New Orleans a few years back – literally, as well as on the field.

Tennessee? Sure, the old schoolers are still stinging from that 35-7 pasting in the 1986 Sugar Bowl. Again, the current Canes only know the Vols as a team that blew a shot at the Rose Bowl with an unexpected loss to LSU in the SEC Championship game.

Revenge is not the key to success for the 2002 Miami Hurricanes. The key is honor. Defending what is rightfully theirs. Making someone come in, out play them, out hustle them and show twice as much heart. The anticipation that it is now Miami that is circled on opponent's calendars as the rest of the college football world will be gunning to take down the defending champs.

The 2002 Canes will be a seasoned bunch. After tasting victory, achieving success and accomplishing their goals, they will have to dig deeper to find a different motivator this season. After seeing how they responded to Washington in 2001 after being embarrassed the previous season, there is no doubt that these Canes have the character to overcome any obstacle set in their path.

Here we're revisited a few classics from 2000 and 2001. Prepare for the Canes to defend their title as the 2002 season is upon us. Pick up the new schedule t-shirt here and begin the countdown to kickoff!

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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