Syracuse Revisited

Miami and Syracuse have had some memorable games in the twenty times the teams have met.

While the Orangemen had a decent little run against Miami a few years back, it's probably a safe bet that they'd prefer to forget the outcome of the past two match ups.

Canes abroad certainly remember the pastings Miami has laid on Syracuse in recent years. A combined score of 85-0 was the result of both the 2000 and 2001 contests. Fans can even look at Ken Dorsey's first official start in 1999's 45-13 beating as the official changing of the guard. The Canes were merely taking back what was rightfully theirs.

Syracuse had their fun with UM in 1997 during a 5-6 down and out season. A year later it was Miami never showing up in Syracuse's 66-13 rout. Donovan McNabb was the "reason" to watch the series and the Orangemen shared the new "Kings of the BIG EAST" moniker with Virginia Tech.

Then Miami woke from its' slumber.

Maybe it goes back to the 66-13 loss in 1998. Or maybe the Canes are just that much better than Syracuse. Either way, the distaste for the Orange is apparent every time the two teams take the field against each other.

The key number in recent years is 0. Back to back shutouts. Think the Miami defense was making a statement? A mere 13 points given up to Syracuse in three years. Better stated, 13 points surrendered since the 66 let up in 1998. The Orangemen gave Miami one of its' worst beatings in school history, which turned out to be a lesson in humility as well.

Sporting an 8-1 record in 2000, Miami rolled into the Carrier Dome hoping for a win and to impress a few BCS voters as they inched closer to a shot at the National Championship game. Former Head Coach Butch Davis made it clear pre-game that Miami's offense would not run up the score. A 20-point victory was all that was required in the margin of victory category.

What the offense wasn't "allowed" to do on their side of the ball, the defense more than took care of in route to their shutout. Holding the Orange to one first down in eight possessions in the first quarter was one way to keep SU out of the end zone. Playing injured as team leader Dan Morgan did on an aggravated toe, set the tone for his teammates. Key, momentum changing plays by guys like Ed Reed who's interception thwarted SU's momentum and had James Jackson scoring on 33-yard run two plays later to put Miami up 23-0.

"We weren't thinking about the BCS," Reed said. "Any time you can get a shutout, you try your hardest. We could have run up the score, but that's not the kind of team we are."

Reed was right. Shutouts don't occur because players are attempting to impress voters. Blanking the opponent is 100% about pride. Forcing their offense back into the locker room after 60 minutes of play with nothing to show for it. That is the ultimate goal. It started with 26-0 in 2000 and has yet to stop.

History will go on to tell that the Canes finished 11-1 in 2000 after a BCS snub and a 37-20 Sugar Bowl rout of the Florida Gators. The stage was set for an undefeated season the following year if Miami could channel their aggression towards proving the world wrong in 2001 as opposed to lamenting over 2000.

To do so, each game took on its' own personality. Each team was a different type of enemy or threat. Coming into the 2001 meeting with Syracuse, the Canes were riding high on an 8-0 record and an 18-game win streak. Life was good. The intensity level was high.

Still, the critics had their questions.

Was Miami overrated? Pounding Florida State in a "down" year didn't mean as much. Forget the 22-point margin of victory and the fact that it was the Noles first home loss in over 10 years.

Didn't help matters that a week prior to the Syracuse meeting, Miami barely escaped Chestnut Hill with an 18-7 victory over Boston College. The ol' Immaculate Interception saved the Canes from an unthinkable fate. But while disaster was avoided, according to most there was a chink in the Canes armor. Could Syracuse expose Miami? Riding high on an 8-game win streak, the Orange and sack-master Dwight Freeney planned on harassing Dorsey's Canes all day long.

Isn't it known by now that back-to-back sub par performances are a thing of the past? A baller like Ken Dorsey coming off a career worst 4-interception performance would not stumble two weeks in a row. Not possible.

The Canes have relearned to heed the wake up calls. Doubt from the college football world and a close call against an unranked opponent are the perfect ingredients for a Hurricane beat down the following week.

The Orangemen couldn't have caught the Hurricanes at a worse time.

With a point to prove, this was not the same Miami team the Orangemen faced the previous few years. The Canes came into the 2001 match up loose and ready to have some fun. On paper Miami had all the talent. A week earlier it was apparent they are their own worst enemy. All the Canes had to do against the Orange was not defeat themselves.

Jumping out to a 24-0 halftime lead, there might've been the feeling that the Canes would cruise in the second half much like they did the previous season. When leading 23-0 in 2000, the Canes could only muster up a field goal in the final 30 minutes.

Oh what a difference a year makes.

This year it was Miami's offense and special teams that assisted the defense by putting up 35 points in the second half and dominating time of possession.

Syracuse was completely ineffective on every level. Its' secondary couldn't contain Dorsey's arm or his arsenal of receivers. In three quarters of play, Dorsey erased memories of Boston College past with four touchdowns on 13 passes for 224 yards. Interceptions? Not this week. Laser sharp and near perfect, Ken Dorsey silenced critics while picking apart the Orangemen.

What about the hype surrounding Cuse's DE Dwight Freeney? Turned out to be all bark and no bite as OT Bryant McKinnie manhandled #54 and sent him out of the Orange Bowl with a whimper.

Will the Miami vs. Syracuse rivalry ever return to what it looked to be in the mid-nineties? Not unless SU geneticists cloned Donovan McNabb before he left campus. A game like 1992's thriller that ended 16-10 inside the 10-yard line was a fluke. As was the 66-13 drubbing in Cuse's favor a few years back.

It has become a whole new ballgame, much like old times.

Miami faces the Orangemen on November 30th, inside the Dome. While this will provide SU with an ounce of momentum, all hope will be abandoned as the Canes take the turf. Miami is in sole possession of the BIG EAST with no plans of letting up anytime soon.

All Syracuse can do is look back on their fifteen minutes they had on top a few years back and lose sleep over back to back shutouts. A bitter pill to swallow.

See ya in the Dome this fall as it'll be the same ol' song and dance when the Canes stroll into town.

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


Canes Time Top Stories