Wide Left - Just Feels Right

Wide Left I? It wasn't ever supposed to come down to this – just ask my bookie. So easy to sit back and laugh now but when the clock read 0:01 and the Noles sent the field goal unit on the field, Hurricane Nation was breathing heavy. There was nothing comfortable about that 28-27 lead in the game's closing seconds.

It felt like Florida State's time. The previous wide rights were a thing of the past – ancient history. "Groza Award Candidate" Xavier Beitia has a better ring to it than "walk on scrub" Matt Munyon. Having already hit field goals of 42 and 45 yards, sending a 43 yarder through the uprights seemed extremely doable.

Not in this series, baby.

Call it what you want: luck, fate, heart – or the lack thereof by the opponent – but the Canes continue to find a way. There is no quit in this team. Florida State brought their best game to the table while Miami spent most of the afternoon looking for theirs. No matter. In the end it was another Hurricane victory. Third straight win over the hated Noles and the fourth time in twelve years that a Seminole kicker put the ball on the wrong side of the uprights in the game's waning moments.

I still haven't come down off of my cloud. The range of emotions felt in the Orange Bowl are impossible to explain to anyone that doesn't bleed orange and green. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows were all tasted within those sixty minutes. I found myself going through the ten steps. I wrestled with "denial" in the third quarter with the 53-yard Ken Dorsey to Roscoe Parrish play was negated due to the phantom chop block. I didn't want to believe that we could lose the game. It wasn't something I could fathom. Beating the spread was iffy, but there was no way Miami could lose this game.

I started to let "acceptance" seep in when the Noles took the 27-14 lead. We had thwarted the FSU drive by sending Chris Rix in a tailspin as he drove four yards shy of the first down. Leaving them the option of a 57-yard field goal or forced to punt, I liked Miami's odds. Obviously the ACC officials felt different and called Jon Vilma for unsportsmanlike conduct as he uttered something to Rixie after the play.

Three full quarters into this heated battle, not a penalty was called for jawing between teams. Yet at the most crucial point of the game the referees decide now is the time to draw that line in the dirt. Tack 15 yards onto the play, keep the drive alive and kill the Canes' momentum. Greg Jones would rumble in to put the Noles up by 13 and the Miami would have to battle both Florida State and ACC officials to take this one back.

The Miami comeback would begin as ABC announcer Brad Nessler uttered the phrase; "they have got to pull off a miracle here at home in the next nine and a half minutes."

That first play of the miracle came in the form of a 37-yard Dorsey to Andre Johnson hook up. Willis McGahee would keep the FSU defense honest with a pounding 11-yard run a few plays later. The Canes were showing that it would be a two dimensional assault for the rest of the afternoon.

Another Dorsey to Johnson strike set the Canes up with 1st and goal and moments later No. 11 found Kevin Beard in the back of the end zone for the first UM score of the half. The sleeping giant had been awakened – as was the crowd of 81,927.

Even Nessler and partner Bob Griese were changing their tune. No longer the comments of Miami looking of out sync and dejected. Gone was the talk of a miracle comeback. With 8:04 left in the contest and a 27-21 Florida State lead, Miami was making some believers out of recent doubters. It was a known fact that there was a lot of football left to play.

In a time where the Hurricane defense was needed more than ever, they responded yet again. They saved the day against Boston College and Virginia Tech in 2001 and would have no problem shouldering the burden once again. Keeping Florida State out of the end zone was crucial. A quick stop was required and would be delivered. After a 7-yard Rix scramble that ended with the Nole QB getting planted out of bounds by heavy hitter Sean Taylor, Mr. Jones would get his last big 18-yard run of the day. Three plays later the Noles were punting again and the Miami offense took the field with 5:36 remaining.

The only thing missing was the one, explosive, quick strike offensive play. The kind that leaves defenses wondering what the hell just happened as the game quickly goes out of reach. Miami is notorious for pulling out one of those dagger in the heart plays – the only question is who would execute it?

Before anyone in the record sized crowd could react or even contemplate was on the horizon – it happened.

Like he's done so many times before, McGahee was taillights the minute the ball found its way into his hands. The first play from scrimmage Willis turned a short screen into a 68-yard pick up. A play later Jason Geathers got the glory with an 11-yard run of his own that ended with a Hurricane touchdown. In typical Miami fashion – 79 yards in 19 seconds.

Nessler made it clear that the Canes were "not ready to give up the crown yet" while Griese let the TV audience know that they "just saw the heart of a champion."

With the 28-27 lead, the game became Miami's to give away – and the almost did just that.

With 4:08 remaining and a 1st and 10 from midfield, the Canes began the drive that should have put the game to rest. Instead, two short McGahee runs left Miami with a 3rd and 5. A third rushing attempt game from Geathers in the form of 1-yard and the Canes were forced to punt with 2:11 left on the clock. As UM faithful can attest, we must use the term "punt" loosely as Freddie Capshaw dropped the worst punt of his career at the worst possible time.

His three-yard effort left Florida State 55 yards from the end zone and what should've been 35 yards out of field goal range.

The next two minutes would be a blur. Like witnessing a car crash before your eyes and not reacting quick enough to stop it, Rix would complete a 3rd and 4 to Talman Gardner for the first down. A moment later it appeared the Canes had the right play called when Antrel Rolle got to Rix untouched in a would be sack. Instead the wing and a prayer pass was airborne it would be Gardner again, coming down with the 15-yard grab.

In some incredible, freakish turn of event the Noles were staring down a 1st and 10 from the 25 yard line with under a minute to play. A quick Jones run followed by a Miami timeout, left the Noles with 2nd and 10 and 0:21 left in the game.

Without a timeout what would be the call? Kick the field goal or attempt one last play gain a few yards and set Beitia up midfield? The latter would be the call. Nothing was gained on the play while Florida State damn near cost themselves a shot at a game winning kick. Somehow Rix would spike the ball with 0:01 left on the clock and the field goal unit would take the field. How the clock didn't tick down to 0:00 with a Miami employee running the board is still a mystery to everyone in orange and green.

The final second would be historic. Xavier Beitia would take the field with confidence. He had made it abundantly clear to the media that should the game come down to a field goal, he would be the guy to send it through. He welcomed the challenge and wanted to break the curse. On his two previous field goals of the afternoon he was seen talking trash and running his jaw like a running break that broke eight tackles and scored an 80 yarder. His holder Chance Gwaltney chopped it up as well when the Noles took the 20-14 lead. It was only fitting that these two little big mouths would have to put up or shut up on the game's final play.

The snap, the hold, the kick… it's up – wide left. A new tradition is born.

In thrilling fashion, the Canes pull out the win. Miami fans rejoice and give credit to UM for showing the guts, fortitude and heart to erase the 13-point deficit. Nole fans have already started their "Miami was lucky to win" rally cry that is falling on deaf ears?

Explain the luck behind dominating the 4th quarter and scoring 14 points unanswered. Please share with us how shutting down Florida State in the final 14:00 minutes was chance. Miami's defense rose to the challenge and shut down the Noles in the final quarter while the Hurricane offense had their way with FSU. That wasn't luck – it was pure skill, brutha.

You really want to talk about luck?

Ken Dorsey's ill-advised passes that were two easy interceptions – that was luck. How about ACC officials blowing call after call in critical, game changing situations? Anyone want to discuss that muffed quick snap when Miami was in the red zone? What about the Sean Taylor late game interception that wasn't recognized or the stick he laid on P.K. Sam that should've been a fumble?

We can keep going with this…

The phantom chop block that negated the play of the game… the unsportsmanlike penalty that gift wrapped a 1st and 10 for the Noles… a three yard punt… the up for grabs catch where Rix avoided the sack… the fact that 0:01 appeared on the clock and the field goal was even attempted.

Nole fans want to go toe to toe on this, we'll win all day long. Miami overcame Florida State AND the ACC referees – and we'll do it again if need be. It will take more than garbage officials and the Noles' "A" game to take the defending champs down. The Canes wanted it more and dug deep to a place that FSU will never comprehend.

You've heard the phrase, "it's a Canes thing – you wouldn't understand." Last weekend was living proof. It can't be explained or comprehended. It is a lifestyle and an aura. Did you not feel that stadium shake the entire fourth quarter? Fair weathered fans, huh? If anyone dares to question the grit of UM's fan base, then he or she missed what took place down south on October 12th. It was electric. The stadium shook from the ground up and the love and support for that team was felt through the rafters. Florida State may have had the officials in their back pocket, but the Canes had and orange and green army backing them. When that ball sailed left, everyone with UM ties knew they were a part of something amazing.

Miami vs. Florida State 2002 did not provide the excitement the bookies promised. It was not the 22-point blowout we saw in 2001. The Noles came to play and the Canes were again their own worst enemy. At 27-14, lesser squads would've folded. Call it a day. Accept defeat and move on.

Not the Canes.

This game was not allowed to end in a Miami loss. It'd go against everything the 2002 season stood for. Repeating as champs, putting last year's rings away and focusing on a new goal – that is what this season represents. Falling short of one's goal is part of life. Losing to Florida State in a game that Miami expected to win? That is never an option.

Dig deep. Find a way. Make the most of those final moments and snatch the win from a hated rival. That IS college football.

Lucky? I don't think so. We're champions and you better knock us into next week if you plan on taking the title. A 13- point lead with 11:44 left in the contest? You need to bring more than that. That is a lifetime on a Saturday afternoon in the Orange Bowl. Miami rolls over for no one.

Florida State deserves credit for a balls out effort – but at the end of the day Miami found a way to give just a little bit more. The Canes had a few more gallons left in the tank. They dug deeper. More heart, more grit and that proverbial line drawn in the dirt. The Canes refused to lose. Many teams preach that but on this historic Saturday, Miami proved it.

Born and raised in Miami, FL and a Grassy.com guest columnist since 1995, Chris Bello now resides in San Diego, CA. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at chris@grassy.com

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