Miami's first third-down conversion came on third-and-10 at Tennessee's 33-yard line. Ken Dorsey hit Andre Johnson with a flat pass that went for a 27-yard gain, setting up a field goal that tied the score at 3-3.
Miami converted another third-and-10 on its second possession, Dorsey hitting Kellen Winslow for 12 yards. Moments later, on third-and-five, the two hooked up again for a 12-yard gain and another first down. The result? Another field goal and a 6-3 lead.
Miami eventually sealed the game with another big third-down conversion. On third-and-nine at the Vol 11, Dorsey hit Winslow with a TD pass that widened the gap to 26-3 with 5:23 to go in the third quarter.
''I thought we played pretty well in a lot of situations but our biggest deal was third down,'' Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis conceded. ''They converted on third down, and Dorsey obviously made a lot of that happen. They had good plays called, and they executed well. We ended up at 50 percent, and you're not going to win very many games when they (opponents) are converting 50 percent of your third downs.''
Still, Miami's success on third down probably wasn't so much a matter of what went wrong for the Vols as a matter of what went right for the Hurricanes.
''Miami had a lot to do with that with their execution,'' Chavis said. ''We've been great there all year (limiting foes to 28.2 percent) but Miami took that away from us.''
In short, you have to give the Canes credit. They were rarely spectacular Saturday night but they were amazingly efficient.
''We thought we'd play a little better,'' Chavis said. ''But their offense executed and did a tremendous job.... You've got to stack the line to try to slow the run down. But they can throw the football with anybody, and they've got talent outside (at the receiver spots).''