67th Annual Sugar Bowl Classic ~ January 2, 2001
#2 Miami 37 (Final: 11-1, #2)
#7 Florida 20 (Final: 10-3, #10)
How Miami and Florida Met in the 2001 Sugar Bowl
In a super-heated Sugar Bowl, Miami’s Ken Dorsey cooled the Florida Gators.
The sophomore from Orinda, Calif., was the main difference in a clear-cut victory that kept the Hurricanes’ hopes for at least a share of the national title alive for one more day.
After misfiring on his first three passes, Dorsey finished with 22 completions in 40 attempts for 270 yards and three touchdowns. His last two scoring passes came in the decisive third quarter, holding his team together after throwing an interception that led to a 36-yard touchdown run that put Florida ahead, 17-13.
At that point, Dorsey marched his mates 80 yards to a lead the Hurricanes would not surrender.
“He’s a winner,” exuded Miami coach Butch Davis. “He’s always making the right decisions. And tonight our guys helped by making some big-time catches.”
After Florida went ahead 17-13 – courtesy of the Dorsey interception – with 13:10 to go in the third quarter, he threw two touchdowns, 17-yards to D.J. Williams with 8:23 to go in the period, and, five playing minutes later, two-yards to Najeh Davenport.
When Miami put the game out of reach on a three-yard run with 4:21 left in the game, the Hurricane faithful in the stands began chanting “We’re No. 1!”
Not quite, as it turned out, circumstances being as frustrating to Miami as both defenses were early in the Sugar Bowl.
The two defenses, playing on their respective heels, spent most of the opening 30 minutes thwarting the offenses near the end zones. For teams that averaged 42 points (Miami) and 37 points (Florida) over the regular season, the first half had a decided defensive accent, this despite the fact the teams combined for 497 yards and 52 passes. The Hurricanes ran and passed for 231 yards, the Gators for 266. At intermission Miami was holding a 13-10 lead.
After slow starts, each of the quarterbacks warmed up on their second possession, with Rex Grossman finishing a seven-play, 70-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kirk Wells for a 7-0 Florida lead.
Dorsey responded by taking the Hurricanes on consecutive scoring drives for a 10-7 advantage after one quarter. Todd Sievers kicked a 44-yard field goal. Then Dorsey collaborated with tight end Jeremy Shockey on an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Sievers increased the ‘Canes’ lead to 13-7 with a 29-yard field goal with 10:44 left in the half. Jeff Chandler trimmed the margin with a 51-yard kick of his own.
With 13 seconds left in the half, Spurrier passed up a 43-yard field goal attempt from the Miami 26 to take a shot at the red zone. The decision backfired. Grossman’s pass, intended for receiver Taylor Jacobs, was badly under thrown, and Miami cornerback Leonard Myers picked it off.
Then came the swing period, the third quarter. Just three plays into the second half, Gator cornerback Keiwan Ratliff pilfered a Dorsey pass and returned it nine yards to the ‘Canes’ 36.
On first down running back Earnest Graham bounced outside and broke arm tackles by Miami defensive backs Edward Reed and Al Blades – one of the principals in the near-fight six days earlier – and ran 36 yards for the 17-13 Florida lead.
Then Dorsey turned on Miami’s afterburners.
A downcast Gator coach Steve Spurrier said bluntly afterward, “We got what we deserved. You’ve got to give Miami credit, because they were better than us. It was sort of embarrassing the way we played.”
Twenty-four hours later, though, Miami’s long-shot dream ended when Oklahoma beat Florida State and swept the polls.
Recap excerpted from the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History” by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.