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Matt Hayes: 'Canes overwhelming
PASADENA, Calif. -- Since when did Nebraska become Baylor?
For the second game in a row, the Cornhuskers got their pants pulled down. The day after Thanksgiving, Colorado drubbed Nebraska, 62-36. Thursday night in the Rose Bowl, a game billed as a national championship contest, Miami drilled the Huskers 37-14 to win The Sporting News national championship.
Four quarters weren't needed to decide this one. In fact, it was over by halftime. In reality, it may have been over when the matchup was announced in December. Nebraska? In the national championship game? Didn't the Huskers get hammered in their last game? Didn't they finish second in their own division?
No matter how many times during the past four weeks Nebraska said it belonged in this game, no one was listening. And it proved to be a good thing. There are several teams that would have given Miami a better game than the Huskers.
Oregon comes to mind. The Ducks almost were here, but they finished 1.44 points behind No. 2 Nebraska in the BCS poll. Oregon's 38-16 win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl pushed its record to 11-1. Mighty impressive.
But an even better foe for Miami would have been Florida. Yes, the Gators have two losses, but they came by a combined five points -- to Auburn and Tennessee. And in each instance, Florida played without star tailback Earnest Graham. Put Graham in those games, and Florida would have been unbeaten and partying in Pasadena. Instead, the Gators had to settle for mugging Maryland 56-23 in the Orange Bowl and wondering "what if?"
Instead of an evenly matched game, the nation was forced to endure a mismatch
of Roadrunner vs. Coyote proportions. Miami built a 34-0 lead behind the
12-of-20, 258-yard, three-TD passing of Ken Dorsey. He finished 22-of-35 for 362 yards.
Looking at the final numbers, you would have thought Miami had played Rutgers. The Hurricanes piled up 472 yards of offense. In its last two games, the Cornhuskers have allowed 99 points. Now, Nebraska knows how the tortured souls at Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri felt all of those years they were run through the Cornhusker combine. It doesn't feel too good, does it?
The only people madder than the thousands of people sitting in red La-Z-Boys
across the state of Nebraska on this night were the thousands of people sitting in green La-Z-Boys across the state of Oregon. A win by Nebraska likely would have resulted in a split national championship, with the Huskers earning the ESPN/USA Today crown and Oregon the AP title. Now, there's no doubt the 12-0 Hurricanes are No. 1 for the fifth time ever and the first since 1991.
That sigh of relief you just heard came from SEC commissioner Roy Kramer sitting in his leather La-Z-Boy in Birmingham, Ala. Miami's win took the BCS that Kramer played such a huge role in developing a few years ago off the hook. It was the second year in a row the BCS avoided having brontosaurus-sized egg on its face. Last year, many felt Miami should have played Oklahoma for the national title in the Orange Bowl instead of a Florida State team that lost to the Hurricanes in the regular season. The Sooners promptly went out and beat the Seminoles, 13-2.
Nebraska's defeat is evidence that the Big 12 is overrated. The league looked so tantalizing in the preseason and early on. Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska and Colorado all appeared Grade A. Kansas State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech weren't far behind. But the conference accomplished little. Look at its feats: The league's only victories over non-conference teams in bowls were against Colorado State, USC and North Carolina. In the postseason, the Big 12 went 3-5. That's a resume that's in need of some George O'Leary-izing.
Where does Nebraska, which finished 11-2, go from here? I'm sorry to report that the pain and suffering may not be over in Lincoln. Senior quarterback Eric Crouch is gone, and he's taking his Heisman Trophy with him. That's very bad, seeing as how Crouch was a one-man gang who was THE entire offense. Without his ability to single-handedly make a play, an attack that hasn't had a deluxe I-back since Ahman Green left after the 1997 season figures to struggle. Incidentally, 1997 was the last time the Cornhuskers won a national title.
Crouch's successor may be Jammal Lord. But word is the junior-to-be has been slow to grasp the offense. How bad is it? A hotshot high school quarterback from North Carolina is graduating early to enroll at Nebraska for the spring semester because he has a legit chance to win the job. For Big Red fans, here's hoping whoever is under center in 2002 offers some threat of a pass for an offense that featured too much of Crouch the past three years.
And then there's the "Blackshirt" defense. It proved to be vulnerable to the pass vs. Texas Tech (373 yards) and to the run against Colorado (380 yards rushing) in the regular season. Miami looked like a glutton on this night, feasting on yards any way it wanted. The Huskers' defense lacks great athletes, especially at linebacker. There also is a lack of playmakers on the line. It all could add up to a seven- or eight-win season for Nebraska, which would cause those Cornhusker fans to tip over in their La-Z-Boys.
Staff writer Tom Dienhart covers college football for The Sporting News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.