By MALCOLM MORAN
Gene Stallings went for the ride of his life tonight.
Sitting atop crimson shoulders and bathing in the bright light of the flashbulbs before him, the football descendant of Alabama legend Paul (Bear) Bryant led the second-ranked Crimson Tide to a virtually certain national championship.
Three interceptions by Miami quarterback Gino Torretta led to Alabama touchdowns in an improbable 34-13 Crimson Tide victory over the top-ranked Hurricanes in the 59th Sugar Bowl.
With Derrick Lassic rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and Alabama's defense smothering Miami's rushing game and confusing Torretta, the Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama (13-0) made certain that when final polls are released Saturday, it will clinch its sixth outright national championship since The Associated Press news media poll began in 1936. The title will be Alabama's first since Bryant's 1979 team won in the Sugar Bowl.
"We said we would make 55 or 56 plays for the privilege of making a difference," Stallings said. "We had a lot of guys that made the difference."
Miami (11-1) lost for the first time since a 29-20 defeat at Notre Dame in October 1990. Alabama's 23rd consecutive victory ended Miami's 29-game streak to become the longest current streak among major colleges.
Six years after Vinny Testaverde, Miami's first Heisman winner, threw five interceptions in a shocking Fiesta Bowl loss to Penn State, Torretta's nightmare played a critical role in a game that was nearly as much of a surprise.
"He made some good throws," Stallings said, "and we got some of them."
Torretta's interceptions -- after he had thrown only seven all season -- did not hold the final-second shock that another Miami generation suffered that 1987 night in the Arizona desert. They only compounded Miami's desperation before a raucous Alabama-partisan crowd of 76,789 in the Louisiana Superdome.
A Sugar Bowl-record 78-yard punt return by Miami junior Kevin Williams brought the Hurricanes within 14 points with 12 minutes 8 seconds left in the game. But the Tide gained 67 more rushing yards than any team had