PASADENA, Calif. (Reuters) - The top ranked Miami Hurricanes capped off a perfect season with a 37-14 win over fourth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Rose Bowl on Thursday, giving college football the undisputed national champion it desperately wanted.
Fears that a strange season would end in controversy and a split championship proved unfounded as the Rose Bowl turned into a blowout with 12-0 Miami collecting its fifth national title.
Ken Dorsey turned in a clinical performance throwing three touchdowns but it was Miami's top rated defense that took credit for the victory shutting down the Cornhuskers' Heisman trophy winning quarterback Eric Crouch and Nebraska's vaunted running game.
A fumble by Crouch in the first quarter led to Miami's opening score, Dorsey hitting Andre Johnson with a 49 yard touchdown strike on the first snap after the turnover.
Clinton Portis capped off a five play drive with a 39 yard run to open the second quarter before the Canes defense went back to work, James Lewis picking off Crouch and returning the ball 42 yards for the touchdown.
In control, the Hurricanes refused to let up, Dorsey adding to his record setting night with touchdown strikes to Jeremy Shockey and Johnson again to send Miami into the break with a commanding 34-0 lead.
Late touchdowns from Judd Davies and DeJuan Groce on a 71 yard punt return helped keep the score respectable for the Cornhuskers who finished the season with their first back-to-back losses since 1990.
Nebraska Postgame Notes
Pasadena, Calif. -- Playing in front of the largest crowd to ever see a Nebraska football game, the No. 4/4/2 (AP/Coaches/BCS) Huskers fell to No. 1 Miami, 37-14, in the 88th annual Rose Bowl Thursday evening. Miami totaled 472 yards of total offense, including 362 yards passing by Ken Dorsey, to complete a perfect 12-0 season, while the Huskers (11-2) were held to a season-low 239 yards. The Hurricanes capitalized on a trio of first-half turnovers, converting them into 14 points, as UM built a 34-point halftime lead. After exchanging punts on their first possessions, the Huskers forced a turnover on the Hurricane?s second possession, as Keyuo Craver intercepted a Dorsey pass at the NU 33. The Huskers got a first down, but were unable to convert, as Crouch fumbled (recovered by William Joseph) and Miami recovered on the Nebraska 49-yard line. The miscue would prove to be costly, as Dorsey connected with Andre Johnson for a 49-yard touchdown seven second later to give the Hurricanes a 7-0 lead. Nebraska fell behind 14-0 with 14:33 remaining in the half after the Hurricanes marched 86 yards on five plays, capped by Clinton Portis? 39-yard touchdown run. Miami?s defense forced another turnover on the Huskers? next possession, as Crouch?s pass went over the hands of Tracey Wistrom and was picked off by James Lewis, who returned it 47 yards for the score. Miami increased its lead to 34-0 at the half as Dorsey connected on touchdown passes to tight end Jeremy Shockey (21 yards) and Johnson (eight yards). Nebraska got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter, as Judd Davies rambled 16 yards for a touchdown, culminating a 68-yard drive to cut the UM lead to 34-7. The Huskers closed to within 20 after DeJuan Groce returned a Hurricane punt 72 yards for a touchdown ? his second of the season ? with 14:28 remaining before Miami closed the scoring with Todd Sievers? 37-yard field goal with 10:04 remaining
Back-to-back losses: Tonight?s loss to Miami marked the first time since 1990 that Nebraska lost consecutive games (at Oklahoma and against Georgia Tech in the Citrus Bowl) and only the 12th time since 1962 that the Huskers lost back-to-back contests.
Points Allowed: The 37 points allowed was the third-highest total allowed in Nebraska?s 40 bowl appearances and the most allowed the by Husker defense since allowing 45 points the 1991 Citrus Bowl. The 99 points allowed over the past two games (62 at Colorado and 37 tonight) is the most allowed in consecutive games since the 1945 season, when NU allowed 61 points to Minnesota (10/6) and 54 to Indiana (10/13). The only other time that NU gave up 100 points in consecutive games came in 1945.
National Title Games: With tonight?s loss, Nebraska dropped to 5-8 in games that have decided at least a share of the national title, ending a streak of three straight wins dating back to Florida State?s 18-16 victory over Nebraska in the 1994 Orange Bowl. Since the loss to the Seminoles, NU recorded victories over Miami (24-17 in 1995 Orange Bowl), Florida (62-24 in 1996 Fiesta Bowl) and Tennessee (42-17 in 1998 Orange Bowl) before tonight?s loss. NU has played in eight bowl games which have decided the national champion for at least one of the teams since 1990.
Bowl Games: Nebraska extended its NCAA record of bowl appearances to 33 (every year since 1969) with its appearance in the Rose Bowl and have now appeared in 40 bowl games, the fifth-highest total in NCAA history. The Huskers, who had won six of their last seven bowl games, are now 20-20 all time, 2-2 under Solich and 0-2 in the Rose Bowl. All-time vs. Miami: With the loss, Nebraska falls to 5-5 all-time against Miami, including 2-4 in bowl games, while the Hurricanes? win over the Huskers was UM?s first over Nebraska outside the state of Florida. With the loss, Nebraska is 89-92-3 all-time against ranked foes, including 10-8 under Solich. The Huskers also dipped to 1-10 all-time when playing against a No. 1 team.
Largest Crowd in School History: Tonight?s attendance of 93,781 marks the largest crowd to ever see Nebraska play, topping the estimated 92,000 that saw Nebraska in its first Rose Bowl appearance in 1941. In fact, counting tonight?s crowd, three of the five highest attended games in Nebraska history have come in the Rose Bowl.
Turnovers: Nebraska-3 (one interception and two fumbles); Miami-1 (one interception). Nebraska forced the game?s first turnover as Keyuo Craver intercepted a Ken Dorsey pass on Miami?s second possession. The Huskers did not convert, as Eric Crouch fumbled on the subsequent possession. Miami needed only play to convert, as Dorsey connected with Andre Johnson with a 49-yard touchdown pass on the next offensive play. In all, Miami converted Nebraska?s three turnovers into 14 points. James Lewis? 47-yard return marked the first time Crouch had an interception returned for a score since Oct. 28, 2000, when Oklahoma?s Derrick Strait returned an interception 32 yards for a score. Entering the Rose Bowl, NU opponents had only scored 34 points on 25 turnovers, but Miami, which led the nation in turnover margin, converted NU?s three turnovers into 14 first-half points.
Quarterback Eric Crouch: The Heisman Trophy winner finished his career with his 17th career 100-yard game and first in a bowl game, carrying 22 times for 114 yards, the second-highest rushing performance in a bowl game by a NU quarterback and the ninth-best bowl total in school history. The senior, who was looking to become the first Nebraska quarterback to win three bowl games since Dave Humm (1972-74), accounted for 176 of Nebraska?s total offensive yards and was held without a touchdown for the first time this season and the first time since Sept. 18, 1999, against Southern Miss. Crouch, finished his career second on NU?s bowl passing charts with 492 yards, completed 5-of-15 passes for 62 yards with an interception. He finishes his NU career with a 35-7 record. His career bowl rushing total was 10 yards short of the career top-five in NU bowl history.
Total Offense: Miami held Nebraska to a season-low 239 total yards, joining Notre Dame (270 yards on Sept. 8.) as the only teams to hold Nebraska under 300 yards. The Hurricanes also held the Husker ground attack to just 197 yards, nearly 120 yards below its nation-leading total of 315 yards rushing per game. I-backs Dahrran Diedrick, who had seven 100-yard games this year and lead the Big 12 in rushing was held to 47 yards on 15 carries.
Cornerback DeJuan Groce: The junior turned in the second-longest punt return in Nebraska bowl history with his 71-yard punt return (set up by blocks by Lornell McPherson and Jerrell Pippens) with 14:28 remaining. Groce, who ranked seventh nationally in punt returns at 14.2 yards per return, returned his second punt of the season for a score (also vs. Kansas State). The punt return for a score was the first by a Nebraska player in a bowl game since Bobby Newcombe returned a kick 60 yards vs. Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl and the fourth punt return in NU bowl history. Johnny Rodgers holds the NU bowl record with a 77-yard punt return against Alabama in the 1972 Orange Bowl. Groce, finished with 85 yards on three punt returns.
Fullback Judd Davies: The sophomore scored his fifth touchdown of the season, capping a 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive late in the third quarter with a 16-yard touchdown run. He finished with 16 yards on five carries.
Cornerback Keyuo Craver...The senior All-America from Harleton, Texas, turned in the Huskers? first turnover, intercepting a Ken Dorsey pass with 8:59 remaining in the first quarter. It was Craver?s fourth interception of the season, eighth of his career and first in a bowl game.
Quick Notes: The last time Nebraska was shut out in a half came at Kansas on Oct. 30, 1999, when the Huskers trailed 9-0 before coming back to win 24-17...the 34 points in the half was the most allowed by the Huskers in the first half in a bowl game, topping the previous mark of 24 allowed three times, most recently the 1991 Citrus Bowl (also against Alabama in the 1966 Orange and 1967 Sugar Bowls)... Miami?s Andre Johnson finished the evening with seven catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns, breaking the Nebraska bowl opponent record for receiving yards which was held by Alabama?s Ray Perkins (9-178)...Portis finished with 104 yards, becoming the fourth opposing back to top 100-yards vs. NU this season.
Husker Return Plans: Nebraska will leave Los Angeles Airport at Noon (PST) Friday, returning to Lincoln at 4:30 p.m. (CST)