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No. 1 Miami routs Pitt

| Friday, Sept. 28, 2001

They came hoping to see the unthinkable, hoping to watch their Pitt Panthers stage an improbable upset against the No. 1 team in the country.

They walked away dealing with a heavy dose of reality, a reality that surely convinced them that Pitt is not on the same radar screen as the high-flying Miami Hurricanes. By the time the fourth quarter had arrived Thursday night, most of the 57,224 fans at Heinz Field had departed, still trying to digest the eventual 43-21 pounding that Miami laid on the Panthers. Nothing could help Pitt (1-2, 0-1 Big East) on this night, not the return of 400 lettermen, not the lights of national television and not the unleashing of the 'Spirit of Pitt Stadium' by all-time Pitt great Marshall Goldberg.

Miami (3-0, 2-0) proved that it's going to take a whole lot more to knock it off its perch as the consensus top-rated team in the nation. The 'Canes were too fast, too big, too strong and too motivated for a Pitt team that was still smarting from a biting upset loss to Division I-A neophyte South Florida in its most recent game 19 days earlier.

All of a sudden, Pitt is a team in flux, a team that many thought would startthe season with a 3-0 record but now could end up 1-3 with a game against Notre Dame at South Bend a week from Saturday.

'We just have to put it together fast,' senior defensive end Bryan Knight said. 'We need everybody to be on the same page, following their assignments. Right now, we're not getting it done.'

It might be too soon to put the season on life support, but there is no question that Pitt must be resuscitated quickly as it soon will enter the heart of the Big East schedule after its date with the Fighting Irish. Not that there should be any shame in losing to Miami, considering the Hurricanes have seven NFL prospects on defense and nearly as many on offense. Facts are facts, and Pitt could not find a way to stop the freight train that is the Hurricanes, as Penn State (33-7) and Rutgers (61-0) had found out in previous games.

The Panthers offered a glimmer of hope early on when a 44-yard touchdown drive on their first possession gave them a 7-6 lead, but that turned out to be nothing more than a way of teasing the partisans that hooted and hollered the best they could.

Miami scored on its first two possessions, then added another on its fourth to make it 20-7 at the conclusion of the first quarter. Pitt did a solid job of holding down the 'Canes in the ensuing 15 minutes, as the score at the half was just 23-7, but the second half was all Miami all the time.

The reasons for that dominance can be summed up simply: Miami is a national title contender; Pitt is still a program in the making. 'They have great athletes,' Pitt coach Walt Harris said. 'And they're everywhere.'

Pitt's cause wasn't helped by the fact that junior All-America wide receiver Antonio Bryant was about 80 percent healthy he played most of the game, catching three passes for 39 yards and that Miami's secondary was playing at an extremely high level.

'We practice two weeks to prepare for him,' said Markese Fitgerald, referring to Bryant. 'Especially a guy like that who can do so much with the ball. ... I feel like we had him covered.'

Bryant disputed that: 'Locked who down• They didn't lock us down. We just didn't make the plays.'

As hard as it tried, Pitt found no answer for a 'Canes team that had not allowed either of its first two opponents inside their 20-yard line. Panthers senior quarterback David Priestley, who was coming off a 200-plus yard effort, was stifled, completing 10 of 18 passes for 64 yards. His backup, Rod Rutherford, fared better, finishing 7 of 16 passing for 111 yards, while rushing for 48 yards and two touchdowns on seven attempts, but the majority of his numbers came after the outcome had been decided.

Miami, meanwhile, showed off its who's who among college football superstars, with Heisman Trophy candidate Ken Dorsey leading the way. The junior signal-caller was 18 of 32 for 208 yards with a touchdown, and has been the case all season, he was not sacked.

Fact is, Dorsey was barely even hit, which opened things up for the Miami receivers throughout the evening. Complementing Dorsey in the backfield was running back Clinton Portis, who not only had 131 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries but also caught two passes for 25 yards.

'I thought Portis was something else,' Harris said. 'He got it going for them.'

It became abundantly clear as the night rolled along that Miami is ready for primetime, while Pitt is working to get to that level. Miami opened the scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run by Portis to make it 6-0 after the snap on the extra-point attempt was mishandled. Pitt took the lead on its first possession when Rutherford bulled in from 2 yards out. But Portis and the Hurricanes came right back at the Panthers. He gave his team the lead on a 1-yard scoring run, then Andre Johnson made a finger-tip catch over Pitt cornerback Torrie Cox in the end zone to make it 20-7 Miami. The final score of the second half came on a 24-yard field goal by Todd Sievers with 8:03 left in the second quarter.

The points continued to pile up for the 'Canes in the second half when Portis added another 1-yard touchdown run and Sievers converted a 27-yard field goal, making it 33-7.

At that point, the game was over for the Panthers, who scored twice in the fourth quarter, once on a 10-yard touchdown reception by Kris Wilson and the other on a 3-yard plunge by Rutherford.

Miami, which outgained Pitt 467-308, left wanting more.

'I sensed a little disappointment because this team likes to try to score 100 points and wants to shut everybody out,' Miami coach Larry Coker said. 'Winning this game in convincing fashion on Thursday night in Pittsburgh is a big win for us.'

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