The 2001 Miami Hurricanes were a team on a mission. They felt as though they’d been robbed of a chance at a national championship the prior year, and this was a team with more than enough talent to go do something about it.
In 2000, Miami was denied the #2 position and place in the national championship game. Florida State, who had lost to the Hurricanes head-to-head, got the nod in one of two big vote-counting controversies that took place in the state of Florida at the end of 2000. Washington, who had beaten Miami, was also a one-loss team.
Miami had the nation’s sympathy, and then soundly thrashed Florida in the Sugar Bowl to finish at #2, but it didn’t quell the bitterness. Even with coach Butch Davis leaving for the NFL, first-year boss Larry Coker had a roster that was positively loaded.
Consider the names that were key contributors to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes–Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore in the backfield, Jeremy Shockey at tight end, wide receiver Andre Johnson, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive tackle Vince Wolfork and safety Ed Reed. That’s a good who’s who of future NFL stars and Reed has been the best NFL defensive back of the 21st century.
Those names are just the regular contributors. Coming up in the wings were future pros like tight end Kellen Winslow Jr and defensive backs Sean Taylor and Antrell Rolle. With a cast like this, even a relatively pedestrian quarterback in Ken Dorsey could look good. Dorsey finished third in the Heisman voting, Coker won Coach of the Year, and the Hurricanes placed five players on the first-team All-American squad and 13 were first-team All-Big East.
Miami opened the season beating Penn State on the road 33-7. This wasn’t a good PSU team, but the score was also 30-zip by halftime before Coker called off the dogs. Miami routed Florida State in a sort-of revenge game, 49-27.
The steamroller to the national championship was nearly derailed in the swirling winds at Boston College. Dorsey threw four interceptions and BC had the ball late in the fourth quarter on the Miami 9-yard line and trailing just 12-7. A tipped pass turned into a Miami pick, and Reed got a lateral to end up in the end zone securing the win.
Miami blasted one Top 20 team in Syracuse and then did the same in another revenge game, this one against Washington. The combined score of those games was 126-7. Virginia Tech didn’t go down without a fight though. The Hokies trailed 26-24 late and had the ball at midfield. Reed again saved the day with a diving interception to preserve the unbeaten season.
Nebraska was the opponent in the Rose Bowl for the national championship and Miami ended the 2001 college football season the same way it was begun. By playing a heralded program with whom they had a little bit of a history, destroying them on the first half and then showing some mercy in the second half.
Dorsey threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores went to Johnson, who accumulated 199 yards receiving. The score was 34-0 by halftime and ended at 37-14. Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch had been a dubious selection as the 2001 Heisman Trophy winner and did nothing to dissuade skeptics, as Miami’s defense put the clamps down.
The 2001 Miami Hurricanes didn’t provide a lot of memorable moments–those come in tightly fought, high-profile games and the ’01 ‘Canes were just too good to play those. This was simply greatness on display and arguably the greatest college football team of the modern era sealed the deal with a national championship.