Photo via YouTube/ABC broadcast
For years, the Rose Bowl was a contest between the Big Ten and Pac-10’s best. That changed however, with the inception of the Bowl Championship Series and College Football Playoff.
While the “Grandaddy of the All” is still more often than not played between schools from the aforementioned conferences, it has also served as a national championship or playoff since 1998. The first case of that change came on this day 20 years ago.
To cap the 2001 season, Miami blasted Nebraska in Pasadena for the national championship, 37-14.
Setting the Stage
Miami’s 2001 team is often regarded as one of the most talented in college football history. Under first-year head coach Larry Coker, the Hurricanes were ranked No. 1 and 11-0 as they arrived at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3, 2002. Despite its immense talent, Miami had played some close games along the way against Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Nebraska’s presence in the game was a controversy in itself. After an 11-0 start, the Cornhuskers were blasted by Colorado in the regular-season finale, 62-36. The Buffaloes went on to win the Big 12, but Nebraska held the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings over both Colorado and Pac-10 champion Oregon despite being No. 4 in the AP Poll.
There may have been some drama in the BCS, but for the national title, there was little. Miami and Nebraska opened the game by exchanging punts and then turnovers, but it didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to assert their dominance.
Midway through the first quarter, Nebraska quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch fumbled near midfield and Miami recovered. On the very next play, Miami went ahead for good.
Ken Dorsey hit a streaking Andre Johnson for a 49-yard touchdown pass to give Miami a 7-0 lead. From there, things went from bad to worse for Nebraska.
Nebraska turned the ball over three times in the first half. Miami scored five touchdowns.
Clinton Portis got the scoring started in the second quarter with a 39-yard touchdown run less than a minute in. Less than two minutes later, James Lewis returned a Crouch interception 47 yards for a score to make it 21-0. Later in the period, Dorsey threw touchdown passes to tight end Jeremy Shockey and Johnson.
By halftime, Miami led 34-0. Nebraska settled in during the second half, but it was a case of too little, too late.
Less than three minutes remained in the third quarter when Judd Davies scored from 16 yards out to put Nebraska on the scoreboard. The Cornhuskers threatened to make things somewhat interesting early in the fourth when DeJuan Groce returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. Todd Sievers answered with a field goal for Miami and Nebraska’s next two possessions ended on downs.
Statistically, Miami dominated as well. The Hurricanes finished with 472 yards to 259 for Nebraska.
Dorsey passed for 362 yards and three scores in the win. Portis powered the Miami ground attack with 104 yards rushing and Johnson caught seven passes for 199 yards and the two touchdowns.
In his final game, Crouch rushed for a game-high 114 yards, but struggled passing and turned the ball over twice.
For Miami, the victory was its 22nd straight and gave the Hurricanes their fifth national championship. That streak would reach 34 games before Miami fell to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship the following season.
Despite a 35-2 record over the three years from 2000 to 2002 and having numerous players drafted, Miami won just one national championship. That was won on this day two decades ago.