In the Week 1 AP poll, Miami appeared in the top 25 for the first time since Nov. 10, 2013, when they were ranked No. 24. While this recent break into the ranks for Miami shows that the team may be improving, the Hurricanes have faced a lackluster past few years.
However, Miami reigned as the national champion multiple times, most recently in 2001 in what many consider one of the greatest college football teams of all-time.
Led by head coach Larry Coker in his first year as the Hurricanes' coach, Miami remained undefeated for the entire year and walked away with the title over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. So this Thursday, we throwback to Coker and the Hurricanes' 2001 season 15 years ago.
The Rookie CoachOn Feb. 3, 2001, Miami announced it had hired the 19th head coach of the ‘Canes’ football program, Larry Coker. Since 1995, Coker had been UM’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach. The players had lobbied hard for Coker to receive the position, and it was the 52-year old coach’s first head-coaching position in his 31-year career. He had coached with Tulsa, Oklahoma State, the University of Oklahoma and Ohio State before moving on to Miami.
“I'm excited about the opportunity and about the chance to lead our program to continued success,” said Coker in Miami’s 2001 release about the new head coach. “It's a tremendous honor and responsibility to lead this program. I relish the challenge to live up to the tradition of success that Miami football has established. Now we have to focus on the job at hand and get back to work.”
And, he lived up to that challenge. The 2001 team defeated opponents by one of the largest average margins per game in UM history at 33.2 points, leading the UM record for scoring, too. The defense that year led the nation in pass defense, scoring defense and turnover margin, and the Hurricanes’ kicking game was strong, too, leading the nation in field goals.
The TalentThis powerhouse team was led on offense by quarterback Ken Dorsey, who had a 57.9 completion percentage and only nine interceptions for the year; tailback Clinton Portis, who rushed for 1,200 yard for 10 touchdowns that year; tight end Jeremy Shockey, who caught for 519 yards for seven touchdowns that year, and wide receiver Andre Johnson, who caught for 682 yards for 10 touchdowns that year.
On defense, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who posted 49 solo tackles and one interception; safety Ed Reed, who posted nine interceptions for two touchdowns, and cornerback Phillip Buchanon, who posted five interceptions for one touchdown, led UM that year.
Out of the 2001 roster, 17 of the players listed went on to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft, and nearly half of the roster was picked in other rounds.
The Road to Victory
The Hurricanes began that year with the preseason rank of No. 2, quickly working their way up to No. 1 after defeating Penn State 33-7 in Week 1. They maintained that slot throughout the season by shutting out Rutgers, 61-0, in Week 2; Temple, 38-0, in Week 7 and Syracuse, who was ranked No. 14 at the time, 59-0, in Week 9.
They did, however, drop back to No. 2 for Week 5 before defeating Florida State, who was No. 14 coming into that week, 49-27. Still, the toughest game for the ‘Canes was against Virginia Tech, where they only posted a win by two points. But, after an undefeated regular season, the Miami Hurricanes traveled to the Rose Bowl to take on the No. 4 Nebraska Huskers.
Three touchdown passes from Dorsey gave the ‘Canes an early lead over the Huskers as they never looked back, ultimately winning 37-14.
The win made Coker the first rookie coach to win a national title since Michigan’s Bennie Oosterbaan in 1948. It also marked UM’s fifth straight bowl win.
Overall, many argue that Miami’s 2001 team remains the most talented group the program has ever seen. However, that may change in the coming years with the new direction of Mark Richt.
Will he be the next coach to lead Miami to a national title?