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'Canes' refrain: "We won't lose'

Go ahead. Take your best shot.

Knock the chip off this shoulder. Step over that line. Say that again.

They dare you.

This is the turf of Team 'Tude, the University of Miami Hurricanes. You want some of this? Then just wade on in, big boy. Try your luck.

The Hurricanes won a big game Saturday afternoon, which is redundant because the Hurricanes always win big games. Miami won 19-16 over Florida State, heretofore known as Wide Right State, to keep a 48-game swagger intact.

They prance, they point, they posture. They lead the nation in strut. They live on the bulletin boards of their opponents.

But the bigger the game, the bigger they play.

This is the greatness of this team, its ability to perform when the nation pays attention. The Arizonas of the world might slip up and scare Miami, but the Hurricanes are by-gum going to be ready for the Florida States of the world.

In big games, this team runs in packs. It smells blood. It feeds through hungry teeth. And it has this stubborn belief that the game belongs to the Hurricanes.

Usually, it does.

"It's at least 90 percent attitude," linebacker Micheal Barrow said. "We go out there, and we know we are going to win. No matter what. There is no doubt. No fear. No whining over what might be going wrong."

This is the attitude of a heavyweight fighter, forged by years of success and handed down from team to team like a precious chalice. Miami believes in only two kinds of games: close wins and lopsided wins.

So bring it on. Bring in the nation's third-ranked team. Take away the running game. Let Gino Torretta slop it up for most of three quarters. Take away Rusty Medearis, the team's defensive heart. Go ahead, Miami will spot you a 7-0 lead on the opening kickoff.

Yes, it is safe to say that Florida State easily could have won Saturday's game, and even more easily could have tied it. Today, those facts will get a collective shrug from the Miami Hurricanes. Let other teams talk about what might have been. They seem to get so much practice at it.

Twenty-two times in a row, this team has won. At the Orange Bowl, they've won 48 times in a row. Forty-eight. Did the Cartwrights win 48 in a row on the Ponderosa?

Seldom has Miami looked as vulnerable as it did Saturday. The Hurricanes have virtually no running game, and for much of the afternoon it appeared they had no passing game, either. In one stretch, Torretta was 4-of-21, and he threw incomplete on 11 straight third-down situations. A first and goal at the FSU 2 turned into no points.

Yet Miami found a way to win. The Hurricanes didn't blow out the Seminoles, and it is doubtful they impressed enough voters to reclaim the No. 1 position. But they won.

With nine minutes to play, Torretta turned into every other great quarterback Miami has had. On third and 12, he scrambled 14 yards. Facing a blitz without protection, too late to call an audible, he stood in against a fierce rush and lofted a winning 33-yard touchdown pass to Lamar Thomas.

"We won't lose," said Coleman Bell. "There is no such word around here."

By now, FSU must believe the Hurricanes are getting some help. Touchdown passes barely miss. Field goals keep drifting right. Ulcers keep forming.

"We have their number," Barrow said. "Our hearts are bigger than theirs." Maybe. Certainly, they are more unbroken.

As Barrow stood on the field Saturday, watching Dan Mowrey as he prepared to try a 39-yard field goal that would tie the game on the final play, he swears his confidence was unshaken. Even then, even with the sourness of a possible tie in the air, he knew.

"You could just tell he was going to miss," Barrow said. "He didn't have any confidence in himself. He kept looking up and looking down. He was nervous. I knew he was going to miss."

Of course. Kickers always miss against Miami.

It is likely you can recite every loss by the Hurricanes in recent years. Penn State. Boston College. Brigham Young. Notre Dame. Even that is a statement of the greatness of this program, that the losses come so grudgingly.

This is not to say that Miami proved Saturday that this team is as great as its predecessors. It must go to Penn State this week, and it must chase Washington in the polls for perhaps the rest of the year.

"There shouldn't be any question who is the best team in the nation," said Ryan McNeil. "We are."

Maybe Washington disagrees. Maybe Michigan. Maybe FSU, still.

They are willing to try their luck if they wish.

But, uh, maybe they want to pack a lunch first.