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Miami ready to return to the top

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Penn State outran and outpassed Miami, but the Nittany Lions lost 17-14 to the Hurricanes Saturday when 250-pound defensive end Darren Krein returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown.

"That was the game," Miami coach Dennis Erickson said. "What an amazing back-to-back effort _ beating Florida State and winning a week later at Penn State."

Miami (5-0) _ which has won 23 in a row _ is ranked No.

2 behind Washington, but, after doing away with No.

3 FSU and No.

7 PSU, the Hurricanes expect to leapfrog the Huskies in the polls.

"Only petty jealousy will put Washington ahead of us now," UM defensive tackle Mark Caesar said.

Erickson also was holding up his finger.

"I've got a vote in the coaches' (USA Today/CNN) poll," he said, "and I'm putting us No. 1."

Their tough jobs handled against the Seminoles and Nittany Lions, the Hurricanes now go into the soft midsection of their schedule, with games against TCU, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Temple.

UM's 5-0 record should become 9-0.

"We got beat by an outstanding team," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "John Sacca made one big mistake with the pass (Krein) intercepted for a touchdown, but he kept coming back with wonderful clutch passes. I doubt we can play much better, except for eliminating foolish mistakes.

"Is Miami No. 1? Well, you don't get to see every team play. But Miami is a heckuva team. What matters, of course, is not so much who ranks No. 1 now, but who's there on the morning of Jan. 2."

While Penn State threw two interceptions, Miami had no turnovers and committed only two penalties. That helped the Hurricanes overcome Penn State's 370-218 edge in total yards.

Miami found cures _ most notably 227-pound sophomore Donnell Bennett _ for an anemic running game that after four games had the 'Canes ranked 106th among 107 Division I teams, ahead of only Louisville.

Bennett never had gained more than 40 yards in a game, but he ran six times for 43 in one first-quarter drive, scoring from 10 yards out to put the 'Canes up 7-0.

Bennett finished with 15 carries for a career-best 79 yards and one touchdown, and Larry Jones added 69 yards on 17 carries.

"We felt we had to come in and run the ball more. It made the difference in the ballgame," Erickson said.

Penn State's Richie Anderson ran with quickness and toughness for 116 yards, and Sacca passed for 170 yards compared to 80 for Miami quarterback Gino Torretta, but the Lions were not effective "finishers."

Twice in the first half, Penn State (5-1) stalled after long drives and walked away pointless. One field-goal attempt by Craig Fayak was blocked by cornerback Dexter Seigler, and Fayak missed another from 20 yards.

"Something has gone wrong with me," Fayak said. "I've hurt myself somehow, and every time I kick the ball it's as though a knife is stabbing me in the back. It hurts in many ways, knowing that if I had delivered, we could've beat Miami."

After halftime, Penn State came out smoking. Anderson knifed the 'Canes for 61 yards in six carries and scored on a 10-yard run to pare Miami's lead to 10-7.

Then came Krein's back-breaker.

Sacca had been effective on third-down passes, so the 'Canes blitzed linebacker Jessie Armstead. Penn State had a screen pass called, but Armstead was in the quarterback's face and hanging onto an arm when Sacca made the ill-advised flip.

Flying like a wounded pigeon, the ball tumbled into Krein's heavily taped mitts. He cuddled it at the Lions' 28, and nobody was close. Krein rumbled into the end zone to give Miami a 17-7 lead with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.

"It all happened so fast," Krein said. "I saw the ball coming, it was in my hands, and then I was in the end zone.

"As a team, we go out to make the big play. If you keep trying, it will come."

It was the first interception for Penn State this season after 148 attempts.

"That's the difference in quarterbacks," UM middle linebacker Micheal Barrow said. "Our quarterback would just have gone ahead and taken a sack. Their quarterback threw it away."

Miami's defense made another key stop earlier in the final quarter after Penn State drove to the Hurricanes' 5. The Lions went for it on fourth and 1, but Barrow stopped Anderson for a 1-yard loss.

"When we had to, our defense made the big plays," Erickson said.

The loss snapped Penn State's 11-game winning streak and also ended a 14-game winning streak at home for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State scored on a 14-yard pass from Sacca to O.J. McDuffie with 6:17 left, then got the ball back after stopping Miami's ensuing drive. But the Lions were forced to punt and didn't get the ball back until 1:38 was left. Cornerback Paul White, a junior from Tampa's Hillsborough High, stopped Penn State's last drive by picking off a Sacca pass with 64 seconds left.

"They don't have better players than us. And they don't have more talent. But a team keeps winning games like this, it's not by accident," Penn State guard John Gerak said.

Armstead said this victory was even sweeter than last week's over Florida State.

"It is, coming on the road, beating Penn State," Armstead said. "I guarantee Washington can't beat Penn State here."

_ Material from the Associated Press, the Baltimore Sun and New York Newsday contributed to this report.