1. Archive

Torretta, 'Canes should be No. 1

Gino Torretta doesn't have the look, the style, the consistency or the statistics of the incredible gallery of quarterbacks _ Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh and Craig Erickson _ he followed at the University of Miami.

All Torretta does is win.

Torretta's record rose to 20-1 as the Hurricanes' starting quarterback, with a 17th consecutive victory, but the 6-foot-3 senior's passing gems were infrequent as second-ranked Miami banked on defense and a rediscovered running game in Saturday's 17-14 kiss-off of No. 7 Penn State.

"We got a win," Torretta said before washing the Beaver Stadium grit from his sandy California hair, "and that's all I'm interested in."

Torretta was just 11-of-31, netting a puny 80 yards, but he won again.

"Call it the Torretta intangible," Miami coach Dennis Erickson said. "Call the Gino way anything you like. But the guy is there with the right stuff when we need him most, even if often it is just enough to keep us winning.

"I'm with Gino. He had a good game against Penn State because we're leaving town with a win. What else really matters?"

Seven days before, in the Orange Bowl against No. 3 Florida State, Torretta played quite miserably for three quarters. Miami's offense had converted just twice in 14 third-down chances.

Torretta kept throwing long "fade" patterns on third down against FSU and missing badly. But when the 'Canes needed it most, there was Torretta lofting a 32-yard touchdown pass to Lamar Thomas _ on one of those "fade" patterns _ as the 'Canes won 19-16.

Whatever it takes.

"I don't spend any time comparing myself to all the great quarterbacks who've played at Miami in the last dozen years or so," Torretta said. "I'm sure I'm not as talented or effective as they were. But as long as the Hurricanes win with me at the throttle, it won't kill me if I have a 2-for-20 day as a passer."

Just win, baby.

Penn State's crowd is a well-mannered bunch, and the noise from 96,704 doesn't approach the decibels you might expect, but after the game, there were many Nittany Lions voices screaming at the 'Canes in highly unsupportive terms.

"You've got no class, Miami," shouted a gray-haired woman in a blue Penn State sweater. "You should've lost this one, and you know it."

Miami defensive end Kevin Patrick looked up at her and blew a kiss.

"We're No. 1, thank you, ma'am," he said, holding up one finger, "and your Penn State team is not."

Dozens of Penn Staters chanted, "Huskies No. 1! Huskies No. 1!"

A slap in the football face of Miami, a team that universally believes back-to-back whippings of FSU and Penn State should leap-frog it past Washington as the country's top college team.

"There's no question that we have to be far better to be No. 1," Miami linebacker Jessie Armstead said. "When you begin to win, the world loves you. But when you win for too long, people want to see you fall. Maybe that includes some people who vote in national polls.

"Well, baby, we have no plans to fall. We should be No. 1 by Monday morning and from then on."

Miami does have "a reputation" developed in the early 1980s when Howard Schnellenberger began coaching the 'Canes to national heights. The flash-and-bash style was perpetuated under Schnellenberger successor Jimmy Johnson. The 'Canes were a cocky, loud and arrogant team, and much of conservative America frowned on Miami's in-your-face style.

Most of the garbage has disappeared in the Erickson years. His efforts at deportment are obvious and are to be applauded. But does America expect the 'Canes to go even further and to win-win-win while behaving like some Ivy League debate squad? By now, I see nothing more outlandish than probably would come from any of the other 106 major-college football programs if it won 23 games in a row, on top of four national championships.

Miami should indeed be No. 1.