The Miami Hurricanes traveled to Washington hoping to take a giant step toward being national championship contenders, while gaining a measure of revenge. Instead, UM absorbed a double whammy.
Miami's national title hopes took a major setback at the hands of the Huskies 34-29. And, the UM program failed to settle the score against the Huskies, who ended the Hurricanes' NCAA-record 58- game home winning streak at the Orange Bowl in 1994.
"We can't go in the tank because of one loss," senior linebacker Dan Morgan said.
Miami has a week off to pick up the pieces and refocus on the Big East championship. On Sept. 23, UM visits West Virginia. The conference championship and a BCS bowl appearance remain within reach, but the Hurricanes have no margin for error.
"There are 115 Division I-A schools, and maybe one team will go undefeated _ maybe," coach Butch Davis said. "You can't worry about the opponent. You can't worry about the long-term decisions. You have to worry about yourself. Miami has won two national championships with one loss, so who knows?"
UM finished 11-1 in its 1983 and 1989 title years.
DEFENSELESS AGAIN: In the season opener, Miami yielded 409 yards to I-AA McNeese State. Davis downplayed the defensive lapses, citing Miami didn't reveal much in its base packages.
Washington All-America candidate quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo exposed some more weaknesses. Tuiasosopo passed for 223 yards and added 45 yards rushing. The senior ran through some missed tackles on a 12-yard touchdown that gave Washington a 14-3 lead. Washington built a 21-3 halftime lead when Tuiasosopo threw a 23-yard touchdown to an uncovered Jerramy Stevens.
Freshman Rich Alexis of Coral Springs added a back-breaking 50-yard touchdown run.
"Our defense played their fanny's off," Davis said. "They hit. But they had some breakdowns. (Tuiasosopo) made some plays. He's a good player. You can't go on the road against a good football team and have as many poor things happen."
TOO MUCH, TOO SOON: Sophomore quarterback Ken Dorsey, 19, made just his fifth collegiate start Saturday. He looked his age and experience level, especially in the first half.
The noise factor in a hostile stadium got to Dorsey, preventing him from effectively checking off at the line. Against McNeese State, Davis said Dorsey changed plays at the line about half the time.
"He found out today what it's like playing in front of a hostile crowd," UM offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez said.
Dorsey finished 15-for-34 for 215 yards and one touchdown. In the first half, especially, he failed to generate any continuity.
"It hurt us," Dorsey said of the crowd noise. "In the first quarter I was trying to make the same checks (at the time) that I'd make at home. It didn't work."
Washington confused and hurried Dorsey by blitzing.
"He was as ready as he could be at this time of his career," said Davis, who noted Bernie Kosar had a rough first start on the road, too. "He learned more in this ballgame than the previous games he has been a starter in. He learned about composure."
About Kosar's road debut: The 28-3 loss at Florida was UM's only blemish in a national title season.
FALLEN HEISMAN FAVORITE: With a national TV audience as a backdrop, Santana Moss dropped the ball on his bid to win the Heisman.
Moss caught one pass for seven yards and fumbled a punt in the first quarter. On that reception, Moss turned his ankle on the sideline. It aggravated the injury from the previous game.
"They blitzed us," Moss said. "They gutted us. We couldn't get the ball my way. We've got to put it behind us."
Moss said he can't remember losing a fumble on a punt. Huskies linebacker Tyler Krambrink made the strip and the recovery.
"I said to myself, "Things like that happen; that's life,' " said Moss, who returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown in the opener.
PORTIS CONTINUES TO PERFORM: The bright spot on an otherwise dim ground game is the emergence of sophomore tailback Clinton Portis. Listed as third string on the depth chart, Portis carried six times for 91 yards, with a 61-yard sprint, against Washington. He added a 59-yard reception that set up another score.
Portis leads UM in rushing with 224 yards.
Davis said he will try to figure out a way to get Portis more time in a backfield that features James Jackson and Najeh Davenport.
"We have to get Clinton more playing time," Davis said. "We have to figure a way to get two of those guys in the game at the same time. He runs the ball really well. He's hard to tackle. We have to give him more work."
_ JOE FRISARO