No. 1 Miami escaped Chestnut Hill again Saturday, but it wasn't easy.
Miami (8-0, 5-0 Big East) won its nation-best 18th in a row as it held off Boston College 18-7, but it took a defensive touchdown in the waning seconds to keep the Hurricanes on course for a berth in the BCS national championship Rose Bowl on Jan. 3 _ that is, if the close win over an unranked foe doesn't cause them to drop.
Thanks to the lackluster showing, the 'Canes dropped to second behind Nebraska in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll. They remained No. 1 in the AP poll.
They were favored by three touchdowns, yet failed to score one offensively. They couldn't take advantage of a team missing its top player, nation's leading rusher William Green.
Penn State, Washington and Florida State lost, which will hurt UM's already weak strength of schedule component.
On the plus side, Miami hadn't been challenged all season, yet in a hostile environment came up with the plays needed to pull out the win.
"We got out of this one," said cornerback Markese Fitzgerald, a Dixie Hollins product who got his first interception of the season.
They got out of it despite a critical late fumble by freshman Frank Gore, despite a career-high four interceptions by quarterback Ken Dorsey, despite failing to score an offensive touchdown for the first time since a 47-0 loss at Florida State in 1997, widely regarded as the low point of UM football the past two decades.
Dorsey failed to throw a touchdown for the first time in 23 games as a starter. The interceptions doubled his season total.
The 'Canes kept marching toward the title game because Mike Rumph deflected a Brian St. Pierre pass into the waiting hands of Matt Walters, who gave the ball to Ed Reed, who raced 80 yards for the touchdown that sealed the win after BC (6-3, 3-2) had first and goal at the UM 9.
Walters was looking to head out of bounds, not hand off the ball, but "something told me to ask Matt for the ball," Reed said. "I don't know what."
Clinton Portis rushed a career-high 36 times for 160 yards but was getting his ankle taped when Gore fumbled. Todd Sievers kicked field goals of 38, 24, 43 and 47 yards for the 'Canes, who led 9-0 at the half.
"I knew we were going to win," Portis said. "I don't think anybody was ready for their dream to end."
ODDS AND ENDS: Portis said it was a matter of time before Dorsey showed he was human. "You can't expect Dorsey to have an All-America performance every game," Portis said. Sievers' 47-yarder was the longest of his career. "Without Todd Sievers, we don't win the game," coach Larry Coker said. Sievers also had two huge tackles on kickoff returns that prevented touchdowns. Ed Wilkins started at left guard in place of the injured Sherko Haji-Rasouli, out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Vernon Carey also saw plenty of action. Chris Campbell led a standout day for UM's linebacking corps with 12 tackles. Portis' carries were second most in UM history. Edgerrin James (1998) and Ottis Anderson (1978) each had 39 in a game.
_ MICHAEL SNYDER