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Blustery 'Canes get comeuppance

Here is your shock:

Not the outcome. Not even the final score.

The surprise, in retrospect, was the delay.

As in, what took so long for Miami to fall?

The Hurricanes were exposed 31-7 by Virginia Tech on Saturday. Exposed as a team without much spark on offense. Without much discipline in their play. And without much hope of making it back to the national championship game.

"This is a painful time for me," said Larry Coker, who had never lost a regular-season game as a head coach. "And for us."

They were a victory from becoming the second team in NCAA history _ and the first in 45 years _ to win 40 consecutive regular-season games.

Should they be sad? Should they be angry?

Mostly, they should be ashamed.

This was not a loss. This was a humiliation. And Miami should assume as much responsibility for the outcome as Virginia Tech.

Not that the Hokies weren't inspired on defense. And not that running back Kevin Jones isn't an impressive talent.

But Miami played a foolish game and suffered a needless loss.

How stupid did it play?

Through three quarters, the 'Canes had gained more yards than Virginia Tech. They had held the ball longer. They had run 21 more plays and converted more than twice as many third downs. Virginia Tech did not even complete a forward pass until the end of the third quarter.

And Miami was losing 31-0.

"This is a tough place to play," Coker said. "But I don't think that was a factor. The factor was us."

Playing the fool is nothing new for the 'Canes. They did it last month against West Virginia. And the month before against Florida.

Except, in those games, Miami always managed to come up with enough big plays to turn the game around in the fourth quarter.

It was a sign, they said, of their character. They knew how to win because they were winners. That was their demeanor. The cause for their strut.

On Saturday, it was the reason for their demise.

There were too many mistakes. Not just the odd turnover or isolated penalty, but stupid, thoughtless mistakes. And, this time, there were too many to overcome, and Virginia Tech was too good to allow it.

Which leads to this pertinent question:

Do the 'Canes occasionally get careless or are they really this clueless?

Miami handed over the first seven points on a fumble. The next three they helped along with a personal-foul penalty.

In between, the 'Canes had a field goal blocked and tight end Kevin Everett dropped a pass in the end zone that was such a gift it lacked only a bow.

"We'd like to believe it would have been a different game at that point," Coker said. "Those are things, in a game like this, you can't have."

In the days before the game, Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall said Miami's skill players were not as impressive as they once were.

He's right.

Kellen Winslow is the only player of consequence on offense and Miami did little to incorporate him in the gameplan. He didn't get the ball in his hands for the first 39 minutes.

Brock Berlin, it turns out, is Ken Dorsey's best argument for the 2002 Heisman Trophy. Dorsey may not have had an NFL arm or the swiftest feet, but he knew when to get rid of the ball. And he knew where to throw it, too.

Those may seem like humble qualities, but they certainly beat the alternative. Berlin went from erratic to awful Saturday. When he held the ball too long, he was sacked. When he tried to throw it away, he was intercepted.

He was gone before the end of the third quarter, and it may be a while before he returns.

"We made some poor decisions at quarterback," said Coker, who would not commit to either Berlin or Derrick Crudup as the starter next week.

As poorly as Miami played, it did pull off one comeback.

The Hurricanes brought Florida State back to life.

Strange as it seems, after losing to Miami three weeks ago, the Seminoles have the best shot in the state at reaching the Sugar Bowl.

FSU has quietly positioned itself as a potential date for Oklahoma in New Orleans. The Seminoles are not overpowering, and they're not without faults.

But, after smacking Notre Dame around, FSU could move ahead of Miami into the No. 2 position in the BCS standings.

There still are obstacles for FSU. A game against Florida, for instance. And the possibility Southern California could move ahead in the BCS based on quality wins and strength of schedule.

Miami also remains in the picture but will need help to get past Virginia Tech in the Big East.

"Obviously a one-loss team is going to be in it," Coker said. "It might as well be us."

If so, they'll have to come up with a smarter plan.