NEW ORLEANS - The Miami Hurricanes can call themselves Sugar Bowl champions. National champions would be nice, too.
Playing for a possible share of the national title, the No. 2 Hurricanes defeated No. 7 Florida, 37-20, last night, with Ken Dorsey passing for 270 yards and fullback Najeh Davenport scoring two touchdowns.
The Hurricanes (11-1), hoping for a performance that would give voters in the Associated Press media poll reason to name them No. 1, struggled early before finally putting away the Gators (10-3).
The Hurricanes won the in-state battle that turned into a Bourbon Street brawl, and now must wait another day to see whether the victory will mean yet another split championship in college football.
"I feel like we are champions regardless," Miami receiver Santana Moss said. "We did what we had to do. Im going to root for Florida State, because theyre in the state. If they dont do their part, I wont be mad."
The issue of a split title is moot, of course, if No. 1 Oklahoma defeats No. 3 Florida State in the Orange Bowl today in the Bowl Championship Series national title game.
But if 12-point favorite Florida State wins, the AP title is up for grabs and the voters will have to decide whether Miami is their champion.
"We beat the No. 1 team in the nation, the No. 2 team in the nation and six teams with winning records," Miami coach Butch Davis said, recalling a season that included victories over Florida State and Virginia Tech. "I think our kids deserve every opportunity to be called national champions."
Miami held a considerable 53-point lead over Florida State in the last AP poll.
Florida went ahead 17-13 on Earnest Grahams 36-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
But Dorsey, a sophomore, responded by moving Miami 80 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 19-yard touchdown to D.J. Williams. A third-down roughing-the-passer penalty by Gerard Warren kept that drive going.
After Florida stalled, Daryl Jones returned a punt 44 yards to put the Hurricanes in striking range, then Davenport responded with the play of the game.
Linebacker Marcus Oquendo-Johnson had perfect coverage on Davenport and looked like the intended receiver, but the fullback reached over his helmet and snatched the ball away for a 10-point lead with 4:21 to go.
A few minutes later, the Hurricanes were jumping around at midfield. Then the wait began. Dorsey said hell be watching the Orange Bowl intently.
"If Florida State wins, we have a great shot at being co-national champions," Dorsey said. "If Oklahoma does it, we cant do anything about that. Theyd have my vote for fighting through the tough season they had."
Florida quarterback Rex Grossman is sacked by Miami linebacker Howard Clark during the third quarter of the Sugar Bowl. Miami rallied from a 17-13 deficit in the third quarter to defeat Florida.