SOURCE: Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) -- There were dozens of former star Miami players in attendance for the Orange Bowl's farewell, including some wearing national championship and Super Bowl rings.
Too bad they weren't wearing uniforms. The Hurricanes desperately needed the help.
No. 23 Virginia ended Miami's 70-year stay at the famed stadium in stunningly one-sided fashion Saturday night -- dealing the Hurricanes the biggest shutout loss in Orange Bowl history. Mikell Simpson had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs and quarterback Jameel Sewell scored twice, as the Cavaliers simply overpowered their way to a 48-0 victory.
"I have too much pride in myself and this football team to think something like this could happen," Miami coach Randy Shannon said.
Chris Cook had a 44-yard fumble return for a score with 2:26 left, putting Virginia's effort into the Miami history books. It topped the 44-0 beating Notre Dame put on the Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl in 1973.
So how's this for one last piece of Orange Bowl history? It was Miami's first home shutout loss since Oct. 4, 1974 against Auburn, and the Hurricanes' worst defeat since losing 66-13 at Syracuse on Nov. 28, 1998. The last time Miami lost by more points at home was in 1944, when Texas A&M beat the Hurricanes 70-14.
Safe to say, this one hurt a tad more than those.
Farewell, Orange Bowl. It'll likely be demolished within a few months.
The Hurricanes would prefer memories of this finale get bulldozed with it.
"It was a very dynamic atmosphere, but we really didn't pay it much heed," said Virginia coach Al Groh, whose alma mater improved to 1-15 all-time in Florida after outgaining the Hurricanes 418-189. "We knew that the only thing that was going to determine the outcome was what happened in between the white lines."
Sewell completed 20 of 25 passes and 288 yards for Virginia (9-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which hosts Virginia Tech in two weeks with a trip to the league title game at stake.
Virginia did most of its damage with its trio of tight ends, who caught 10 passes for 154 yards.
Kyle Wright completed 9 of 21 passes for 94 yards for Miami (5-5, 2-4), which ended its Orange Bowl run on a three-game losing streak and needs a win at either Virginia Tech or Boston College over the next two weeks just to become bowl-eligible.
"The fans were out tonight. The atmosphere was right," Shannon said. "And we couldn't get anything started."
The nostalgia-tinged night started on an emotional high, as actor and former Miami defensive lineman Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson introduced the team before it charged onto the field one last time.
"After 70 years of dominance ..." Johnson began.
If this were one of his Hollywood movies, that line would have ended up on the cutting room floor -- because the Cavaliers did all the dominating on this night.
Virginia needed seven plays to march 96 yards on its first possession, with Sewell going 3-for-3 for 64 yards on the drive -- capped by a 29-yard pass to Maurice Covington for a 7-0 lead. Covington caught a short pass over the middle, cut back and darted past Willie Cooper into the end zone.
It was just the start.
"It was amazing just having this crowd out there, and them booing. I was just trying to feed off them," Sewell said. "The whole team was just feeding off that negative energy and we turned it into positive energy."
Miami had a potentially game-tying fumble return by Colin McCarthy erased by an offsides call late in the first quarter, and things snowballed from there.
A blocked punt later in the quarter led to Keith Payne's 5-yard run that made it 14-0, and the lead grew to 17-0 after the Cavaliers took advantage of a play that might epitomize Miami's season. Wright threw toward Lance Leggett, who had the ball bounce off his body and into the hands of Virginia safety Byron Glaspy, the Cavaliers' third interception in the first 16:02.
Sewell and Simpson scored on 1-yard runs later in the half, and it was 31-0 at intermission, leading to an awkward halftime show honoring past players.
That 20-minute ceremony honoring past 'Canes greats was punctuated by a rendition of Queen's stadium anthem "We are the champions."
"Nothing I can say," Miami wide receiver Darnell Jenkins said. "Those are the guys who started this. ... We let those guys down."
Simpson scored again on the first possession of the second half to make it 38-0, and the crowd of 62,106 began noticeably thinning out, saying goodbyes a bit ahead of schedule.
"We just kept coming up to each other and just saying, you know, 'Soak this one up because you're going to remember it for the rest of your life," Virginia defensive end Chris Long said. "This is a building with a tremendous amount of history."
By the end, only one bright spot remained: University officials made a public plea in the days before the game, asking fans not to rush the field in hopes of collecting some souvenir turf, and enlisted the help of 300 Miami police officers to maintain order.
No one tried it as the clock ran out. Of course, most everyone was gone by then, not around to see an 85-yard "Thanks for the Memories" banner get unfurled on the field as white confetti shot into the sky.
"Looking at the stuff coming down, you'd think we won the Super Bowl," Wright said. "Not the way you want to go out as a senior. I was feeling like apologizing to everyone here, to everyone affiliated with the university."