Guess what? Miami isn't back, but Syracuse is.
The Orangemen, whose three losses knocked them out of the national championship picture, got another stellar performance from quarterback Donovan McNabb and routed the No. 19 Hurricanes 66-13 Saturday.
McNabb rushed for three touchdowns and threw for two more to give the No. 21 Orangemen (8-3 overall, 6-1 Big East) the Big East title and a berth in the Bowl Championship Series. It was the second consecutive victory over Miami (7-3, 5-2 Big East) for the Orangemen, who will play in either the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl.
Miami was riding a four-game winning streak and intent on winning back the conference title that Syracuse took from the Hurricanes last year in Miami.
"People said that was a fluke last year because they were on probation," said McNabb, who was 12-of-19 for 80 yards and rushed for 99 yards on eight carries. "Edgerrin James was playing and last year he didn't. "
"For them to look past us in this game really added a little bit more hunger to our mind-set," McNabb said. "We came out with a lot of emotion. We just wanted to really set the tone early and let people know that we work hard just like they do. Just because they think they're back doesn't mean they're going to come out here and kill us in our own home."
Instead, the Hurricanes suffered the second-worst defeat in school history. Only a 70-14 loss to Texas A&M in 1944 was worse.
Two years ago, Miami ruined Syracuse's season with a 38-31 victory in the Carrier Dome. The loss cost the Orangemen sole possession of the conference title and a berth in a major bowl game.
McNabb, whose 13-yard touchdown pass against Virginia Tech on the final play two weeks earlier gave Syracuse a dramatic victory, continued his clutch play.
Big plays, including two interceptions and a blocked punt, highlighted a surge that put Syracuse ahead 45-7 at halftime.
"It seemed like the harder we tried, the worse things got," said Miami quarterback Scott Covington, who was only 7-of-20 for 61 yards before being replaced by Kenny Kelly early in the fourth quarter. "It's disappointing. We practiced hard all week and there was no reason we couldn't come out and compete with these guys."
Actually, there was: Mcnabb, who worked the familiar magic that has made him a star.
Syracuse took the opening kick and scored in six plays. Facing a third-and-7 play near midfield, McNabb searched for an open receiver, couldn't find one and took off on a 30-yard run. Dee Brown finished the drive on the next play with a 23-yard touchdown run.
After Nate Trout's 50-yard field goal, a career best, Vernon Banks blocked a punt by Miami's Andy Crosland and McNabb hit Kevin Johnson with an 11-yard TD pass for a 17-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
"It was just one of those games we hit on all eight cylinders," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "You can never go into a game like this and imagine it would turn out this way. We were prepared to win it on the last play if we had to."
The key for the Syracuse defense was stopping James, who entered with four consecutive 100-yard games. And that's exactly what the Orangemen did, holding him in check until the game was out of reach. Miami was forced to punt after three plays on each of its first four possessions.
James, who finished with 115 yards on 18 carries, finally got the Hurricanes going in the final minute of the first period, scoring on a 1-yard run.
Any sense of confidence miami might have felt was quickly dashed by a scintillating 100-yard return of the ensuing kickoff by Kevin Johnson for a 24-7 lead.
"We just wanted to come out and play well," said McNabb, who enjoyed the final moments of the victory with his parents. "Everyone said that we weren't going to be able to do it. We just wanted to play well and really put Syracuse back on the map because everyone stopped talking about us despite the losses that we had. Fortunately, we were able to put things back together."
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