For whatever reason -- whether it be for the love of their coach, who resigned last week under pressure during an NCAA investigation, or for the steely passion involved in playing a longstanding rival -- the University of Florida Gators won much in their loss to Miami Saturday night in Tampa Stadium.
The score, 32-20, hardly reflected the heat of the battle, which was the 46th meeting of the two teams. It was a battle, fought by teams that displayed enormous courage and poise. Tenth-ranked Miami, with only five days to come down from its 20-18 victory over No. 1-ranked Auburn in the season opener, stood to have the nation's longest winning streak ended at 12 games.
The Hurricanes (2-0) rallied behind the brilliant passing of quarterback Bernie Kosar to score with seven seconds left and win against a team that had taken the lead only seconds before. The drive required a mere 29 seconds and during it, Kosar generated the miracle finish with four completions, the last one a 12-yarder to receiver Eddie Brown, who gathered in the lob in full stride to the end zone flag.
"Words cannot describe the feeling," Kosar said. "We never lost our confidence. This is a class operation."
The final touchdown came with one second remaining. Kerwin Bell, the Florida freshman who became the starting quarterback at midweek when senior Dale Dorminey injured his knee, threw wildly and was intercepted by cornerback Tolbert Bain, who returned the ball 59 yards to score.
The game, marked by a tempered desperation on the part of both squads, had apparently been settled earlier when Bell hit Frankie Neal with a five-yard touchdown pass that tied the score at 19-19 with 41 seconds to play. Bobby Raymond kicked the extra point and gave the Gators (0-1) a 20-19 lead and a short-lived glory. Seventy-two yards only seemed like forever to Kosar and the Hurricanes' offense, which amassed 402 yards, 300 of those with Kosar's passing arm. The sophomore completed 25 of 33 passes.
"So many of them were so good," said Florida Coach Charley Pell, whose resignation goes into effect at the end of the season. "We just couldn't stop them all. And that's what the game came down to. We just couldn't stop all of them."
On the winning score, Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson might have decided to kick a field goal for the go-ahead points. Running back Darryl Oliver moved the ball to the middle of the field with a three-yard burst off left guard. He was stopped at the three and Kosar called a timeout. Johnson said, "Bernie came over (to the sideline) and we discussed it. It was a unanimous decision of the staff, and we felt we could get the touchdown. I told him if it's there, take it. If not, don't take a loss and we can still go for the field goal."
Florida strong safety Roger Sibbald said, "No other team in America would have thrown the ball down there except Miami. They caught us off guard."
Kosar was not the only college quarterback whose passing led his team to victory in the first weekend of college football. Doug Flutie of Boston College threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns and tied a school record of 44 career scoring passes as the Eagles beat Western Carolina, 44-24, Saturday. Flutie completed 22 of 31 attempts, including touchdown passes of 13 and 45 yards to Kelvin Martin. He also threw scoring passes to Troy Stradford and Scott Gieselman. Boston College Coach Jack Bicknell said, "Doug Flutie just went out and made a couple of Doug Flutie plays."
Brigham Young's Robbie Bosco, succeeding record-setting Steve Young, completed 25 of 43 attempts for 325 yards and led the Cougars to an upset victory over No. 3 Pittsburgh, 20-14. His 50-yard touchdown pass to Adam Haysbert with 1:37 left was the difference for the unranked Cougars. "The kid really got confident and came on at the end," Pitt Coach Foge Fazio said. "He showed a whole lot of poise toward the end of the game." Fourth-ranked Clemson had no trouble beating Appalachian State, 40-7, in a nonconference game. Quarterback Mike Eppley overcame a slow start and threw two touchdown passes. Eppley, who led the Atlantic Coast Conference last season in passing with 1,410 yards, participated in only limited action after the second quarter but completed 13 of 17 passes for 131 yards. Even in triumph, Clemson Coach Danny Ford found reason to complain.
"I don't think we had our minds on the game," he said. "We didn't appear to have a good game plan offensively or a good game plan defensively. If our mental attitude doesn't change before the next game we'll be in a heap of trouble."
The weekend was not dominated solely by quarterbacks. Johnnie Jones of Tennessee rushed for 203 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Volunteers over Washington State, 34-27, in Knoxville. It was Tennessee's first victory in a season opener since 1979.
Greg Allen of Florida State gained 113 yards on 17 carries as the Seminoles beat East Carolina, 48-17, in Tallahassee.
It was the 11th time Allen has rushed for more than 100 yards. He is only 43 yards shy of breaking the all-time FSU rushing mark of 2,953.