The great Miami offensive machine sputtered and died today against Michigan, and the 105,403 who saw the Wolverines beat last season's national champions, 22-14, would no doubt be in agreement with Hurricanes quarterback Bernie Kosar's assessment of the contest.
"We dropped some balls and I forced some, but in the end, we destroyed ourselves," he said. "That's the worst I've ever played in my life. I was terrible."
Kosar threw six interceptions in a clumsy display in which he lacked the poise and precision shown in top-ranked Miami's earlier victories over Auburn and Florida.
The loss ended Miami's winning streak at 13, but it also brought an end to the myth that the Hurricanes were blessed with a magical unbeatability and would never fail to find the game-winning spark when needed.
It was the season opener for the 14th-ranked Wolverines, who used three touchdowns by fullback Bob Perryman and a superior level of intensity to overwhelm the Hurricanes.
Jimmy Johnson, in his first year as head coach at Miami, said, "The turnovers killed us. I felt we could move the ball easily enough, but we kept handing it over and giving them good field position.
"I'm not making excuses, but some of our better players just weren't ready to play, physically or mentally. And it killed us."
Four of Kosar's interceptions came in the last 18 minutes of the game. He completed 16 of 38 passes for 228 yards, extending his consecutive 200-yards-or-more passing streak to seven games, but he was visibly tired and uninspired.
Johnson said he did not want to make excuses for the loss and politely avoided evaluating Kosar's performance. He said, "I don't think anybody on our team played well."
Asked if playing three games in 13 days against powerful opponents had a detrimental effect on his players, Johnson said, "I don't know if that had anything to do with it. But I do know that they were able to watch us in our first two games while we really didn't know what to expect from them."
Even on their first possession, the Hurricanes showed signs of wear and tear. Fullback Alonzo Highsmith, who gained 126 yards on 16 carries, fumbled on the Michigan 46-yard line and linebacker Tim Anderson recovered.
Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh, a junior starting in his first college game, used completions to Vince Bean and Steve Johnson to move the ball deep into Miami territory. Perryman scored from the six with 10:27 left in the first quarter, the only touchdown of the half. Bob Bergeron missed the extra point attempt, and the score was 6-0.
Kosar was not strictly to blame for the problems that plagued Miami's offense. Johnson had decided not to risk reinjuring tight end Willie Smith's sprained ankle and kept him out of the game until late in the third quarter, when Johnson figured "we needed somebody to make something happen. We just weren't getting very good play from our receivers."
Eddie Brown missed a number of passes, and the offensive line had its difficulties restraining the fire and strength of Kevin Brooks, the Michigan defensive tackle who had three quarterback sacks and nine tackles.
Even with their troubles, Kosar and the Hurricanes managed to score on their first drive of the second half. Kosar passed 32 yards to Brown, who had run a curl-and-go pattern and completely outmaneuvered the secondary. The score came with 10:17 to go in the third quarter, and the extra point by Greg Cox put Miami ahead, 7-6.
Perryman, who had 79 yards on 17 carries, scored his second touchdown for Michigan with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter, this time bulling his way in from the three. Harbaugh ran a quarterback option on the conversion, but was swarmed over by several defenders and fell way short. The score was 12-7.
At the outset of the fourth quarter, Miami moved the ball to the Michigan 17, but Kosar threw incomplete to Brown on fourth and four. The pass should have been caught, and its impact was devastating for the Hurricanes.
"Eddie missed a bunch," Johnson said. "Even yesterday in practice, he missed a bunch. But like I said, no excuses."
On Miami's next possession, Kosar was intercepted by defensive tackle Mark Hammerstein, who ripped off a screen pass to Highsmith on the Miami 45 and ran the ball down to the 24.
The Wolverines could get no closer than the seven and sent Bergeron in for the 23-yard field goal. Miami, however, was flagged for roughing the kicker, putting the ball at the three. With 7:01 to go in the game, Perryman scored his third touchdown, hitting off right tackle from the one. It was 19-7, Michigan.
Kosar, showing signs of his former glory, needed only 36 seconds to score for Miami. He passed on a rollout on fourth and 10 to Stanley Shakespeare with 6:25 remaining. The touchdown covered 44 yards and ended a six-play, 80-yard drive. Cox was good on the extra point and the score was 19-14.
But Kosar's sixth interception set up the final score. Linebacker Rodney Lyles took in the pass at the Miami 25 and returned it to the 14. Bergeron kicked a 27-yard field goal with 1:12 on the clock, giving Michigan more than enough to win.
Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler summed up the contest by saying, "It was satisfying, but we don't really know how good we are or they are. That'll come later."