DALLAS, JAN. 1 -- After being forced into the strong, silent role all week, No. 4 Miami -- both brutishly and eloquently -- made its case today in the Cotton Bowl that it deserves the national college football title by routing No. 3 Texas, 46-3.
The tone of the afternoon was set before the game, when the Miami players formed a barrier that the Texas players had to run through to come onto the field. The gambit seemed to unnerve the Longhorns, who stumbled about the rest of the day.
"We just wanted to say, 'Come here, come on, bring it to us,' " said Miami tackle Russell Maryland, who lived up to his Outland Trophy award with three sacks and a caused fumble and was named the game's most valuable defensive player.
Miami limited the Longhorns to 205 yards and set Cotton Bowl records for points scored and margin of victory. Quarterback Craig Erickson, named the most valuable player on offense, threw for a Cotton Bowl record four touchdowns. Defensively, Maryland led a charge that had nine sacks.
No. 2 Georgia Tech's lopsided victory over Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl damaged the Hurricanes' hopes of retaining the national title, but if Miami is voted into the second spot in the final polls it would be the first time that a Division I-A team finished either No. 1 or 2 for five consecutive seasons.
Evaporating in the wake of the wreckage was the hot air that emanated from the Longhorns all week. Their theme was "Shock the Nation" -- as in the reaction across the country to the Longhorns' season. A number of Texas players said -- among other things -- that a victory over Miami would be the springboard for them to become the team of the '90s, replacing the Hurricanes, who won three national championships in the '80s.
But the big talk proved to be the only comparison that could be made between the teams. Texas had minus-four yards offense at the end of the first quarter and things improved little for the Longhorns over the course of the afternoon.
"All the things that were being said really shouldn't have been," said Texas offensive tackle Chuck Johnson. "That's not what football is about. . . . I don't run my mouth, but people have their own styles. It's not my place to quiet down teammates; what they say is their business."
The Longhorns didn't get their initial first down until 11 minutes remained in the first half and totaled 52 yards by halftime. By then they trailed 19-3 and the only reason the deficit wasn't larger was because of Miami's penchant for penalties.
For the day, the Hurricanes were flagged 16 times for 202 yards, setting two more records. Many of the penalties were personal fouls; the Miami players grew fond of throwing around the Longhorns after the whistle.
"If you're going to talk stuff like we do, then just be able to back it up," said Maryland. "The 'Shock the World' tour, come on. If you're going to try and be somebody, then be them; don't go half-stepping."
The afternoon harkened recollections of the '80s, when Miami swaggered into games, boasting about what it would do to the opposition, then usually backing it up. That has changed under second-year Coach Dennis Erickson, to the point that there was nary a word of braggadocio from the Hurricanes throughout the week.
Today, however, Miami was jawing and pushing almost incessantly from the opening whistle. Erickson seemed exasperated initially and although he said later that he was "concerned" about the number of penalties by his team, he conceded that he was impressed by its aggressiveness.
"We played the game the way it should be played," he said. "This isn't tennis, this is football. It's a physical game and it takes two to tango anyway."
All the calls against the Hurricanes merely prolonged the inevitable. On Miami's first possession of the game, for example, it drew two 15-yard personal fouls after a punt return. Instead of first and 10 from its 49, Miami faced first and 40 from the 19.
But after three passes and a five-yard offside penalty against Texas, Miami had a first down, going on to score the game's first points on junior Carlos Huerta's 28-yard field goal. He added a 50-yarder on the Hurricanes' next series and two possessions later the visitors scored again, Erickson passing 12 yards to Wesley Carroll.
Texas finally got on the scoreboard with Michael Pollak's 29-yard field goal with 7:43 to play in the second quarter, but the next time the Longhorns got the ball Robert Bailey intercepted quarterback Peter Gardere and returned to the Texas 21.
Two plays later, Erickson hit Carroll again, this scoring play covering 24 yards.
Texas's last chance to climb into contention came on its last possession of the half when it had second and goal at the 3. One run and two passes failed to advance the ball, and Texas left the field empty-handed.
Miami punted on its first possession of the second half but four plays after that Gardere threw another interception, Darrin Smith returning 35 yards for a touchdown. That made the score 26-3; if the play didn't open the floodgates, it did start a run for the exit gates. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, what was once a crowd of 73,521 had dwindled to a pocketful of diehards.
One of those forced to stay until the painful end was Texas Coach David McWilliams, who was only able to shake his head afterward.
"If they are not the best team in the country, then I don't want to play whoever is," he said.
Cotton Bowl Notes: Huerta's 50-yard field goal in the first quarter tied the Cotton Bowl record set by Alabama's Gregg Gantt against the Longhorns in 1973. . . . Miami needed only the first half to break the Cotton Bowl record for penalty yards.