In the finale of what had been dubbed their "Shock the Nation Tour" by senior weak safety Stanley "The Sheriff" Richard after a stunning upset at Penn State in the season opener, Texas discovered what it was to be truly shellshocked yesterday when No. 4 Miami (10-2) manhandled the third-ranked Longhorns (10-2) with a 46-3 rout in the 55th Cotton Bowl.
How's this for shock value:
Miami quarterback Craig Erickson, the game's offensive MVP, passed for 272 yards and four touchdowns, hitting on 17 of 26 attempts and running up the biggest rout in Cotton Bowl history. Outland Trophy winner Russell Maryland, the defensive MVP, led a unit so dominant it held Texas to 205 yards total offense and recorded nine sacks, including eight against starting quarterback Peter Gardere (7-for-15, 40 yards), who threw three interceptions and fumbled twice, all of which led to Miami scores.
"We knew coming in that Texas had a great team, but we were on a mission today," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson. "We wanted to earn their respect and to regain the respect of everyone."
Texas offensive tackle Stan Thomas was responsible for eliciting some serious trash talk and taunting from the Hurricanes when he threatened to steal Maryland's Outland Trophy and defiled Miami's renegade image by calling the team "typical gangsters."
"It seems like everyone we play goes after Stan," said Texas running back Chris Samuels.
So there was little wonder so many penalties were called against the Hurricanes. Miami was hit with a record 16 infractions for 202 yards, ranging from your basic 15-yard personal foul to a 15-yarder for excessive celebration -- on a fumble recovery, no less.
It seemed the officials had become so exasperated at reaching into their pockets that they overlooked the most blatant of excesses when Randall Hill hauled in a 48-yard TD pass from Erickson on a go route -- and kept right on going, running past the end zone before disappearing into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms.
"I just ran up the tunnel, had a little fun, and came down when I was good and ready," said Hill, whose catch broke the game wide open in the third quarter, making it 33-3. "This senior class is the last renegade class and we went out the way we wanted to, dancing and having fun."
Texas gave the Hurricanes ample opportunity to gloat.
Carlos Huerta lifted Miami to an early 6-0 lead by converting field goals of 28 and 50 yards. Maryland (nine tackles and three sacks for 28 yards in losses) set up Miami's next score, a 12-yard pass from Erickson to Wesley Carroll (eight catches, 135 yards, two TDs), when he jarred Gardere loose from the ball. Maurice Crum recovered for the Hurricanes, but was slapped with a 15-yarder for celebrating.
Michael Pollak accounted for Texas' lone score when he hit a 29-yard field goal that made it 12-3. However, Miami added another touchdown when Erickson hit Carroll on a 24-yarder for a 19-3 lead.
Texas, which had come from behind in seven of its 10 victories this season, never mounted much of a threat in the second half as Miami reeled off four unanswered TDs -- Darrin Smith's 34-yard interception return, Hill's catch-and-go, Randy Bethel's 4-yard catch and Leonard Conley's 26-yard run.
As decisive as Miami's victory was, it is not likely to convince enough voters that the Hurricanes should be national champions. Especially not after losses to Brigham Young in the season opener and Notre Dame.
"By losing those two games, I think we made our bed and now we have to sleep in it," Erickson said. "I'm not going to politic for the national championship, but I will politic for a playoff."
If Erickson wasn't willing to tout Miami, Texas coach David McWilliams certainly obliged.
"If they are not the best, then I don't want to play the best," McWilliams said. "They showed today that they are one of the best in the country."
No shock there.