No. 2 Miami still at top of Penn State's hit list Last year's loss feeds Lions' fire


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Miami Hurricanes have suffered insult and injury. They have endured devastation to their city and scandal to their football program. Their running game is missing in action, and their offensive line has been revamped.

Life has dealt the Hurricanes one blow after another this season.

So why are they still unbeaten on the second Saturday in October? Are they ready to break out when they play Penn State today at noon at Beaver Stadium, or are they more likely to break down?

The nationally televised showdown between No. 2 Miami (4-0) and No. 7 Penn State (5-0) could go a long way toward deciding this year's national champion. At the least, it will give more meaning to the heretofore unblemished records of both teams.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno says he has seen enough already to make a call on Miami's season of adversity.

"Miami has had some great football teams in the past, had some great moments," Paterno said. "What they accomplished this year with all the distractions and everything else is a great tribute to the quality of their people and the great job the coaching staff has done down there."

Not everyone shares Paterno's view, apparently. After narrowly beating Arizona, 8-7, two weeks ago, the Hurricanes were dropped from No. 1 in the Associated Press' national rankings to No. 2. Add to that a season-ending knee injury to defensive end Rusty Medearis.

All that after the devastation of South Florida by Hurricane Andrew in August, a scandal over fraudulent financial-aid applications that involves former and current players, and the deaths of former Miami stars Jerome Brown and Shane Curry.

When the Hurricanes squeaked past Florida State, 19-16, at home last Saturday to run the longest winning streak in Division 1-A to 22 games, skeptics reasoned the defending champs were ripe for a fall.

How else do you explain the No. 2 team in the country being a 1 1/2 -point underdog against the No. 7 team.

"I don't think there's a vulnerability, if that's what people are saying,"said Miami quarterback Gino Torretta. "I think we've won the close games. Arizona is probably better than everybody thought. Florida State is a great team."

The Hurricanes are 4-0 thanks to their rock-ribbed defense and Torretta. The defense is giving up just 7.5 points a game and ranks fourth nationally against the rush.

Torretta, meanwhile, is rolling up some big numbers to make up for Miami's anemic rushing attack (82 yards a game, 2.6 a carry, 3 touchdowns). He is averaging 286 passing yards, and 291.3 yards in total offense to rank third in the nation.

Penn State knows how dangerous Torretta can be. The Nittany Lions learned that lesson in last year's 26-20 loss to Miami in the Orange Bowl, where Torretta threw touchdown passes of 80 and 42 yards.

Torretta has thrown a touchdown pass in 15 of his past 16 games, and completed at least one pass for 30 yards or longer in the past seven.

"He has a lot of confidence in his ability," Penn State strong safety Derek Bochna said. "It's almost guaranteed he'll get a big play every game. Someone will make a mistake and he'll exploit it."

Penn State has been feeding off the memory of last year's loss.

"I've been thinking about it for 12 months," said split end O. J. McDuffie. "It was a tough loss. We felt afterward we should have won the game. It left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths."

L Bochna said: 'Everyone's been waiting a year for this game."

Unlike the Hurricanes, the Lions haven't been threatened very often or for very long this season. Penn State's average winning margin has been by nearly 30 points (42-14). The Lions have big-play people, too, in tailback Richie Anderson and McDuffie, and they have a 14 game winning streak at home.

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