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Hurricane Rewind: Revisiting 2005 vs. Clemson

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Safety Kenny Phillips finished off a classic Miami win against Clemson in 2005 by intercepting future Chargers and Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst in triple overtime. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images.
Safety Kenny Phillips finished off a classic Miami win against Clemson in 2005 by intercepting future Chargers and Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst in triple overtime. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images.

The Season

The Hurricanes’ slide down the NCAA ladder was well underway at this point, but they were still a dangerous team capable of defeating anyone. Miami went 9-3 for the second straight year in 2005 and got smoked by LSU, 40-3, in the Peach Bowl.

Miami’s defense was as strong as ever, yielding 12 points per game during the regular season despite playing with a completely inept offense. Five-star quarterback Kyle Wright was thrust into the starting lineup as a sophomore and put up average numbers (2,403 yards, 18 TDs, 10 INTs) in his first season as starter. That's as good as it got for Wright, who struggled during the following two seasons as Miami faded into obscurity.

The secondary, led by All-Americans Kelly Jennings and Brandon Meriweather, along with Kenny Phillips, was the strength of the 2005 squad. Devin Hester, who saw time at cornerback, burst onto the scene in 2004 and was one of the few reasons it was worth coming to the games. Hester scored touchdowns rushing, receiving, punt returning, kick returning and added a blocked field goal return.

The Background

This was an early-season tilt, and neither team was quite sure what they had as of yet. The Hurricanes were coming off a 9-3 2004 campaign with all three losses coming by one score, and hopes were high that Miami would return to the elite in 2005.

Those hopes took a major blow in the opener. Florida State edged the Hurricanes, 10-7, in Tallahassee. Wright looked lost and fans were justifiably concerned that Miami would struggle to move the ball entire season. The group was devoid of playmakers — aside from running back Tyrone Moss. Moss ran for 12 touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry in 2005.

The Tigers came into the game having won 12 of their last 13 games at home. Clemson had alternated good and bad seasons under Tommy Bowden but had won two straight very close games against quality teams (Texas A&M and Maryland) to begin 2005. Charlie Whitehurst was coming off a disastrous 2004 season that saw him throw 17 picks in 349 pass attempts, but was a returning senior that showed improvements early in 2005.

The Hurricanes were seeking revenge for a home loss to Clemson (in overtime) the year before that ultimately derailed Miami’s hopes at an ACC title.

The Game

Both teams started slowly, trading punts before Miami’s Jon Peattie kicked a short field goal to make the score 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers immediately responded, as Whitehurst (still slow at this point) took a broken play early in the second for a 65-yard scramble. Whitehurst found Cole Downer, who suffered a serious spleen injury later in the game, for an 8-yard score on an awkward flip by the quarterback. The teams traded field goals from there and the teams entered the halftime tunnel with Clemson leading 10-6.

Miami took its second possession of the third quarter — after its defense gave it great field position at midfield — and Wright found Quadtrine Hill on a rollout for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Hurricanes a 13-10 advantage early in the third quarter. Miami forced a stop and Tyrone Moss scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 20-10 heading into the fourth quarter. A routine win would follow, right? Not exactly.

Things got really interesting from here. With 7:01 left and time running out, the Tigers embarked on a nine-play, 81-yard drive capped by Whitehurst’s sneak to cut the lead to 20-17 with 2:58 to play.

Instead of opting to onside kick, Clemson relied on its defense to force a quick stop and get the ball back to Whitehurst. The gamble worked, as the Tigers forced a three-and-out highlighted by a sack on third down by Charles Bennett.  

Clemson got the ball back with 1:20 left at midfield down a field goal. Whitehurst completed three of four passes to get the Tigers to the 10 and first and goal. Unfortunately for the visitors, Whitehurst fired three incomplete passes and Clemson settled for a field goal to force overtime.

At this point of the game, Wright was 13-for-23 with 109 yards passing and five sacks. Whitehurst was 27-of-46 for 266 yards.

Miami got the ball first to start the first overtime period and executed to perfection. Wright hit Greg Olsen and Ryan Moore for receptions and Moss found the end zone from one yard out to give Miami a 27-20 lead.

Clemson responded with a touchdown march of  its own, although it needed a fourth-down conversion to extend the game. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the 5-yard line, Whitehurst stayed composed and found Curtis Baham for the touchdown.

The teams traded field goals in the second overtime. Miami began its possession in triple overtime with an incomplete pass by Wright. The next play, a 25-yard scamper up the right side by Moss, reclaimed the lead for the Hurricanes. Miami entered Clemson’s possession up 36-30 because its two-point conversion failed. The second play of Clemson’s drive finished off the game for Miami. Whitehurst rolled out under pressure, and threw the football right into the arms of Kenny Phillips. That’s your ballgame.

Clemson would finish the season at 8-4, with all four losses coming by six points or less. Following Miami’s beatdown by LSU, Coker decided to replace most of his coaching staff in an attempt to revitalize the program.

If only he fired himself.