7:00 PM ET, September 13, 2003
MIAMI (AP) -- Miami has played its best in big games. This wasn't one of them, and it showed.
Miami extended the nation's longest home winning streak to 24 games, but it did so with a lackluster performance that has become somewhat routine during the team's recent success.
"When you've got 80,000 people and you can't even get the bus to the stadium, you don't have to say a whole lot. You know it's a big game," coach Larry Coker said. "I called the Florida game a two-blimp game. We had the MetLife and the Goodyear blimp. We don't have those every week."
Certainly not against the Pirates (0-3).
The Hurricanes (3-0) opened the game with a touchdown on their third play, then stalled against the nation's worst rushing defense.
East Carolina gave up 361 yards on the ground in each of its first two games -- losses to Cincinnati and West Virginia -- and was outscored 88-10.
Everyone expected the Hurricanes to cruise. They were 41-point favorites and talked all week about using the game to work on minimizing penalties, reducing turnovers and giving up fewer big plays. They succeeded in doing all three but didn't manage much scoring.
Gore was one of the few bright spots until a fourth-quarter barrage fueled by turnovers.
He averaged 5.6 yards on 24 carries and became the first player in school history to run for more than 100 yards in each of the first three games.
Nonetheless, he said it was tough to get up for East Carolina.
"I could have had way more yards than I did," he said. "I just never really got into the game. I couldn't get into a groove. I made a couple of good runs, but I think some of them should have been touchdowns. I just wasn't really hyped tonight."
Gore sat out the fourth quarter, but at least he had a good seat as Miami pulled away from the Pirates.
It started with Baraka Atkins sacking Desmond Robinson in the end zone, causing a fumble that Santonio Thomas recovered for a touchdown that made it 24-3.
On the next possession, Antrel Rolle sacked Robinson and caused a fumble that Bryan Pata recovered. Two plays later, Jarrett Payton ran 48 yards almost untouched to make it 31-3.
"When we started bleeding, they smelled the blood and really came at us on both sides of the ball," said first-year East Carolina coach John Thompson, Florida's defensive coordinator last season when the Hurricanes beat the Gators 41-16 in Gainesville.
Brock Berlin, coming off an impressive game against No. 19 Florida, was 13-of-23 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Berlin completed 18 of his final 21 passes for 269 yards against the Gators last week, rallying Miami from a 23-point deficit to a 38-33 victory.
He gave the Hurricanes a 7-0 lead against East Carolina when he connected with Roscoe Parrish for a 50-yard TD pass on the third play.
After that, there was little excitement at the Orange Bowl. Miami went flat, much as it did after beating Florida and Florida State last season.
The Hurricanes thumped the Gators in Gainesville but showed little motivation the next week in beating Temple 44-21. And coming off a dramatic 28-27 win over the Seminoles, they struggled at West Virginia.
"The last thing I said to them in the dressing room was it's not about East Carolina or anybody else," Coker said. "It's about how we perform."
The Hurricanes had 449 total yards of offense, but they scored only 17 points in the first half and led by just two touchdowns when the fourth quarter began.
"We're a work in progress," Coker said. "This wasn't our best game. We haven't played that yet. We want our best game to be the last one of the season."