Miami Suffers Embarrassing Victory : Nonconference: Hurricanes, held to two yards rushing, survive against Arizona, 8-7.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

For the second consecutive year, a missed last-minute field-goal attempt has kept Miami in contention for the national championship.

The Hurricanes’ shocking 8-7 victory over unranked Arizona raised questions about whether the top-ranked Hurricanes are good enough to repeat.

“They think they put on their clothes a little differently and that they have an ‘S’ on their chest. Sorry, pal,” Wildcat quarterback George Malauulu said. “They’re not the No. 1 team. If they were, they’d have blown us out.”


When Steve McLaughlin’s 51-yard field-goal attempt was wide right by about two feet on the final play, Miami survived its closest call at the Orange Bowl since 1985.

A year ago, Miami edged Florida State, 17-16, when the Seminoles’ Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard kick to the right in the closing moments.

Struggling against Arizona (1-2-1) could endanger the Hurricanes’ lead in the rankings over No. 2 Washington, which was idle.

“I wouldn’t be real impressed if I was a pollster,” Coach Dennis Erickson said.

There are other threats to the Miami reign: next Saturday’s showdown at home against No. 3 Florida State, followed by a game at No. 9 Penn State on Oct. 10.

The Hurricanes (3-0) nearly succumbed to missed tackles, missed field-goal attempts and a running game that was also missing. They gained only two yards in 22 carries.

“I haven’t been around a team in eight or 10 years that scored just eight points,” Erickson said. “If we play like that against Florida State, we’re not going to get a first down.”

Miami’s only touchdown--and the game’s final points--came on Gino Torretta’s two-yard pass to Dietrich Clausell with 3:50 to play in the third quarter.

Arizona forced a punt and took over at its 35 with 3:38 to play in the game. The Wildcats moved to the Miami 35 but chose to run only one play--a quarterback sneak--in the final minute before lining up for McLaughlin’s kick.

The sophomore’s attempt had plenty of distance but was just wide. He missed a 44-yarder with 21 seconds to play in Arizona’s 14-14 tie a week earlier against Oregon State.

“If you take too much consolation in coming close, you just come close,” Wildcat Coach Dick Tomey said. “Right now none of us feels very good.”

Neither did the Hurricanes, partly because they lost standout defensive end Rusty Medearis in the third quarter because of a knee injury. He is expected to undergo surgery today and probably will miss the rest of the season.

Miami narrowly extended winning streaks of 21 consecutive games (longest in the nation), 47 in a row at the Orange Bowl and 53 over unranked teams.

“I don’t know whether to be happy or sad--happy that we won the game or sad about the way we played,” cornerback Ryan McNeil said. “It’s somewhat embarrassing, because we know we can play a whole lot better than this.”

Arizona repeatedly threw off the timing between Torretta and his receivers. He still passed for 289 yards, but the ground game produced Miami’s lowest net rushing total in seven seasons.

Clausell, a sophomore, saved the Hurricanes with his first reception in the back of the end zone on second and goal.

Miami, which had a safety in the first half, tried for a two-point conversion, but a Torretta pass failed.