In Sports from United Press International

Jan. 4, 2002 at 12:58 AM
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Miami claims national title

PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- An overwhelming first-half passing onslaught, with Ken Dorsey doing the throwing and Andre Johnson and Jeremy Shockley doing the catching, made the Miami Hurricanes champions of college football at the Rose Bowl Thursday night in a 37-14 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

After a month-long debate over which team deserved the chance to take on the Hurricanes in the NCAA title game, the only unbeaten team in the nation demonstrated that it likely made no difference.

Miami completed its season with a 12-0 record, won its 22nd in a row and became the latest team to spare the Bowl Championship Series the embarassment of crowning a less-than-unanimous titleholder.

Dorsey threw for three touchdowns and 253 yards in the first half alone as the Hurricanes opened a 34-0 lead at the break and then, with the game all but over, turned ultra conservative in the second half.

Miami's defense contributed a smothering performance of its own while the game was in doubt and even chipped in a touchdown, that coming when James Lewis picked off a pass by Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch and returned it 46 yards for a score to make it 21-0 with barely two minutes gone in the second period.

Nebraska was given the chance to compete in the final college football game of the season when it finished second in the BCS rankings. The Cornhuskers, however, did not even win their division in the Big 12 Conference, gave up 62 points in a shocking loss to Colorado at the end of the regular season and wound up only fourth in both the media and coaches poll.

Even though the winner of Thursday night's game was certain to receive the national title as recognized by the NCAA and the American Football Coaches Association, a Nebraska victory would likely have made Oregon the winner of the media poll -- thus creating split national champions for the first time in the three-year history of the BCS.

Oregon finished second in both polls at the end of the regular season and smashed Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl New Year's Day, 38-16.

Miami ended any possibility of a dual national champion, just as Oklahoma did a year ago. Critics of the BCS contended Miami should have had a chance to play Oklahoma in the national title game last season instead of Florida State because Miami beat Florida State in the regular season. But the Sooners easily beat Florida State to avoid a split championship.

Weir opens season with 63

KAPALUA, Hawaii, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Mike Weir, who won the final PGA Tour event of 2001, opened the 2002 season by matching the course record with a 10-under 63 Thursday to take a three shot lead at the Mercedes Championship.

The season-opening tournament invites only those who won a tour event last year and Weir got in by capturing the Tour Championship.

The Canadian left hander fired a 29 on the first nine at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Bay and wound up taking the lead over Frank Lickliter, who birdied the par-5 18th to get to 7-under 66.

Those at 67 included Cameron Beckman, Chris DiMarco, Scott Verplank, defending champion Jim Furyk and 2001 British Open champion David Duval.

Tiger Woods, Player of the Year on the tour four of the last five years, began his year with a 5-under 68 that left him tied for eighth with Kenny Perry. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen shot 69 and PGA Championship winner David Toms turned in the same score.

Weir birdied eight of the first 10 holes and two of the last eight.

Knicks end Mavericks' winning streak

NEW YORK, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Latrell Sprewell made up for a scoreless fourth quarter by registering the first five points of overtime Thursday night as the New York Knicks ended the Dallas Mavericks' 10-game winning streak with a 108-101 triumph.

Neither Sprewell nor Marcus Camby scored in the fourth quarter, but New York forced overtime on two free throws by Allan Houston with 45 seconds left.

Sprewell put the Knicks ahead for good, 97-94, by hitting a three a 3-pointer from the left wing 32 seconds into the extra period. He connected again from a few inches closer and Camby scored inside with 3:05 to go, giving New York a 101-94 cushion.

Dallas got no closer than four points thereafter and Camby dunked off a feed from Mark Jackson to seal the win with 29 seconds to play.

Other NBA results: Charlotte 114, Golden State 102; Houston 99, Detroit 97.

Coyotes battle for division lead

PHOENIX, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Michal Handzus scored in the opening minute and Ladislav Nagy added an insurance goal Thursday night as the Phoenix Coyotes extended their unbeaten streak to five games with a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Handzus got his 50th career goal 38 seconds into the game and Phoenix never trailed, improving to 6-2-1 in its last nine contests and moving four games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Coyotes are two points behind first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division.

Nagy got the decisive goal with just under seven minutes to go in the second period. He skated along the goal line and around Atlanta's Tony Hrkac before wristing the puck over goaltender Damian Rhodes' left shoulder.

Sean Burke extended his shutout streak to 99 minutes, 48 seconds, but had his bid for back-to-back blankings stopped when rookie Ilya Kovalchuk scored midway through the third period.

Other NHL results: Toronto 2, Boston 1; Ottawa 4, Washington 1; Nashville 4, New Jersey 3; New York Islanders 4, Pittsburgh 2; St. Louis 4, Columbus 2; Calgary 3, Buffalo 1; Colorado 3, New York Rangers 2 in overtime; Vancouver 5, Montreal 2.

Indiana coach fined

PARK RIDGE, Ill., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Big Ten Conference Thursday fined Indiana $10,000 for coach Mike Davis' post-game comments following Saturday's 66-64 loss to Butler.

Davis complained about the officiating after the game, stating, "if I wasn't the lowest paid coach in the Big Ten, I would really tell you how I feel about this game."

Davis also said the Hoosiers had been victimized by officiating throughout the season, adding he felt referees were not held accountable for their actions.

His comments violated the Big Ten agreement on sportsmanlike conduct.

Siragusa announces retirement

BALTIMORE, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Tony Siragusa, one of the most colorful players in the NFL, said Thursday he plans to retire at the end of the current season.

Siragusa, 34, was a key component of the Ravens' defense last season, a unit that led Baltimore to the Super Bowl. Baltimore has yet to clinch a playoff spot this season and needs a win Monday or a loss by either the New York Jets or Seattle Seahawks on Sunday to get an opportunity to defend its title.

Known for his humor and size, the 6-3, 340-pound Siragusa basked in the media spotlight last season. In his 12th year out of Pittsburgh, he has had 53 tackles, including two sacks, during the current campaign.

Siragusa has recorded 766 tackles -- including 23 sacks -- in a career that included seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Zach Thomas may play with injury

MIAMI, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl middle linebacker Zach Thomas, one of the most tenacious players in the game, Thursday revealed that he is suffering from a slight tear to the rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Thomas is listed as probable for Sunday's regular-season finale with the Buffalo Bills and told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he likely will play. But the 5-11, 235-pound linebacker admitted to being hampered by the injury.

Thomas believes he suffered the tear against Atlanta last Sunday on the play in which Falcons quarterback Michael Vick scrambled around and then hit Brian Finneran on a 52-yard pass.

"I jumped at him and I hit his heels and I landed on my arm instead of landing on my body and that's when I felt it," Thomas said.

Morris signs with Cardinals

St. LOUIS, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Matt Morris, whose breakout season led to a third-place finish in the Cy Young Award voting, Thursday avoided arbitration with the St. Louis Cardinals by reportedly signing a three-year deal worth $29 million.

ESPN reported the Cardinals, one of the league's busiest teams this offseason, have locked up their 27-year-old righthander. Morris, who went 22-8 with a 3.16 ERA in 2001, earned $1.2 million last season and could have been a free agent after the 2002 season.

Morris has a record of 44-25 with a 3.09 ERA in a career that was interrupted by "Tommy John" surgery in April 1999. He recovered completely in 2001 and tied with Arizona's Curt Schilling for the major league lead in wins.

He finished behind Schilling and Arizona lefthander Randy Johnson in last year's balloting, a season in which he became the first St. Louis pitcher to win 22 games since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson won 23 in 1970.

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