With a glimpse inside coach Larry Coker's office, the expectations for Miami's team become instantly clear. Plaques and trophies from championship seasons adorn the walls. Directly behind Coker's desk...

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — With a glimpse inside coach Larry Coker’s office, the expectations for Miami’s team become instantly clear.


Plaques and trophies from championship seasons adorn the walls. Directly behind Coker’s desk is the pedestal holding a crystal football, one the Hurricanes were awarded for winning the 2001 national title.


The collection will not grow this year. For the first time in Coker’s four seasons at the school, Miami is in a slump.


The Hurricanes lost three of their final five games to finish 8-3, a tumble that kept them from winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title and snapped a four-year run of reaching a Bowl Championship Series game.


Today, Coker and the Hurricanes travel to Atlanta for Friday’s Peach Bowl matchup with Florida. Coker is saying all the right things, such as how Miami can sweep its state rivals with a win — having beaten Florida State 16-10 in overtime in the opener — and how he expects the matchup to be another classic between the Hurricanes and Gators. Deep down, though, he is pained by the passing of another year in which the ultimate goal wasn’t realized.


“We’ve set the bar pretty high here, not just me, but a lot of coaches before me,” Coker said. “It doesn’t take long for that to happen. And we want to keep it high. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m not happy with 8-3. I don’t think our staff is and I don’t think our players are.”


Miami clearly isn’t where it was a few seasons ago. Yet when a coach starts 12-0 and becomes the first sideline rookie in 53 years to win a national title, how do the numbers not eventually go down?


“There’s no doubt in my mind that coach Coker is going to be here for a long time,” senior offensive lineman Chris Myers said. “For him to have the success that he does, for our down season to be 8-3, for us to be going to a bowl game that a lot of teams would die to go to, it’s pretty ridiculous.”


Miami lost one game in Coker’s second season, a 31-24 double-overtime setback against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl — the 2002 season’s national-title game. The Hurricanes lost twice last season, yet managed to win the Big East and then knock off Florida State in the Orange Bowl. This season, the loss total climbed by one again.


“To say it doesn’t bother you is a big understatement,” said Coker, who has a 43-6 career record. “Sure, it bothers you. All coaches will tell you that the losses stand out more than the wins. That part of it takes a toll, but as far as emotionally and physically, I don’t think it takes a toll.”


Perhaps past Miami success doomed this season’s team.


Buffalo running back Willis McGahee, Washington safety Sean Taylor, New England lineman Vince Wilfork and Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow all would have been seniors on this year’s Miami squad, had the lure of NFL millions not brought them into the 2004 draft.


Miami had six players taken in the first round of that draft. This year, only cornerback Antrel Rolle seems a sure first-round pick. The lone player who might leave early is running back Frank Gore, who hasn’t announced his decision.


“It will be a little more pleasurable not losing so many players, let’s put it that way,” Coker said.




















































































































































































Bowl lineup
Date Bowl Site Matchup, score Time (TV)
Dec. 14 New Orleans Bowl New Orleans Southern Mississippi 31, North Texas 10
Dec. 21 Champs Sports Bowl Orlando, Fla. Georgia Tech 51, Syracuse 14
Dec. 22 GMAC Bowl Mobile, Ala. Bowling Green 52, Memphis 35
Dec. 23 Fort Worth Bowl Fort Worth, Texas Cincinnati 32, Marshall 14
Dec. 23 Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas Wyoming 24, UCLA 21
Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl Honolulu Hawaii 59, Alabama-Birmingham 40
Dec. 27 MPC Computers Bowl Boise, Idaho Fresno State (8-3) vs. Virginia (8-3) 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 27 Motor City Bowl Detroit Toledo (9-3) vs. Connecticut (7-4) 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 28 Independence Bowl Shreveport, La. Iowa State (6-5) vs. Miami (Ohio) (8-4) 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 28 Insight Bowl Phoenix Oregon State (6-5) vs. Notre Dame (6-5) 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 29 Houston Bowl Houston Texas-El Paso (8-3) vs. Colorado (7-5) 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl San Antonio Ohio State (7-4) vs. Oklahoma State (7-4) 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 30 Continental Tire Bowl Charlotte, N.C. Boston College (8-3) vs. North Carolina (6-5) 10 a.m. (ESPN2)
Dec. 30 Emerald Bowl San Francisco New Mexico (7-4) vs. Navy (9-2) 1:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl San Diego California (10-1) vs. Texas Tech (7-4) 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 30 Silicon Valley Classic San Jose, Calif. Troy (7-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-3) 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Dec. 31 Music City Bowl Nashville, Tenn. Alabama (6-5) vs. Minnesota (6-5) 9 a.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 31 Sun Bowl El Paso, Texas Purdue (7-4) vs. Arizona State (8-3) 11 a.m. (CBS)
Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl Memphis, Tenn. Boise State (11-0) vs. Louisville (10-1) 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 31 Peach Bowl Atlanta Miami (8-3) vs. Florida (7-4) 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl Dallas Tennessee (9-3) vs. Texas A&M (7-4) 8 a.m. (FOX)
Jan. 1 Outback Bowl Tampa, Fla. Wisconsin (9-2) vs. Georgia (9-2) 8 a.m. (ESPN)
Jan. 1 Gator Bowl Jacksonville, Fla. Florida State (8-3) vs. West Virginia (8-3) 9:30 a.m. (NBC)
Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl Orlando, Fla. Iowa (9-2) vs. Louisiana State (9-2) 10 a.m. (ABC)
Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Pasadena, Calif. Michigan (9-2) vs. Texas (10-1) 2 p.m. (ABC)
Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl Tempe, Ariz. Utah (11-0) vs. Pittsburgh (8-3) 5:30 p.m. (ABC)
Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl New Orleans Auburn (12-0) vs. Virginia Tech (10-2) 5 p.m. (ABC)
Jan. 4 Orange Bowl Miami USC (12-0) vs. Oklahoma (12-0) 5 p.m. (ABC)