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 CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy went back to the scene, desperate to learn what happened that night.
He saw the tire marks on Interstate 75, the tree that the flipping car struck, the spot where the vehicle rested on what remained of its roof. And then he saw the car, so damaged he couldn't reach in - making him wonder how he and Miami teammates Jermaine McKenzie and Robert Marve wriggled their way out.
McCarthy was the lucky one that July night, when he and his teammates were traveling around midnight from their home area, southwest Florida, back to Miami's campus some 110 miles away.
McKenzie fell asleep at the wheel; the promising wide receiver broke neck vertebrae and saw his freshman season end. Marve, the highly touted quarterback, broke his left wrist and had a deep cut on his hand, ruining his plans for 2007.
McCarthy? Scraped his right knee.
Somehow, although the car flipped six times, he had no other problems.
``I'm just fortunate, to be honest with you,'' said McCarthy, whose knee remains scarred from the crash. ``An accident like that, you don't see too many people survive, let alone walk out with nothing. ... There's a reason for it, for God to keep me safe and keep me playing this season.''
He considers it a second chance, and he's taking full advantage.
It's been a breakthrough season for the sophomore. McCarthy ranks fourth on the Hurricanes with 51 tackles, and his 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown last weekend sealed Miami's 37-29 win over Florida State - helping him earn an Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week honor.
``He was a lot fresher, his mind was a lot better and he was kind of enthused and energetic about the things he needed to get done,'' Miami coach Randy Shannon said.
Especially when it came to the last thing McCarthy needed to get done against the Seminoles.
Teraz McCray knocked the ball out of Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee's hand, a few seconds after Miami took a 30-29 lead, setting up the biggest highlight of McCarthy's Miami career so far.
McCarthy - who was keeping his eye on the backfield and in perfect position - picked up the loose ball, made a nifty move to freeze a pursuing would-be tackler and darted into the end zone. He raised a finger to his face mask in the ``Shhh'' signal, as if the fans at Doak Campbell needed another reason to be quiet.
``It was a great feeling,'' McCarthy said. ``The atmosphere of the game, the tradition behind it. ... That game will be one of the classic college football games for years to come.''
McCarthy talks of tradition often, with good reason.
Miami is known throughout college football as ``Quarterback U,'' a nod to the way the school produced stars like Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar, Steve Walsh and Ken Dorsey.
But McCarthy contends that Miami would be better known as ``Linebacker U,'' and he's got a strong argument citing the past work of Micheal Barrow, Ray Lewis, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Jessie Armstead and Dan Morgan, among others.
He'd like to join that fraternity.
``The tradition here with the NFL, that's everybody's goal, to one day play in the NFL,'' said McCarthy, who was also high on Ohio State and Penn State before signing with Miami. ``No one's afraid of competition down here. Everybody's trying to help each other get better. That's the main thing. ... I think that's why we have so much success. Everybody's focused on winning and helping each other get there.''
Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC) is off this weekend, a break that comes in time to help some key players - including quarterbacks Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman - heal some nagging injuries.
They're out of the national-title picture, but McCarthy believes the Hurricanes will head into November with plenty of hope for the remainder of their season. A conference title shot may be there, providing Miami wins out against a tough schedule that still includes Virginia, Boston College and Virginia Tech, and gets some help from other teams along the way.
And if that title opportunity comes, chances are McCarthy - who thinks about that crash and how fortunate he is every day - will play a big role.
``If we win out,'' he said, ``that'd be huge.''

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