MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (Aug. 26, 2005) -- While two rookie running backs from Auburn showed promise, Ricky Williams showed his old form.
Williams rushed for 59 yards, all in the opening half, and scored the first touchdown of the preseason for Miami's first-team offense, helping the Dolphins beat Tampa Bay 17-14.
Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, first-round picks who shared time in the backfield last season for unbeaten Auburn, each found room to run in limited duty. Williams gained 28 yards in five carries for Tampa Bay, while Brown rushed for 20 yards in six attempts, but lost a fumble in his first preseason game with Miami.
The Dolphins (1-3) won for the first time under new coach Nick Saban. They and Tampa Bay (1-2) each have one preseason game remaining, and the intrastate rivals will meet in the regular season Oct. 16 at Tampa.
Ricky Williams was greeted with a mix of cheers and boos when introduced before the game -- his first in Miami since his abrupt retirement a year ago started the franchise toward its worst season since the 1960s.
"I was surprised," Williams said. "I thought there would be more boos."
But it was all applause from the small crowd when he scored on a 4-yard run to cap the opening series, an eight-play, 77-yard drive. Although the game was a sellout, the stands were less than half full two nights after Hurricane Katrina hit South Florida.
The Dolphins' first-team offense did little after the first drive. One possession ended when Jermaine Phillips forced Brown's fumble, and another ended when Gus Frerotte was intercepted by Ronde Barber.
Miami's quarterback job remained unclaimed. Frerotte played the first 2½ quarters and completed only nine of 25 attempts for 103 yards, while A.J. Feeley came off the bench to lead the Dolphins to 10 points.
"It's something that we need to continue to evaluate," Saban said. "It has seemed the entire preseason, whichever quarterback played second has played best."
Feeley went 8-for-14 for 90 yards. After rookie end Matt Roth intercepted a deflected pass from Luke McCown, Feeley hit Danny Farmer for the go-ahead touchdown, a 36-yard score with 10 minutes left.
Brown, playing in his first game following a three-week holdout, was in the lineup with Ricky Williams for one play in the first quarter and again briefly in the second quarter. The first time, Brown lined up in the slot, and Williams caught a pass from Frerotte for 7 yards.
"It gives the defense a problem covering both of us," Williams said. "I like it."
Williams carried 10 times and had two receptions for 11 yards.
Like Miami, Tampa Bay got little production from its first-team offense. The only score came on a 47-yard drive capped by Todd France's 46-yard field goal.
"You can't start games like that," coach Jon Gruden said. "It has been a real problem."
Brian Griese finished 7-for-11 for 48 yards and lost a fumble when sacked by Jason Taylor. A 47-yard touchdown pass from Griese to Joey Galloway was negated by a holding penalty on Sean Mahan.
"We know we need to correct some mistakes and get better than we were tonight," Galloway said.
Tampa Bay finished with 10 penalties for 93 yards, Miami 11 for 85.
One first-half highlight for the Bucs: Josh Bidwell had a 73-yard punt to the 3. Another was a 12-yard run by Cadillac Williams.
"I am definitely comfortable with the offense," the rookie said. "I feel like I'm coming along well."
Tampa Bay finally reached the end zone against Miami's second-team defense. Chris Simms hit J.R. Russell for a 38-yard gain, and on the next play Earnest Graham scored on a 19-yard run.
The Miami offense started well. Williams ran for 13 yards on the first play, Frerotte hit Randy McMichael for a 31-yard gain, and Williams scored on a 4-yard run -- his first touchdown since the final game of 2003.
- Bucs LB Jeff Gooch strained his calf in the first half.
- Dolphins P Matt Turk suffered a groin injury in the first quarter.
- Graham carried 14 times for 60 yards.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved