Yesterday we ran the first part of a three-part series; Top 15 Miami Hurricanes Games To Revisit While Quarantined.
Short version regarding the blah-blah-blah that preceded the actual list. We should be knee-deep in NCAA Tournament action high while Hurricanes baseball preps for a weekend series at Duke. Instead, we’re self-quarantining shut-ins, without live sports—understandably—to distract us during the town time.
All that to say, this current bizarro world gives us more free time than most know what to do with—so instead of binge-watching The Office or Breaking Bad series for a tenth time, why not take some three-hour deep dives into some old Miami Hurricanes football classics?
Once live sports returns and we are able to leave our homes again, we’ll be back to an existence where four-minute highlight packages from classic games is all we have time for. Until then, appreciate the experience of reliving yesteryear and some iconic moments all about “The U”.
Disclaimer; we stuck to past history under the assumption that the newer stuff is still too fresh in the brain.
Yes, watching Miami kick the ass off of Notre Dame back in 2017 was a epic night at Hard Rock—but less than three years old. Same to be said for three wins in a row against Florida State—2017, 2018 and 2019—after a seven-game losing streak to those pukes.
For this exercise, we wanted to delve back into games that most haven’t watched in their entirety in almost two decades—so on that note, let’s dive into some vintage Canes.
(Click on the date in each entry to be taken to YouTube for the full version of each Canes’ game.)
#10 — Miami versus Florida State — (10/8/94) — For those at the Orange Bowl in early October of 1994, you recall the chatter surrounding Hurricanes football being dead in the water—with the Seminoles the new in-state power. Not only did Florida State win the 1993 national championship and smoke the Canes in Tallahassee, 28-10—Miami went on to also lost three of its previous six games (dating back to the previous November) entering the annual showdown against FSU.
A 58-home game win-streak ended against Washington to weeks prior, while the Canes were skunked 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and dropped a late season road game at West Virginia, costing then 9-2 UM the Big East title—the Mountaineers heading to the Sugar Bowl for a crack at Florida.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward was gone, but Danny Kanell was the heir apparent, Warrick Dunn was running the ball and No. 3 Florida State was expected to beat No. 3 Miami at home for the first time since 1982. Instead, the Orange Bowl had some of that vintage night game magic—where you could feel that some shit was about to go down.
This was a different era where players had some next-level pride when counted out (while also mailing it in when a title was no longer on the line; like the aforementioned bowl game shutout against Arizona).
Defense was the name of the game for the Hurricanes, behind the likes of Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis, Patrick Riley, Kenard Lang, CJ Richardson and Rohan Marley—who set the tone early. Malcolm X. Pearson picked off Kanell in the end zone on the opening drive, while Frank Costa marched the Canes down the field for a score; a pitch to James Stewart, who scampered in untouched.
Richardson jumped a route a few possessions later, snuffing out Kanell again— Costa to A.C. Tellison setting up ai first down before Stewart pounded in another one on the ground, tying things back up, 14-14.
From there, an 89-yard drive gave the Canes a lead they’d never relinquish—Ryan Collins in for some trickery, dumping it off to Dexter Harris for the score.
Miami’s offense didn’t do much in the second half, settling for two field goals—but Carlos Jones came up with the game’s most-iconic moment in a 24-17 ball game, late in the third quarter—picking off Kanell and returning it 16 yards for a score that had the Orange Bowl rattling like the glorious bucket of bolts it was, breaking Florida State’s spirit. (This game is also the reason Kanell showed such vitriol towards the Hurricanes during his short stint with ESPN; taking pot-shots at Miami any chance he got.)
31-14, the Canes would tack on another field goal, while the Noles never got closer than 14—falling 34-20.
Both teams turned it over five times apiece, but the Canes made the Noles pay in a must-win game that restored order—for a year, at least. No. 3 Miami went on to fall to No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, Dennis Erickson bailed for Seattle, third-choice Butch Davis took over and within nine months of this epic win, the NCAA hammered UM with sanctions and Sports Illustrated called for Miami to shut down the football program.
#9 — Miami versus Oklahoma — (1/1/88 — Orange Bowl) — The third and final meeting between these two powerhouse programs in the 1980’s—each meeting always billed as Game of the Year. Unranked Miami went to Norman in 1985 and toppled No. 1 Oklahoma, 27-14—but lost a crack at a national championship falling to No. 8 Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl, 35-7 as the No. 2 team in the land—while the third-ranked Sooners won it all, taking out No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl, 25-10.
The 1986 showdown took place in South Florida; OU the defending champs—undefeated and ranked No. 1—though No. 2 Miami was ready to roll.
Billy Corben and the Rakontur crew did a great job in their 30-For-3o on “The U”, highlighting pre-game antics for this epic showdown; Melvin Bratton prank-calling Sooners’ linebacker Brian Bosworth, while Jerome Brown, Winston Moss and Alonzo Highsmith refused to shake hands at the coin toss—dropping an audible, “I ain’t scared of you, bitch” on national television.
The Canes took care of business, 28-16—handing the Sooners a loss for the second straight year.
Epic as the first two showdowns of the eighties were—nothing could top these two going head-to-head on New Year’s Day 1988 with a national title on the line. Especially for a Miami team that pissed away a shot at the program’s second-ever championship the previous year with a disastrous Fiesta Bowl loss to Penn State—taking the luster off a stellar regular season.
This one was billed as the Game of the Century—and lived up to the hype.
Miami’s defense set the tone, forcing Oklahoma to punt on their first five possessions—while the Hurricanes got on the board first; Walsh finding Bratton on a 30-yard hook-up.
The Sooners got on the board in the second quarter, tying things up—but the Canes responded with 10 unanswered, pushing the lead to 17-7 in the third quarter—a 48-yard field goal by Greg Cox and a Walsh to Michael Irvin connection for a 23-yard score. Cox tacked on a 56-yarder in the fourth quarter, pushing the Canes’ lead to 20-7.
Oklahoma pulled a Nebraska with a fumblerooski for a fourth quarter touchdown, pulling to within six with 2:05 remaining—the onside kick recovered by Leonard Conley, but a three-and-out by the Canes gave the Sooners one last shot.
With :56 remaining, starting from their own 23-yard line—back-to-back penalties on Oklahoma pinned them back, before quarterback Charles Thompson was harassed and fumbled away their final shot at a comeback; Miami recovering with :33 remaining—kneeling out the clock en route to a second national title in five years.
Bernard “Tiger” Clark earned MVP honors; the back-up linebacker registering 14 tackles while calling all the defensive plays and setting the tone for the suspended George Mira Jr..
Oklahoma went an impressive 33-3 between 1985 and 1987. Even more impressive, the fact Miami responsible for all three losses.
#8 — Miami at Michigan — (9/17/88) — The only downfall here is that all versions of this game in existence look like they are underwater. I think I have a better VHS copy that I will attempt to upload to YouTube just so this incredible comeback gets its due.
Miami was the defending national champion going into the 1988 season—this epic road game the Canes’ second showdown of the season, after a bye week and season-opening ass-whipping of “No. 1” Florida State at the Orange Bowl—31-0.
The Noles made their embarrassing rap video, while Miami somehow started the season ranked No. 6—despite a dominant 1987 campaign where it knocked off top-ranked Oklahoma for a title, as well as No. 20 Florida, No. 10 Arkansas (51-7!), No. 4 Florida State, No. 10 Notre Dame (24-0!) and No. 8 South Carolina.
Michigan opened the season with a 19-17 loss to Notre Dame and had top-ranked Miami on the ropes—the Canes a consensus No. 1 after the Florida State pasting—down 30-14 after Michigan went on a 24-0 run from the middle of the second quarter, into the fourth.
The Hurricanes went on to rattle off 17 points in the game’s final 5:23—starting with a seven-yard hook-up between Walsh and Rob Chudzinski. The r-junior quarterback then hit Dale Dawkins for the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 30-22.
Miami’s defense shut down Michigan on the ensuing possession, with Walsh coming alive and finding Cleveland Gary for a 48-yard rumble towards pay dirt. Johnson went for two, but the Canes came up short and trailed, 30-28 with 2:58 left on the clock.
In classic Hurricanes’ folklore, freshman walk-on kicker Carlos Huerta perfect executed an onside kick—the Wolverines not attacking a ball that was ultimately batted into the hands of safety Bobby Harden.
Gary’s legs got the Canes to the 17-yard line—Johnson electing to play it safe, taking time off the clock and forcing Michigan to burn timeouts—Huerta trotting on to drill a 29 yarder that put Miami up, 31-30 with :43 remaining.
#7 — Miami versus UCLA — (12/5/98) — Timing is everything and so much came together for the Hurricanes in this program-changing showdown that official announced to the world that Miami was back; rising from the ashes of mid-nineties probation.
Originally slated to played September 26th, UCLA found out the game would be cancelled when en-route to LAX to travel to Miami; a precaution as Hurricane Georges took aim at South Florida. Within days, it was determined both teams could play on December 5th; a shared open date after the Canes and Bruins both wrapped their regular seasons (wrapping up a home-and-home from 1995, where Davis lost his first game as UM’s head coach—a 31-8 beatdown by UCLA at the Rose Bowl.)
Miami lost to a home, overtime showdown against Virginia Tech the week prior, fell to Florida State at home in early October and in the regular season finale—with a Big East title on the line—got shellacked by Donovan McNabb and Syracuse, 66-13 in the Carrier Dome.
Meanwhile, UCLA quietly put together an undefeated season up to that point—beating No. 23 Texas, No. 10 Arizona, No. 11 Oregon and taking care of rival Southern California two weeks prior, going into a bye before making the long trek to South Florida.
Sitting at 10-0, UCLA would’ve been title game-bound had they not taken on a 7-3 Miami squad—especially considering how the rest of that fateful December weekend played out; undefeated Kansas State falling to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship—which would’ve set up a UCLA versus Tennessee national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.
Instead, Florida State backdoor their way in with the once-undefeated Bruins and Wildcats out of the mix—the Volunteers going on to win it all.
Miami was as low as low got after that Syracuse loss; but the setback was so one-sided and not heartbreaking—to the point where Davis and his Hurricanes were able to hit reset and start fresh with nothing to lose in this rescheduled showdown.
Knowing Miami wasn’t going to outscore a UCLA team that was averaging 40 points-per-game on offense, Davis just wanted his Hurricanes to hang in there and fight—especially knowing their defense was giving up an average of 407 yards and 25 points-per-game.
“We’re not going to shut down UCLA, they’re too good for that. But we can limit them by staying on the field and wearing them down. You don’t have to get beat just because of their big stats.”
And hang in there Miami did; the Canes unexpectedly leading 21-17 at the intermission—two scores coming behind a huge afternoon by Edgerrin James; tearing off first half touchdown runs of 45 and 10 yards.
UCLA came alive with 21 points unanswered, up 38-21 in the waning moments of the third quarter—before Miami went next-level; Najeh Davenport scampering for a 23-yard score with :10 remaining in the third.
Down 38-28, the “four fingers” tradition went up—in a barely packed Orange Bowl, as few expected a upset on the heels of getting pounded at Syracuse—and the comeback was on.
Early in the fourth, a 71-yard hook-up between Scott Covington and Santana Moss pulled the Canes to within three—but Cade McNown punched it in from a yard out, pushing UCLA’s lead back to 10 with 6:54 remaining.
Covington hit Mondriel Fulcher on a 29-yard touchdown strike in under a minute, narrowing the gap again—while Delvin Brown recovered a questionable fumble by Brad Melsby after a 30-yard gain (hey, what do you know—a bullshit call actually went Miami’s way)—the cough-up the Bruins’ second of the quarter after an earlier punch-out by the late, great Al Blades, that he also recovered.
Convington immediately got back to work—a 14-yard shot to Andre King, followed by a 14-yard dump-off to fullback Nick Williams, ending at the UCLA 1-yard line—setting James up to punch in the eventual game-winner, the Canes taking a 49-45 lead.
McNown and the Bruins got as close as mid-field, before launching a Flutie-esque “Hail Mary” towards the open end zone; the ball tipped and hitting the ground as time expired.
The un-tackleable James finished with 299 yards and three touchdowns on the day, while the Miami offense put up a program-best 689 yards—while surrounding 670; McNown throwing for 513 yards in the loss.
UCLA’s guts ripped out, the Bruins wound up “settling” for the Rose Bowl as Pac-1o Champs—denying the Arizona their first trip to Pasadena; ESPN cameras cutting to some Wildcats players all game, expecting the Bruins to roll and earn a Fiesta berth.
Where this game broke UCLA’s collective back, it put Miami back on the map—the Hurricanes going 9-4 the following season, taking down No. 12 Ohio State in the Kickoff Classic, but losing close ones to No. 2 Penn State and No. 1 Florida State, before a late season wheels-off outing at No. 2 Virginia Tech (the Noles ultimately beating the Hokies for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.)
By 2000, the Canes went 11-1, topping Florida in the Sugar Bowl and in 2001, went undefeated, won the Rose Bowl and claimed the program’s fifth national title—the comeback starting that fateful make-up Saturday in December, three years prior.
#6 — Miami versus Nebraska — (1/2/84 — Orange Bowl) — The Miracle In Miami and the night a dynasty was born.
Based on that alone, this game could’ve ranked #1—but knowing how many times its aired over the years on Classic Sports Network, as well as most Hurricanes’ fans having a copy of this one on VHS, dating back to 1984—it gets knocked down a few rungs, due to over saturation.
The 50th edition of this classic bowl game—and No. 4 Miami brought everything it had at No. 1 Nebraska—at the time, said to be the best team in college football history.
As most remember, the Hurricanes started the 1983 season with a 28-3 loss in Gainesville—and prior to that, lost three of its past six games in 1982, en route to a setback 7-4 season. Somehow Miami shook all that off and Howard Schnellenberger delivered an unthinkable national championship his fifth season at UM, as promised.
Miami shutout No. 13 Notre Dame late-September—that 20-0 win enough to push the unranked Canes to No. 15 in the polls—UM continuing their climb by winning as other contenders fell. By a late-October showdown against No. 12 West Virginia, Miami was No. 7 and after the 20-3 victory, up to No. 5.
The Canes eked out a 17-16 win in Tallahassee to end the regular season and six weeks later was pitted against the Cornhuskers—a David versus Goliath-type match-up feeling even more lopsided as Miami trotted out true freshman Bernie Kosar at quarterback.
Meanwhile Nebraska had been a power for years; falling to Clemson in the 1982 Orange Bowl with a national championship on the line and following up with an 11-1 campaign in the 1982 season, taking down No 13 LSU in the 1983 Orange Bowl—making the legendary South Florida stadium a home away from home for Lincoln-based fans.
Between October 1981 and December 1983, Nebraska went 32-2—opening the 1983 season with a 44-6 pounding of No. 4 Penn State in the Kickoff Classic—while averaging 52 points-per-game going into the showdown with the Hurricanes.
The football gods also played their part in this showdown, upsets paving the way for Miami to make history if it could take down a giant. No. 2 Texas fell to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl, 10-9—while No. 4 Illinois got whipped 45-9 by unranked UCLA.
No. 3 Auburn looked unimpressive in a 9-7 win over Michigan in the Sugar Bowl—the final announced just as Miami took a 24-17 lead over Nebraska in the third quarter.
The Huskers moved the ball early against the Canes, but Miami snatched back momentum by blocking a field goal attempts. Kosar found Glenn Dennison for two scores and coupled with a 45-yard Jeff Davis field goal, had an unexpected 17-0 lead.
The Canes looked to push that lead to 24-0 after linebacker Jack Fernandez intercepted Turner Gill at the UM 35-yard line; Kosar hooking up with Eddie Brown for would-be score—but Stanley Shakespeare was hit with an illegal block, taking points off the board.
In vintage fashion, Tom Osborne had two defensive backs switch jerseys to confuse Kosar—Mike McCashland picking the freshman off at the NU 26-yard line. From there, a 12-play, 74-yard drive—capped with some trickery in the form of the fumblerooski on 3rd-and-5—the 19-yard touchdown getting the Huskers on the board. Gill tacked on a 64-yard touchdown run late in the second, cutting Miami’s lead to 17-14.
An early third-quarter Hurricanes’ fumble turned into a Huskers’ field goal, tying the game—but Miami didn’t flinch, putting together touchdown drives of 75 and 73 yards, pushing the lead to 31-17.
Nebraska attempted to cut the lead late in the third quarter, but but Jeff Smith—in for the injured Mike Rozier—fumbled at the 1-yard line after a 40-yard gain and the Hurricanes recovered. Fate stayed on Miami’s side early in the fourth, as well—Rodney Bellinger breaking up a would-be touchdown, followed by Kevin Fagan sacking Gill at the UM 31-yard line. Nebraska settled for a field goal attempt, and missed,
Smith atoned for his earlier mistake, punching it in from a yard out—capping a 74-yard drive with 6:55 remaining—making it a 31-24 ball game.
Davis missed a 42-yard attempt that would’ve given Miami a 10-point cushion—Gill finding Irving Fryar for a big pick-up, leaving the Huskers in business at the Miami 35 with just under two minutes left in the game. Gill went back to Fryar two plays later, but the wide open receiver dropped a sure touchdown—a play so egregious, many wondered if the
Facing a 3rd-and-8 and a quirky incomplete pass call (that looked like a fumble), Gill ran the option on 4th-and-8, pitching last-second to Smith, who ran it in from 24 yards out—Nebraska stealing all momentum.
Also an era where there was no overtime and games could end in a tie, Osborne, to his credit, decided to go for two and the win—opposed to guaranteeing himself a national title with a 12-0-1 record. Instead, Hurricanes history was made.
“What are they doing? I have not see the kicker come onto the field—and I don’t think he’s comin’ on the field. I think they’ve got things going their way and Tom Osborne made this decision a long time ago. I don’t think this situation caught him by surprise. He’s decided to go for two and to take his shot at winning and I commend him for it.”
With a flick of the wrist, Kenny Calhoun got two fingers on Gill’s passing attempt—deflecting it and starting a dynasty.
The Canes recovered the Huskers’ onside kick with :47 remaining, Kosar kneeled twice and this one was in the books—Miami 31, Nebraska 30.
Schellenberger would leave for the USFL in the offseason and Johnson would take the reigns for the next five seasons—but not before a perfect parting shot by UM’s first national champion head coach as NBC’s cameras rolled:
“This has been a love affair that’s been developing for five years. Tonight was the fulfillment of a dream that … I say fulfillment, it might just be the beginning of a dream.”
The beginning of a dream, it was.