- 1987 Miami Hurricanes football team
Conference=NCAA Division I-A independent schools
Miami Orange Bowl
BowlTourneyResult= W, 20-14 vs. Oklahoma
The 1987 Miami Hurricanes were the national champions of the
1987 NCAA Division I-A football season. The national championship was the second of five won by the University of Miamiin football.
After taking over as head coach in 1984, Jimmy Johnson led the Hurricanes to remarkable success, yet by 1987, whispers had begun to circulate in South Florida that Johnson "couldn't win the big one."
After an initial 8-5 campaign in 1984 that ended with a
Fiesta Bowlloss to UCLA, the Hurricanes squandered away a piece of the 1985 national championship when they were upset by Tennessee, 35-7, in the Sugar Bowl.
In 1986, Miami fielded a team many consider to be one of the most talented in college football history and tore through its opposition on the way to a perfect 11-0 regular season record. Led by
Heisman Trophy-winner Vinny Testaverde, a record breaking offense, and the 5th-ranked defense in the country, #1 Miami was a prohibitive favorite heading into its Fiesta Bowlmatchup against #2 Penn State. However, Penn State was able to disrupt the Miami passing game and force the Hurricanes into seven turnovers. Penn State won the national championship with a shocking 14-10 victory over Miami that was sealed when a Testaverde pass from the Penn State 6-yard line was intercepted in the endzone by linebackerPete Giftopoulos with 0:18 left in the game.
After losing three key players (Testaverde,
Alonzo Highsmith, and Jerome Brown) from the '86 squad who were selected within the first nine picks of the 1987 NFL Draft, 1987 was expected to be somewhat of a reloading year for Miami, which began the season ranked 10th in the nation.
Under the direction of
quarterbackSteve Walsh and a defense that returned nine starters, Miami opened the regular season with a bang, allowing rival Florida only two safeties in a 31-4 thrashing of the #20 Gators. The game would prove to be the last in an annual rivalry that had been played uninterrupted since 1944. The teams would not meet in the regular season again until 2002. The victory over Florida was followed by a 51-7 pasting of the #10 Arkansas Razorbacks in Little Rock, which would catapult Miami to a #3 ranking.
Miami's rigorous early season schedule continued the next week with a showdown with #4 Florida State at
Doak Campbell Stadiumin Tallahassee. The October 3 matchup would go down as a classic in the storied rivalry between the two schools, featuring not only high drama, but also an astounding 56 players who would go on to play in the NFL. Miami drew first blood with a second quarter field goal, but the Noles, fielding a team many consider to be the best in school history, took control of the game after that. A 67-yard run by Florida State running backSammie Smith was followed by a 1-yard touchdown run from Dayne Williams, giving FSU a 7-3 lead. A 36-yard field goal from Derek Schmidt pushed the Seminoles' lead to 10-3 at the half.
After Schmidt missed a third quarter field goal wide right, Miami took over, but went three-and-out and was forced to punt. The ensuing punt by
Jeff Feagleswas blocked and returned by Florida State for a touchdown, increasing the Florida State lead to 16-3 (Schmidt missed the extra point). Miami was foced to punt again, and a big return by FSU's Deion "Primetime" Sanders put the Noles in position to add another Schmidt field goal to make the score 19-3.
With Miami having been unable to mount any offense to that point, the Hurricanes looked to be in dire straits late in the third quarter. Spurred on by an impassioned speech from receiver
Michael Irvin, the Hurricanes were able to keep their focus and climbed back into the game when Walsh found a streaking Melvin Bratton for a 49-yard touchdown. The Canes went for two, which they converted when Walsh was able to hook up with receiver Brian Blades, trimming the FSU lead to 19-11 heading into the fourth quarter.
The final quarter was filled with back-and-forth
drama. Irvin started things off when he was on the receiving end of a 26-yard touchdown pass from Walsh. With the score now at 19-17, Miami again went for two, which the Canes, again, converted, this time on a pass from Walsh to Warren Williams. With the game now tied at 19-19 and its 16-point lead evaporated, Florida State staged a drive of its own, taking the ball down to the Miami 17-yard line before quarterback Danny McManus was intercepted by Bennie Blades. The Canes wasted little time in capitalizing on the miscue, as four plays later Walsh hooked up with Irvin for one of the most famous plays in University of Miami history. Walsh walked to the line, read the FSU defense, and called an audible for Irvin, who was appropriately nicknamed "The Playmaker" due to his penchant for making big plays. Walsh took a quick three-step drop and hung the ball up perfectly for Irvin on a fly route. Irvin was in double coverage, but was able to get behind the coverage, catch the pass, and take it 73-yards for a Miami touchdown. With 2:22 left to play, Miami led 26-19.
Florida State would not go meekly, though, as the Noles valiantly fought back after taking over on their own 25-yard line. Before long, the Noles were in the endzone when McManus hit Ronald Lewis on a perfect corner route for 18-yards. With college football not having overtime at the time, Florida State head coach
Bobby Bowdenwas faced with a decision: attempt the extra point and settle for a 26-26 tie, or attempt a two point conversion and go for the win. Complicating matters was the fact that Schmidt, FSU's kicker, had looked shaky on this day, already missing on a field goal attempt and on an extra point attempt. Nevertheless, Bowden initially had decided to kick the extra point and settle for the tie, as he had stated when asked before the game what he would if he found himself in this exact predicament. But after the FSU offense protested and urged their coach to go for the win, Bowden changed his mind and decided to go for the two, betting both FSU's and Miami's national championship hopes on the outcome. FSU called a pass play. McManus took the snap, looked for a receiver, and then threw into the right corner of the endzone. The ball was underthrown and broken up by Miami defensive back Bubba McDowell before it could reach its intended target. With Miami up 26-25, Florida State attempted an onside kickon the ensuing kickoff, but Miami recovered the ball with 0:42 left and was able to run out the clock, sealing the Hurricane victory.
Having successfully negotiated its brutal early season schedule, Miami won its next six games with ease, beating Maryland (46-16), Cincinnati (48-10), East Carolina (41-3), Miami of Ohio (54-3), Virginia Tech (27-13), and Toledo (24-14).
Next up for the now 2nd-ranked Hurricanes was a date with #10 Notre Dame in Miami. Notre Dame coach
Lou Holtzbrought an upset minded Irish squad to the Orange Bowl, but they proved to be little match for Daniel Stubbs and a relentless Hurricane defense. Miami continued its dominance over Notre Dame, shutting out the Irish, 24-0, and beating them for the fourth straight time. It was also the first time Notre Dame had been shutout since 1983, when they were also shutout at the hands of the Hurricanes.
Miami's final regular season game came at home against #8 South Carolina where future Notre Dame head coach
Charlie Weiswas an assistant coach. South Carolina played a spirited game and gave the Canes all they could handle. Eventually, Miami was able to walk away from the nail biter with a hard fought 20-16 victory, capping an 11-0 regular season.
The Orange Bowl
The 1988 Orange Bowl featured "Game of the Century"-type billing as the undefeated and top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners faced off against undefeated and second-ranked Miami for the national championship. [http://www.orangebowl.org/OB.php?sec=history6] Adding to the hype was the recent on-field history between the teams. Oklahoma was a dominant force in college football, winning the national championship in 1985 and losing just one game in each of the preceding two years. Miami, though, had proven to be the thorn in Oklahoma's side, as the Sooners' losses in '85 and '86 had both come at the hands of Miami. Now, with the national championship on the line, Miami sought to make it three-losses-in-three-years for Oklahoma. Further fuel for the fire was provided by the growing personal animosity between Johnson and Oklahoma coach
Miami's vaunted defense set the tone early, forcing the Sooners to punt on their first five possessions. Meanwhile, Walsh settled into a nice rhythm, putting Miami on the board first with a 30-yard touchdown pass to fullback Melvin Bratton, who caught 9 passes for 102 yards for the game. Oklahoma got on the board with a second quarter touchdown to tie things up, but Miami responded with 10 unanswered third quarter points, coming on a 56-yard field goal by kicker Greg Cox and a 23-yard touchdown pass from Walsh to Irvin. Oklahoma would add a fourth quarter touchdown to trim the score to 20-14, but Miami held on for the win and the national championship. Johnson received a Gatorade bath, which messed his trademark impeccably coiffed hair, and was carried off the field, having finally won "the big one" at Miami.
The Hurricane defense held Oklahoma to just 255 yards of offense, while Walsh's efficient play (18 of 30, 209 yards, 2 touchdowns) paced the Hurricane offense. Middle linebacker Bernard "Tiger" Clark- a backup middle linebacker who was forced to start after starting MLB George Mira Jr. was suspended for failing a drug test- was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl after recording 14 tackles (12 unassisted).
With the win, Miami completed its first ever undefeated season. In winning their second national championship, the Canes once again had to go through the nation's top-ranked team in a bowl game, just as they had done in 1983.
On January 29, 1988, the Miami players and coaches were honored guests of President
Ronald Reaganat the White House, a first for any collegiate athletic team in the State of Florida. [http://hurricanesports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/archive/043002aac.html]
chedule & Results
Awards & Honors
*Bennie Blades, FS
*Daniel Stubbs, LE
Bold indicates winners
*Bennie Blades, FS -
Jim Thorpe Award
*Daniel Stubbs, LE -
Outland Trophy Jack HardingUniversity of Miami MVP Award
*Steve Walsh, QB
*From 1985 through 1987, the Oklahoma Sooners only lost three games in three seasons, but each of those losses came at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes.
* [http://hurricanesports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/archive/043002aac.html 1987 Miami Hurricanes Profile at Official University of Miami Athletics Web Site]
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