Posted: Wednesday August 10, 2005 5:31PM; Updated: Thursday August 11, 2005 2:34PM
College moment No. 7: Brian Poli-Dixon and UCLA are stunned by the 'Canes at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 5, 1998.
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1. Jan. 1, 1984: The Miami Hurricanes' coming-out party, as they shock undefeated Nebraska 31-30 to win the national championship. The game featured a successful fumblerooski call by the Cornhuskers as well as Tom Osborne's gutsy decision to go for two after the Huskers scored in the final moments. This was the game that turned my allegiance from pro to college.
2. Nov. 23, 1984: Flutie to Phelan, 54 yards in the air, as time expires. Boston College 47, Miami 45.
3. Nov. 30, 1985: Miami 58, Notre Dame 7. This lowest of all moments in Irish history (their worst loss ever) was Gerry Faust's farewell, but it also set the stage for the best rivalry in college football for the next six years.
4. Sept. 27, 1986: Miami 28, Oklahoma 16. No. 1 versus No. 2, featuring Vinny Testaverde for the Hurricanes (in his Heisman Trophy season) versus "The Boz" (Brian Bosworth) for the Sooners. Games Nos. 1, 3 and 4 on this list did the most to catapult UM onto the high perch it now occupies.
5. Oct. 3, 1992: Wide Right II, as Florida State's Dan Mowrey misses a potential game-tying 39-yard field goal with 8 seconds left. Earlier, Miami's Michael Barrow laid a hit on FSU's Tamarick Vanover that still makes me shudder.
6. Jan. 1, 1994: Florida State 18, Nebraska 16. I include this not because it marked Bobby Bowden's first national title, but rather because of my own experience. I had a media credential, but being so low on the SI totem pole, it was for a spot in the press box where I could only watch the game on television. After about one offensive series of torture, I blew out of the press box. Then I found a camera stanchion, basically a piece of metal about the size of a life raft that hung out over the lower edge of the upper deck, that was not being used. It was right at midfield. There I was, in my own private open-air luxury box, watching the national championship game. And no one kicked me out. Best seat I ever had for a football game.
7. Dec. 5, 1998: UCLA, unbeaten and ranked No. 3, squanders its shot at a national title in a 45-42 loss against a relatively mediocre (9-3) Hurricane squad. Only a week earlier, the Canes (or someone dressed in their uniforms) had lost 66-13 at Syracuse.
These are only some of the moments (I've left out countless Orange Bowls, etc.). But it's more than just great games with the Orange Bowl. It's atmosphere. Some stadiums just look better on television than others. Fenway Park, for example. It's old, but it looks terrific on TV. Wrigley Field, at least to me, never looks as good, even though it too is old and it too has cool idiosyncrasies.
Back when I was a boy in the '70s, back when being invited to a bowl game meant something, the Orange Bowl had unique cache. It was always the last game on television on New Year's night. The schedule: Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl, the latter with the inimitable Lindsay Nelson behind the mike, aired first and concurrently; then the Rose Bowl, which was always a great game but always followed the same script -- Michigan or Ohio State loses; then, finally, the Orange Bowl.
Either Oklahoma or Nebraska, the Big 8 representative, played in the game every year. Growing up in the Wonder Bread-white world of suburban New Jersey, I found everything about the Orange Bowl to be exotic. Sure, the location. But what sticks in my mind most is the names of the backs and receivers from those Sooner and Husker teams. Oklahoma had Elvis Peacock and Julius Caesar Watts; Nebraska countered with studs such as Jarvis Redwine and I.M. Hipp. I.M. Hipp? Yes, U.R.
There were better talents on those teams: Billy Sims instantly comes to mind, as do the Selmon brothers (Dewey and Lee Roy), as does Johnny Rodgers. But for white kids, before there was rap, there were Big 8 backs. And they were running the wishbone, which you did not get to see too often. The Orange Bowl was MTV Jams before cable existed.
The Orange Bowl. It has a mystique that Joe Robbie Stadium, which then became Pro Player Stadium, which is now Dolphins Stadium, never will. And the Hurricanes will remain there at the very least through 2010. I've always loved that dump. It's nice to know that Dan Marino feels the same way.