"If they taunt you and talk about your mama, hey, I guess that's the way they play," said Brown. "They play with no class. But that's the way they feel the game should be played."
"I told Brown he was a punk," said Blades. "If I can hit my brother [ Miami receiver Brian] in the mouth in practice, I can hit Tim Brown. You're not supposed to let a defense intimidate you. That's exactly what happened to him."
"We knew we had to shake him up, make him nervous," said McDowell. "I was surprised that it worked, that he dropped balls. We knew we had to shut him down. Yeah, we talked."
Because Miami hasn't suffered any recent blowouts—in fact, it has won 31 straight regular-season games—and its gridiron lore features no Gippers, it has to improvise its motivational techniques. Defensive backfield coach David Campo told his guys last week that Brown had said USC's secondary was tougher than Miami's. Whether Brown actually said it or not didn't seem to matter to the Hurricane coaches; gross insult, it appears, is the way to make a 'Cane play his best. "Tim was a nice guy about it afterward," said McDowell. "As soon as the game was over we told him, 'Nice game.' He just asked to meet Michael Irvin. I hope he's changed his mind about our defensive backs."
Earlier in the week, Holtz had said that the Hurricane players "aren't afraid of the FBI, the police or the opposition." Somehow, according to Blades, this comment was translated in type on the scouting reports given to the Hurricanes as: " Miami is a team of plantation boys, white trash and criminals." Those 'Canes sure can take umbrage out of thin air. "When guys come to your backyard and say things like that, you don't let 'em out," said Blades. "I congratulated Brown after the game, but I didn't bow down like he was lord and master."
No, humility is not a Hurricane trait, though Johnson did take a stab at it. "This was supposed to be a down year for us," he said. "We lost people like Jerome Brown, Alonzo Highsmith, Vinny Testaverde." And the 'Canes still have nearly as many first-round NFL picks as the Los Angeles Rams. " Miami has three high first-round draft picks next year, and that's only among the seniors," says Brandt. "Blades, Stubbs and Bratton, for sure." It was fullback Melvin Bratton who scored twice on short runs in the second and third quarters. A 5'9", 170-pound freshman gnatback named Leonard Conley added the coup de grace on a six-yard run in the fourth period. Conley also scooted for eight yards and a first down from the blocking back position in a fake punt that led to the 'Canes' second-quarter field goal. "Jimmy's a defensive coach who was smart enough to keep [quarterback coach and offensive coordinator] Gary Stevens around," says Brandt.
Johnson's 4-3 defense seemed to transfix Notre Dame, and it didn't help the Irish that the Orange Bowl crowd of 76,640 was in full throat. Notre Dame's sophomore quarterback Tony Rice was held to seven completions in 19 attempts for 84 yards. "I wanted to check off sometimes, but no one could hear me," said Rice. Notre Dame center Chuck Lanza said, "Some guys were running audibles that other guys didn't hear."
Meanwhile, Johnson had to pull backup quarterback Craig Erickson to the sideline to tell him to stop calling pass plays as the 'Canes were running out the clock. "No need asking for trouble," said a beaming Johnson.
Much has been made of the Hurricanes' propensity for "running it up," yet when they lay off the Toledos of the world—Miami beat the Rockets by only a 24-14 score on Nov. 21—everybody says the 'Canes are suspect. When they play well and score, they're too mean. But it is a fact that John Heisman, for whom the hallowed trophy is named, once beat Cumberland 222-0 when he was coaching Georgia Tech. The milk of human kindness has little to do with football, especially at Miami.
Take starting quarterback Steve Walsh, a third-year sophomore. Walsh waited behind Bernie Kosar and Testaverde, took over this year and has merely guided Miami to another undefeated season. Saturday, Walsh completed 13 of 22 passes for 196 yards. He made only one bad mistake all day, when the Irish bluffed him into thinking they would blitz and Walsh checked off and threw an interception. Yet, even if Walsh guides Miami to the national title, freshman Erickson may start next year. He's that good. Pressure from the bench can move a quarterback to aim for high double figures on the scoreboard.