SI Vault
Rick Telander
January 11, 1988
Miami won the national title by snapping Oklahoma's wishbone in a surprisingly one-sided 20-14 victory in the Orange Bowl
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January 11, 1988

Raising 'canes

Miami won the national title by snapping Oklahoma's wishbone in a surprisingly one-sided 20-14 victory in the Orange Bowl

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As for his banning, the circumstances of which were nearly identical to those surrounding the barring of the Sooners' star linebacker, Brian Bosworth, for steroids at the 1987 Orange Bowl, Mira could only say, "I'm furious with myself. I took the water pill because of swelling in my hands and feet. I swear I did. I've never tested positive for steroids." Yet it's difficult to understand Mira's failure to inform the NCAA, as he was obliged to, that he had used an expressly banned substance three weeks before the final game of his career.

Even shorthanded, Miami outplayed Oklahoma right from the opening drive when it scored on a 30-yard pass from Walsh to Bratton. The Hurricanes turned the ball over just once—an interception by Dixon midway through the second quarter—and used punter Jeff Feagles to pin the Sooners far back in their own territory. Except for a trick "fumblerooski" play, on which 280-pound guard Mark Hutson scooped up an intentionally fumbled center snap and carried the ball for a 29-yard TD with two minutes left in the game, Oklahoma was impotent. On that play, however, all of the 'Canes were suckered. "Everybody on both teams went right, and then there was this fat kid with the ball running left," said Blades. Nebraska guard Dean Steinkuhler scored on the same gimmick play against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl game.

Before this Orange Bowl, observers wondered how the Hurricanes would stop the Sooners' flashfire wishbone, an attack Switzer has built by creating "three-on-two, two-on-one and one-on-none mismatches." Johnson was an assistant with Switzer at Oklahoma in 1970 when Chuck Fairbanks brought in the 'bone, and he knows its secrets. But Switzer says, "Systems don't stop us, great players do."

Great players slowed both offenses in the first half, but in the third quarter Miami stopped the Sooners cold, yielding only 37 yards. With the 'Canes ahead 17-7 at the end of the quarter, the game was essentially over. Even Switzer admits that the wishbone is one of the worst of comeback offenses. And a team that has completed only 34 passes in 11 games isn't about to suddenly learn how to drop back and pick apart a secondary with 15 minutes left in the season. Nevertheless Switzer says he'll stay with the 'bone forever: "We've won more games in the last 15 years than anyone. Why in hell throw? That would be crazy."

After the final gun, Switzer, whose only three losses over the last three years have been to Miami, fought his way over to the joyfully twitching Johnson at midfield and said to him, "How about that guard-around. Tricked you, didn't I!" The friendly gibe was simply an indication of how cleanly, fairly and intensely this game had been played.

The Hurricanes had whupped the top-ranked Sooners. Plain and simple. But had Miami been transformed by this win? Had it become wholesome enough to get an invitation to the White House, as squeaky-clean Penn State did last year? The New York Times reported that a White House invitation would depend on the schedules of the President and the winning team. Three days after the game, Miami had received no word. "If invited, I'll go," said Johnson.

Irvin laughed as he pondered that bizarre notion. "Miami in the White House," he said. "They're probably scared we'd steal something."

Well, not the championship trophy, anyway. The Hurricanes have already snatched that.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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