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RAISING 'CANES
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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SI'S TOP 20
Our final rankings take into account the teams' performances in bowl games

AFTER THE BOWLS

AFTER THE SEASON

1

MIAMI (12-0)

2

2

FLORIDA STATE (11-1)

3

3

SYRACUSE (11-1)

4

4

OKLAHOMA (11-1)

1

5

NEBRASKA (10-2)

5

6

MICHIGAN STATE (9-2-1)

8

7

AUBURN (9-1-2)

6

8

UCLA (10-2)

7

9

LSU (10-1-1)

10

10

TEXAS A & M (10-2)

13

11

TENNESSEE (10-2-1)

14

12

OKLAHOMA ST. (10-2)

11

13

SOUTH CAROLINA (8-4)

9

14

CLEMSON (10-2)

16

15

GEORGIA (9-3)

18

16

IOWA (10-3)

17

WYOMING (10-3)

17

18

NOTRE DAME (8-4)

12

19

USC (8-4)

15

20

MICHIGAN (8-4)

When the bad guys played the bad guys for all the marbles in the 54th Orange Bowl Classic on New Year's Day, one thing seemed certain: Bad guys would win.

But did they?

Miami (evil, paranoid) beat Oklahoma (anarchic, bullying) 20-14 to run its record to 12-0, win the national championship and further spread the cloak of darkness over big-time college football. Right? Or has that perception been altered?

"Do you think winning cleans it?" Sooner coach Barry Switzer asked the day before the game. By "it" he meant the soiled image that shrouded his team and the Hurricanes. "Does winning wash it away?"

Does winning cleanse the sinner? Had Miami coach Jimmy Johnson—he of the healthy tan and perfectly coiffed hair suddenly awash in celebratory ice water—been transformed into a pure and good, even admirable, man? Just by winning? Maybe not, but the Orange Bowl game was so good—as in entertaining—that it may have temporarily overwhelmed at least some critics of the two schools' programs.

Forget that Hurricane offensive tackle John O'Neill and star middle linebacker George Mira Jr. flunked pre-game drug tests for taking Lasix, a prescription diuretic that some experts believe can make the use of anabolic steroids less detectable. Forget all the run-ins that Miami players have had with police. Forget that last year Oklahoma had more academically ineligible freshman players than any other school. Forget also all the accusations that the Sooners ran up the score against opponents. Never mind all that. This was how college football should be played.

The Hurricanes' gangly sophomore quarterback Steve Walsh was masterful, completing 18 of 30 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns against a secondary that probably could start as a unit in the NFL. As Walsh zipped passes to running back Melvin Bratton, who had nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, and lofted floaters to wide receiver Michael Irvin, who had four receptions for 57 yards and the winning TD, he reminded one most of Bernie Kosar, Miami's former master of the scalpel, its quarterback in its championship season of 1983.

"He's less emotional than Bernie," said Johnson after the game. "I don't want Steve to be emotional. I can be hyper, but not my quarterbacks."

Walsh is so cool that he never questioned the audacity of going for a first down on fourth-and-four at Oklahoma's 29-yard line late in the third quarter. It was only the play of the game. The Hurricanes were ahead 10-7 at the time, and rain was pelting the field. Moreover, Miami kicker Greg Cox had blasted an Orange Bowl-record 56-yard field goal on the 'Canes' previous possession. Wisdom would have you go for three again, especially against an 11-0 team that hadn't been behind this late in a game all season. And especially against a defense that allowed the fewest points in the nation for the second straight season.

But instead of wilting, Walsh flicked a perfect six-yard out-pattern pass to Bratton while getting crunched by the Sooner rush. "I didn't really think about it," said Walsh. "Mel got out past the zone, and I laid it out there. I didn't see it. But it was pretty safe."

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