In one of the most exciting games in the history of college football,
underdog Miami clinched its first national championship with a 31-30 win
over Nebraska. The epic battle featured several memorable moments,
including Nebraska guard Dean Steinkuhler's "fumblerooskie" touchdown
run and Miami safety Ken Calhoun's game-saving tip of an attempted
two-point conversion pass.
"It was a great feeling for me, for my family, for my team and the
school, to represent the University of Miami in such a big-time game
that no one had expected us to win," Calhoun remembers.
Nebraska (12-0) had steamrolled through its schedule, topping the
Associated Press poll the entire season. The boys from Lincoln boasted
the Heisman Trophy winner (running back Mike Rozier), the country's most
outstanding lineman (Outland Trophy winner Steinkuhler), and an
All-American selection (wide receiver Irving Fryar). Miami (10-1),
ranked No. 5 by the AP, represented a formidable challenge. After losing
their first game to Florida, the Hurricanes scored 10 straight victories
over the likes of West Virginia, East Carolina and cross-state rival
Florida State. Nonetheless, Nebraska entered the game as 11-point
"We were the Cinderella team, and it fired us up," said Calhoun. "Being
a Cinderella to such a powerhouse was something everyone on the team got
Two games played earlier in the day helped set the stage for the Orange
Bowl contest. Georgia had upset No. 2 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, while
UCLA had upended No. 4 Illinois in the Rose Bowl. No. 3 Auburn still had
to play Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, but the Hurricanes knew they had a
shot at the national title if they could knock off Nebraska.
Miami struck first, reeling off the first 17 points of the game.
Nebraska responded in the second quarter, as quarterback Turner Gill
marched his team 74 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown. The score came on
a trick play known as a "fumblerooskie," which started with Gill taking
the snap and slyly placing the ball on the ground. Steinkuhler then
picked up the ball and lumbered in for a 19-yard touchdown.
The Hurricanes recovered from the shock to take a 31-17 lead into the
fourth quarter. Nebraska stayed alive with a 76-yard drive capped by
running back Jeff Smith's seven-yard touchdown run. After Miami kicker
Jeff Davis missed a 41-yard field goal, the Cornhuskers took over at
their own 26 with 1:47 left.
The Nebraska offense wasted little time, reaching the Miami 24 on five
plays. On fourth-and-eight, Smith ran in for his second touchdown,
making it a 31-30 game. Rather than go for the tie, Nebraska coach Tom
Osborne chose to go for the two-point conversion. Miami linebacker Jack
Fernandez, who was later named defensive MVP, recalls lining up for the
game's pivotal play.
"At the time, you're not thinking about what's at stake," he said.
"You're just thinking about winning the game and preventing what they're
trying to do."
As Gill dropped back to pass, Calhoun abandoned Fryar, his man in
the coverage scheme, and picked up Smith.
Fryar, said Calhoun, "had dropped a touchdown (earlier), and I didn't
feel like they would go back to him, so I just let him release. I read
Turner Gill's eyes, got in the passing lane, and knocked the pass down."
Calhoun's heroics gave Miami a 31-30 victory and, despite Auburn's 9-7
defeat of Michigan, the national championship. Nebraska placed second in
the final AP poll.
"It's history. It was the first championship in Florida, and we're proud
of that," said Calhoun.
For his part, Fernandez said defeating Nebraska taught him a valuable
lesson: to never underestimate the underdog.
"I feel like we were the Trojan horse," he said. "They let us in, and we
just blindsided them."
UM- Dennison 2 pass from Kosar (Davis kick)
UM- FG Davis 45
UM- Dennison 22 pass from Kosar (Davis kick)
NU- Steinkuhler 19 run (Livingston kick)
NU- Gill 1 run (Livingston kick)
NU- FG Livingston 34
UM- Highsmith 1 run (Davis kick)
UM- Bentley 7 run (Davis kick)
NU- Smith 1 run (Livingston kick)
NU- Smith 24 run (Gill pass failed)
UM- Highsmith 7-50, Bentley 10-26, Griffin 9-41
NU- Rozier 25-147, Smith 9-99, Gill 11-19
UM- Kosar 19-35-300
NU- Gill 16-30-172
UM- Brown 6-115, Shakespeare 3-63, Dennison 3-44
NU- Fryer 5-61, Simmons 7-36