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Greatest Games - Miami-Nebraska 1984
Posted Aug 18, 2011

Miami's Greatest Games: Miami 31...Nebraska 30 January 1, 1984 Orange Bowl

CFN's Greatest Games

Miami 31, Nebraska 30, 1984 Orange

Miami's Greatest Games
- 1984: Miami 31, Nebraska 30 | CFN All-Time Miami Team
- 1989: Miami 27, Notre Dame 10 | 1993: Alabama 34, Miami 13
- 1987: Penn State 14, Miami 10 | 1986: Miami 28, Oklahoma 16
- 1988: Notre Dame 31, Miami 30 | 1984: BC 47, Miami 45
- 1984: Maryland 42, Miami 40 | 1991: Miami 17, Florida St 16
- 1987: Miami 26, Florida St 25 | 2003: Ohio St 31, Miami 24 2OT

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Miami 31...Nebraska 30 January 1, 1984 Orange Bowl

When Super Bowl III was played in the Orange Bowl, the New York Jets came in as decided underdogs against the powerful Baltimore Colts. Joe Namath and the Jets pulled off the upset and the NFL was changed forever as it proved AFL teams could play with the big boys of the NFL.

When the Miami Hurricanes beat Nebraska on New Year's Day in 1984, it was the official kickoff for a shift to the state of Florida speed game of college football, which would be dominant in college football to this day. It wasn't quite Namath guaranteeing a victory, but Miami head coach Howard Schnellenberger quietly said he thought his Hurricanes could win against a team considered among the greatest and most dominant of all-time.

Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne was trying to win his first national title, attempting to get out from under the shadow of former head coach Bob Devaney. Osborne had a wizard at quarterback in Turner Gill, a Heisman Trophy-winning running back in Mike Rozier, the future No. 1 NFL draft pick receiver Irving Fryar, an amazing offensive line led by Dean Steinkuhler, and an aura of invincibility.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers were beyond dominant in 1983.

They began their season beating up defending national champion Penn State 44-6 in the Kickoff Classic. After a 56-20 pummeling of Wyoming, they went into the Metrodome in Minnesota and scored 21 points in each quarter to beat the Gophers 84-13. They punished UCLA 42-10 and Syracuse 63-7 before surviving their only real scare against Oklahoma State, 14-10. They scored 69 against Colorado, 51 at Kansas State, 72 against Iowa State, and 67 against Kansas before beating Marcus Dupree and Oklahoma 28-21.

But for all the Nebraska talent on the field in the Orange Bowl, it would be a 6-5, 205-pound Miami freshman quarterback named Bernie Kosar that would be the star.

The Hurricanes began the season unranked and were spanked 28-3 in their opening game against No. 7 Florida. They then went on a tear, beating Houston 29-7, Purdue 35-0 and No. 13 Notre Dame 20-0 to slowly climb up the charts with wins over Duke (56-17), Louisville (42-14), and Mississippi State (31-7) before closing out the season with three straight tough wins over West Virginia (20-3), East Carolina (12-7), and Florida State (17-16) to finish the regular season ranked fourth in the nation.

By the time the 50th Orange Bowl rolled around on New Year's night, No. 2 Texas was upset in the Cotton Bowl by Georgia, while No. 3 Auburn squeaked by an average Michigan team 9-7 in the Sugar Bowl. All of a sudden, Miami was playing for the national title.

The Huskers got the ball first and set the tone early as Rozier tore off a 28-yard run, the longest of the season against the Hurricane defense, followed up by a 17-yard dash. The Cane defense held tough as Nebraska was forced to try a field goal - they had only attempted four during the season - but Miami blocked it and had some early confidence.

On Miami’s first offensive play of the game, the young Kosar, who was razor sharp throughout the first half, proved the pressure didn’t faze him as he hit Stanley Shakespeare with a dart down to the Husker 35. Kosar fired another strike to Shakespeare to get down to the two-yard line. On third and goal, tight end Glenn Dennison caught a scoring pass for a touchdown and a shocking early 7-0 lead. The Canes would hold the Huskers to a three and out on the following series, and Jeff Davis, who was 1-of-9 from beyond 40 yards, nailed a 45-yard field goal on the following possession for a 10-0 advantage.

The Huskers kept shooting themselves in the foot as Gill, who held the record for lowest interception ratio in NCAA history, threw a pick to stall a drive at midfield. Kosar went back to work connecting with Eddie Brown for a touchdown, but it was called back to the twenty due to a clip. It didn’t matter as Kosar – who completed 8-of-14 passes for 142 yards and two scores in the first quarter - threw a laser to Dennison to take an improbable 17-0 lead. With the Orange Bowl crowd going wild, the Hurricanes were celebrating on the sidelines.

But it was only the end of the first quarter.

Following a Dave Burke interception of Kosar, the Huskers slowly and methodically drove down the field until they faced a third and five on the Miami 19. It was then that Osborne reached into his bag of tricks for the Fumblerooski, and while it appeared to be a desperate move, it worked.

Gill took the snapped and ran down the right side of the offense looking to pitch the ball. The Hurricane defense followed,but Gill intentionally dropped the ball and let it lie on the turf after the snap. It was picked up by the Outland and Lombardi Trophy winning lineman Dean Steinkuhler, who rumbled in for the shocking touchdown to put the Huskers on the board. It was the first of two gutsy calls that Osborne would make that night.

The Huskers kept marching as they calmly got back into the game utilizing Rozier, Fryar, and the rushing of Gill for a ten play, 64-yard drive, that ended with a one-yard score to pull within three.

The second half began with a Hurricane turnover. Burke recovered a fumble fromt Keith Griffin – Ohio State legend Archie's brother - leading to a Husker game-tying field goal. Now it appeared the Hurricane run was over as Nebraska weathered the early storm and began ready to play its type of football to win the national title.

But Kosar wouldn't let that happen.

Kosar answered the Husker score marching the team back down the field, helped by a pass interference penalty in the end zone, to retake the lead on an Alonzo Highsmth one-yard touchdown run. Hurricane kicker Jeff Davis' extra point hit the upright and bounced in - remember, the goalposts were wider back in 1984. Little did anyone know at the time what a huge break this was.

On Miami’s next possession, Kosar's arm and the running of Griffin got the ball down to the Husker seven, and Albert Bentley finished things off, taking it up the middle for a 31-17 lead. After going 73 yards in six plays, the Canes were once again celebrating on the sidelines. Once again, it would be premature.

The Huskers suffered a major setback on their next drive when Rozier – who ran for 147 yards on 25 carries - was lost for the game with a severely sprained left ankle on a reverse. But this was Nebraska and they had replacements. Jeff Smith stepped in and promptly took a pitch forty yards down to the Miami one-yard line, only to fumble it away.

The fourth quarter had been Miami's all season long allowing only ten points, and they were holding firm once again. After the D came through with a brilliant pass breakup in the end zone by Reggie Sutton and a sack by Kevin Fagan, Nebraska's Scott Livingston attempted a 47-yard field goal, but he hooked it wide left and short (and looked EXACTLY like the missed Husker field goal at the end of the 1994 Orange Bowl against Florida State). But the Huskers rebounded, scoring a touchdown on their next possession on a Smith run from a yard out with 6:55 to play. Down 31-23, the Huskers kicked the extra point to pull to within seven.

Miami answered by going on a long drive to be in a position to put the game away, but Davis missed a field goal that would've made it a ten point lead. Even with the setback, time was taken off the clock with Nebraska getting the ball back with just 1:47 to play.

Gill was having an average game and was getting outplayed by Kosar, but he wasn't getting much help as his all-everything receiver Irving Fryar was nowhere to be found. On first down on the Nebraska 26, Gill threw a strike to Fryar who cut up the field and took it 29 yards before being brought down on a last gasp tackle by Sutton.

With 1:12 to play on the Miami 25, Gill threw another perfect pass in the end zone, but a wide-open Fryar dropped it and then collapsed in a grief stricken moment. But all was not lost, even though on the following play Gill fumbled the ball. Steinkuhler picked it up and rumbled for positive yards and the national title dream was still alive. On fourth down and eight on the Miami 29, Gill and Smith came up with one of the most overlooked sensational plays in college football history.

With fourth down and the national championship to go, and with the Miami home Orange Bowl crowd going berserk, Gill calmly ran the option to the right. At the last possible nanosecond, he pitched the ball away to a streaking Jeff Smith who tore up the right sideline before diving into the end zone to pull the Huskers to within one point.

Without hesitation on the sideline, Osborne decided to go for two.

With no overtime, if Osborne had kicked the extra point, Nebraska would still almost certainly be named the national champion. Instead, the offense lined up on the left hashmark.

"This is for the national championship for Nebraska," proclaimed NBC announcer Don Criqui as Gill rolled out right and fired an incomplete pass, trying to hit Smith at the goal line. Had Gill looked a few feet to Smith's left, he had a wide open Fryar. On the ensuing onside kick, Miami recovered to seal the national title, ushering in a new era of football dominance in the Sunshine State. Osborne would have to wait a decade before getting his elusive national title.

Miami's Greatest Games
- 1984: Miami 31, Nebraska 30 | CFN All-Time Miami Team
- 1989: Miami 27, Notre Dame 10 | 1993: Alabama 34, Miami 13
- 1987: Penn State 14, Miami 10 | 1986: Miami 28, Oklahoma 16
- 1988: Notre Dame 31, Miami 30 | 1984: BC 47, Miami 45
- 1984: Maryland 42, Miami 40 | 1991: Miami 17, Florida St 16
- 1987: Miami 26, Florida St 25 | 2003: Ohio St 31, Miami 24 2OT