If not for a successful Hail Mary by BYU, this week’s Nebraska/Miami matchup would garner more enthusiasm. Nevertheless, both programs still have a great deal to prove in this third week of the season and what better time do so than in one of the most pivotal rivalries in college football.
Nebraska and Miami have faced off 11 times over the years, with each program having exorcised its demons against the other. Oh, and they have also played some good games in between. Here are the top five.
Nebraska 17, Miami 9 – Lincoln, Neb., October 2, 1976
The fifth-ranked and unbeaten Cornhuskers gained 471 yards to Miami’s 168, but still found itself down 9-7 in the fourth quarter. A roughing the punter penalty against the Hurricanes kept a Nebraska drive going that ended with a 32-yard field goal that put the Cornhuskers ahead 10-9 with 6:30 to go. Nebraska quarterback Vince Ferragamo secured the win with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dave Shamblin.
Nebraska 20, Miami 16 – Lincoln, Neb., October 17, 1953
Nebraska halfback Bob Smith kicked off the festivities with an 80-yard run in the first quarter. Then Miami battled back with a field goal and a touchdown that put the ‘Canes up 10-7 halftime. The ‘Huskers took control in the third and extended their lead to 20-10 in the fourth with a touchdown run by halfback Rex Fischer. Later in the fourth, Miami recovered a fumble on Nebraska’s 15-yard line and capitalized with a touchdown. However, the Hurricanes were unable to score again, and the Cornhuskers won as both teams continued on with their respective losing seasons.
Nebraska 36, Miami 34 – New York, N.Y., December 15, 1962
The New York sportswriters were on strike so this game did not receive the exposure it deserved. Playing in front of 6,166, both teams matched each other score for score and were tied 20-20 at halftime. In the third quarter, Miami went ahead 27-20 on a three-yard touchdown run by John Bennett and kicked the extra point. Nebraska responded with its own score and then Bob Devaney – in his first year as head coach – opted to go for two. Quarterback Dennis Claridge kept the ball and ran into the end zone to put Nebraska up 28-27 going into the fourth. The Huskers extended their lead with another score and two-point conversion to go ahead 36-27. Miami added a touchdown of its own with 9:29 left in the game to close the gap to 36-34. The Hurricanes’ All-American quarterback George Mira, who threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns, then tried to put together a game-winning drive in the final minutes, but was intercepted by Nebraska’s Bob Brown.
Miami 31, Nebraska 30 – Miami, Fla., January 2, 1984
Nebraska was 12-0 behind an offense that sported an average 52 points a game and included running back and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier, guard and Outland and Lombardi Trophy winner Dean Steinkuhler, wingback and the first pick in the 1984 NFL draft Irving Fryar and quarterback Turner Gill. Miami was 10-1 and few college football writers gave them a chance in the 50th Orange Bowl. But that’s why games are actually played. Freshman quarterback Bernie Kosar, who would finish the game with 300 yards passing, overwhelmed Nebraska’s secondary and put the ‘Canes ahead 17-0 in the first quarter. Nebraska battled back, getting on the board with a “Fumblerooski” touchdown run by Steinkuhler and then another run by Gill. The ‘Huskers kicked a field goal in the third to tie the game at 17-17, but Miami responded with touchdown drives of 75 and 73 yards to take a commanding 31-17 lead. Nebraska responded with a 76-yard touchdown drive to make the score 31-24. Miami kicker Jeff Davis then missed a 43-yard field goal that would have secured the win and gave Nebraska the ball back on its 26-yard line with 1:47 left. After moving down the field, Nebraska faced 4th and 8 on Miami’s 24-yard line. Head coach Tom Osborne called an option run and Gill pitched the ball to running back Jeff Smith who sprinted into the end zone. Of course, Osborne chose to go for two in one of the most famous decisions in college football history and Gill’s pass fell incomplete. Miami won its first national title and a new era in college football began.
Nebraska 24, Miami 17, Miami, Fla., January 1, 1995
Some would argue this ranking, but the 1995 Orange Bowl bookends the 1984 Orange Bowl and was just as dramatic. After suffering two lopsided Orange Bowl losses to Miami in the past 11 years (part of the reason this list mainly has Nebraska victories), the undefeated Cornhuskers found themselves back in the Orange Bowl facing a 10-1 Miami team. Going into the game, Osborne made a controversial decision to start Tommie Frazier, who had been out since September with blood clots in his leg, over backup quarterback Brook Berringer. Miami kicked a field goal on its first possession to go ahead 3-0. Frazier then threw an interception, which the ‘Canes capitalized on with a 97-yard touchdown drive to extend the lead to 10-0. In the second quarter, Osborne put Berringer in as quarterback and he completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mark Gilman. Miami took the opening kickoff in the second half and drove 78-yards for a score that made the game 17-7. Nebraska’s only score in the third quarter came when Dwayne Harris sacked Miami quarterback Frank Costa in the end zone for a safety that made the score 17-9. With Berringer unable to move the ball against Warren Sapp and the rest of Miami’s defense, Osborne put Frazier back in with 12:07 left in the game. The rejuvenated quarterback moved the ball down the field on a drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by fullback Cory Schlesinger to make the score 17-15. Frazier then tied it with a pass to Eric Alford to successfully convert the two-point play. Nebraska got the ball back and marched down the field for another score to go ahead 24-17. On Miami’s final drive, Costa was sacked twice and threw an interception to secure Osborne’s first national championship.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.