6 Saturdays: The Arrival of the U

 

Only 6 Saturdays left between now and next football season. That feels very doable, but it always gets worse as the time gets closer.

 

The 1983 season began with the Nebraska Cornhuskers at #1. Then, they went out on the field and proved their ranking by crushing the defending national champion Penn State, 44-6.

Nebraska averaged 52 points a game as they built up a 12-0 record. The only close games they had were a 14-10 win over Oklahoma State and a 28-21 win over Oklahoma.

 

The 1971 Nebraska team was considered one of the great teams of all time, but so was this 1983 team.

Turner Gill was their QB and he was an outstanding athlete from Fort Worth, Texas. He was recently the head coach for the Kansas Jayhawks and is now the head coach at Liberty University.

Mike Rozier was the I-back and the Heisman Trophy winner of 1983 and had rushed for over 2,000 yards.

Rozier was the 2nd guy in the history of college football to rush for 2,000 following only Marcus Allen of USC. Irving Fryar was their Wing back and the future #1 pick in the NFL draft.

Offensive Guard Dean Steinkuhler was the Outland and Lombardi Trophy winner that season and the Husker Offensive Line was huge and talented. Fryar went #1 in the draft and Steinkuhler went #2.

 

The Husker Offensive Line averaged over 6-4, 272  in a day and age when that was considered Godzilla like.

 

This Nebraska team had it all. They had size, speed and a ton of talent, but mostly on offense.

 

On paper, this Miami team should not have been on the same field with the 1983 version of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

But, as they always say, that’s why you play the games.

 

The Miami defense countered with Kevin Fagan at Defensive End and Jay Brophy at Linebacker. They were scrappy and tough and tiny compared to the huge Nebraska Offensive Line. Unsung heroes coming in for the Hurricanes were Nose Guard Tony Fitzpatrick and Cornerback Rodney Bellinger.

Fagan was in the Husker backfield most of the night, Brophy was all over the field. Fitzpatrick had a monster night and Bellinger drew Fryar most of the night in coverage and was phenomenal. Of those 4 stars that night, only Kevin Fagan found a lot of success in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.

 

Miami lost their first game to Florida and it was kind of ugly with the Gators winning big, 28-3. The Hurricanes won 10 straight under head coach Howard Schnellenberger and suddenly found themselves playing the top team in the country in the Orange Bowl.

 

Miami offense was led by tall and gangly Bernie Kosar, nicknamed Commander Kosar. Kosar was 6-5 but only about 195-200 pounds and awkward looking. But, he was very effective and he was only a freshman.

Glenn Dennison was Miami’s Tight End from Beaver Falls, Pa and he played a few years in the NFL. Dennison was a big star in this game.

Pro style offense vs the traditional running game of Nebraska. Keith Griffin played running back for Miami and he was the little brother of two time Heisman winner Archie.

Eddie Brown was their deep threat and he later played for the Cincinnati Bengals. All of these guys were big factors in the Orange Bowl that night.

 

The Miami Offensive Line was smaller but surprisingly good. Paul Bertucelli at Left Tackle was a freshman. Left Guard was a Cuban born guy named Juan Comendeiro, Center was Canadian Ian Sinclair who would play 11 seasons for the British Columbia Lions of the CFL. Alvin Ward was the Right Guard and RT Dave Heffernan. Not a single one of these guys were known by anyone but they were awesome against the Huskers.

Stanley Shakespeare who was a favorite target of Kosar all year and he had a huge impact on this game, drowned in 2005 at the age of 42.

Alonzo Highsmith was a young freshman on this team just starting to come on and this was his breakout game.

 

The turf at the Orange Bowl was sadly pathetic.

 

 

The Huskers had punted the ball less than any college football team in 38 years and had to punt on the 2nd drive.

 

Miami shocked the world and controlled the line of scrimmage for a good portion of the game. Hurricanes went up 17-0 in the 1st quarter.

 

Nebraska had one good drive at the beginning of the game but after the Hurricanes went up by 17, they were forced to punt again.

Eddie Brown had an impressive long punt return for the Canes. This game was about to get ugly. But, miraculously, the Nebraska black shirt defense as it has always been called, stepped up and picked off a pass. As is often the case, that interception changed the momentum of the game completely.

 

Nebraska put a drive together after the interception and then ran one of the more famous plays in college football history. The Fumblerooski, with Dean Steinkuhler taking it in for a TD, 17-7. The Fumblerooski is a trick play where the QB lays the ball down behind the center and the Offensive Guard picks up the ball and advances it. It worked well for Nebraska but it can be a disaster also. To a football purist, it reeks of desperation. To the casual fan, it is an exciting play. Steinkuhler was an incredible athlete and took the ball to the end zone.

 

 

Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier was over 100 yards rushing in the 2nd quarter. Nebraska started to take over the game in the 2nd quarter and made it 17-14 before the half.

 

Archie’s brother Keith Griffin fumbled for Miami in the 3rd allowing Nebraska to get excellent field position and a field goal. 17-17, because of the fumble but Griffin had a good night otherwise.

 

Former walk-on Albert Bentley a 225 pound running back was a star that night for the Hurricanes as a running back or as a receiver out of the backfield.

Nebraska and their famous black shirt defense had no answer for Kosar and his passing game. Miami went back up 24-17.

Miami at it again and drove the ball down and Albert Bentley scored again and it was 31-17. Bentley was an excellent blocker all night, a great receiver out of the backfield and ran the ball hard. The Offensive Line for Miami was excellent all night long. The Huskers had to blitz to get any pressure at all on Kosar.

 

 

Nebraska lost Mike Rozier to an injury, but still drove the ball down and then fumbled on the Miami 2 yard line. Miami punted back to Nebraska as the 3rd quarter ended. Rodney Bellenger #4 was a star on defense for the Hurricanes all night long. He made play after play.

But, the Nebraska fumble on the 2 was the game changer for them and would cost them the game.

 

Miami was up 31-17 at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Nebraska, to their credit, kept on fighting and made it 31-24.

 

Rozier missed most of the second half because he injured his ankle, but his back up was just as impressive.  Jeff Smith was in for Rozier and he scored with less than a minute to make it 31-30 for Miami. Smith rushed for 104 yards on 9 carries and 2 TDs. Instead of going for the tie, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne elected to go for 2 and the win and it backfired on him as Gill’s pass was knocked away.

 

Miami outplayed the Huskers on this night as they were a little over matched.

 

The Miami Hurricanes were awarded the national title after this game much to the dismay of the Auburn Tigers who felt they should have won the national championship because Miami was #5 coming in and Auburn was #3. Auburn had barely beaten Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, 9-7.

#2 Texas lost earlier in the day, 10-9 to the Georgia Bulldogs after a late dropped punt. #4 Illinois got blown out by UCLA in the Rose Bowl, 45-9.

 

This was really the beginning of the Canes on the national scene. They had been right on the verge of competing for national  honors in previous seasons and in 1982 they had Hall of Fame QB, Jim Kelly. But, this huge win over Nebraska put them on the map and was the first of 5 national titles for the Canes.

Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger would leave after this season and Jimmy Johnson would take his place and the Hurricanes would go on to bigger and better things under several different coaches.

2 thoughts on “6 Saturdays: The Arrival of the U

  1. Bert

    good stuff again, Brad!
    I remember that game well. Of course Longhorn fans will always remember that, especially considering what could have been for us. Still, kind of amazing how Miami played against that juggernaut.

    It’s a great debate as to which ‘Huskers’ team was the best–the ’71 team you mentioned or the ’95 team. IMO, those two were almost perfectly identical and equally superior to their competition.
    The ’71 team destroyed a prior unbeaten ‘Bama squad, 38-6, but the ’95 team decapitated an also prior-unbeaten Florida, 62-24. No one came close to them all year, as they pounded even some superb opponents like K-State and Colorado (both which lost maybe only once the rest of the season, I believe).
    The ’71 team had that huge scare with OU (actually being outgained), but too that OU team was awesome in its own right

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *