Bernie Kosar's three interceptions attributed to the Canes' seven-turnover day and 28-3 loss to the No. 7 Gators in Gainesville. The notion of running the table, winning eleven straight and competing for a National Championship were lofty goals after such a beating, yet that is just what Miami did. While September 3, 1983 hardly looked like the beginning of a dynasty, it was the first step in an amazing journey.
As Hurricanes abroad prepare for this year's championship game, there has to be a sense of deja vu when uttering the phrase, "Miami versus Nebraska." Same names, different faces. Oranges now replaced by unfamiliar Roses, yet the objective is the same -– winner takes all. Losing is not an option.
While eighteen years separate the beginning of the dynasty from present day, the mindset remains. All these years later, it's still a Canes thing. Outsiders don't understand. They'll never fathom the bliss of four National Championships in a nine-year span and can't comprehend the lows of coming up short to a Nittany Lion or Crimson Tide. From Vinny's five interceptions in a Fiesta-less evening to Lamar getting chased down and stripped in New Orleans, Canes abroad felt both like a punch to the midsection. That 5-6 season in 1997 was a kick in the family jewels.
But that's how Miami assesses the situation. React and respond accordingly.
Last season the Canes took a bad first half against Washington and turned it into a 21 game win streak. A make or break moment that would have crushed most teams, Miami saw the positive in the 35-29 loss and took something from that dreary day. Almost sixteen months later they are still riding that wave.
Makes you wonder if they stole a page from Howard Schnellenberger's history breaking Canes of 1983.
The season opening loss to the Gators was the first of many defining moments in Hurricane history. Tagged between the eyes, Miami came out swinging. An 0-1 record became 11-1 through determination and a belief in themselves as a unit.
"We looked at the game as if – from a technical standpoint – we had won it," said Coach Schnellenberger after the UF drubbing. "We tried to build on all those good things that happened in the Florida game so that we could use as a springboard down the season."
That resilient mindset might be that one aspect that Cane fans appreciate most and connect with.
Miami bounced back from the Florida loss by thwarting Houston and Purdue by a combined score of 64-7. Still, the first real test came in the form of nationally ranked Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish brought a No. 13 ranking and a typical pompous aura into the Orange Bowl that evening. The egos were almost forgivable as they sported a 13-2-1 lifetime record against Miami. Still, it was 1983 and this wasn't your father's Hurricane football team.
Freshman quarterback Bernie Kosar had his coming out party and shredded the Notre Dame pass defense.
"From a team standpoint and myself personally, the confidence really started growing after the Notre Dame victory," recalls Kosar. "There were a few doubts going into that game about where we started nationally – and because we were a young team, what type of ball club we had. I think after that game and the way we displayed ourselves on national TV – gave our team a lot of confidence for the rest of the season."
Kosar's career day combined with defensive back Reggie Sutton's two blocked field goals and thirteen tackles lifted the Canes to a 20-0 shutout of Notre Dame and gave Miami the confidence boost it needed to brave the final seven regular season games.
What was though to be a rebuilding year now had a legitimate chance of being the most memorable season in Miami's history.
The Canes rolled through Duke, Louisville, Mississippi State and Cincinnati and held a 7-1 record when No. 12 West Virginia made their way to the Miami in search of an upset of the nation's new No. 7 team.
With both the Canes and Mountaineers were emerging national powers vying for an Orange Bowl bid, it was merely another winner take all battle for this already tested Miami squad.
WVU brought a solid defense and touted quarterback Jeff Hostetler while the Canes brought a stout run defense and frustrated the Mountaineer gunslinger all afternoon. On offense, it was the Kosar to Glenn Dennison duo that was most potent against West Virginia. No. 20 got the ball to his tight end seven times, once for a touchdown. Miami took down their future BIG EAST foe 20-3 and prepared for a breather against East Carolina before the season finale against state rival Florida State.
That "breather" never came.
Instead, ECU provided the Hurricanes' biggest challenge since the season opener. The Pirates have since been regarded as Miami quickest and most aggressive opponent of the 1983 season.
Trailing 7-6 at the half, the Canes' defense held strong and salvation came in the form of a 52-yard Kosar to Eddie Brown pass, setting up the go-ahead Miami touchdown for the 13-7 win.
A week later the Canes' passed their final regular season test overcoming a late 16-7 lead in Tallahassee with a last second Jeff Davis field goal providing the 17-16 win.
The unthinkable had occurred.
An Orange Bowl bid was extended and the Canes as well as a place in Miamians' hearts forever. The big city embraced the little team that could.
"Occasionally, over the years, a group of people come together and the chemistry is right, the talent is right and they transcend the accomplishments of others," said former UM president Edward T. Foote as the Canes received their first Orange Bowl bid since 1951.
"That doesn't happen all the time and these young men behind me have made us all proud. They have electrified a university, they have electrified a community and they have set on fire the sports fans of an entire country – and that doesn't happen every year."
January 2, 1984 was what it would all come down to. 10-1, the Canes still had to pass their toughest test of the year.
To beat Nebraska was unthinkable. Almost sacrilege.
Just ask the pollsters who had Miami a 15-point underdog regardless of the 10-1 season and No. 4 ranking. This was the Cornhuskers. A team sporting the current Heisman Trophy and Outland Trophy winners. Quite possibly facing one of the greatest teams of all time, the Canes held onto their quiet confidence.
The fact that Georgia had taken down No. 2 Texas did nothing more than set the table for the monumental upset.
Miami had come this far – what did they have to lose?
"Our defense had played so many different types of offenses that we were accustomed to their (Nebraska's) offense," said linebacker Jack Fernandez.
"We knew what they were practically going to run. We just had to get down, get dirty, beat the physical offensive line that they had and play aggressive football, which we did."
All of this from someone who started the Orange Bowl as a back up and walked away with defensive MVP honors.
Yet the Canes did just that.
Schnellenberger's concern was that his Canes would peak too early. They needed to keep level heads, remain balanced and stay focused for sixty minutes.
Miami jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Kosar was electric, the ground attack was potent and the defense held their ground in typical Hurricane form.
It was almost too easy.
Sitting on a 17-14 halftime lead, the Miami defense held strong early in the third quarter, keeping Nebraska out of the end zone. With momentum back on the Canes' side, UM held a 31-17 lead going into the game's final fifteen minutes.
Nebraska wouldn't go quietly into the South Florida night.
Words can hardly explain the final quarter of this monumental game. On their heels, Miami gave up thirteen unanswered and Nebraska pulled to within one. 31-30 and with no desire for a tie, the two point conversion was attempted. The rest is our history.
Kenny Calhoun, thank you.
Your right hand should be bronzed. It truly was the beginning of something beautiful.
The greatest collegiate success story of all time was achieved. A dynasty was born. A lifestyle and mindset created.
The 1983 Hurricanes were dubbed a "team of destiny." Maybe. Good teams find a way to win, great teams sometimes get that lucky bounce. Such is true in 2001. Whether Mike Rumph's knee, Matt Walters' amazing hands or Virginia Tech's Ernest Wilford's slippery ones – this year's Canes have made their breaks while never saying "no" to a little charity.
Come January 3rd, a new group of quietly confident Canes will get their shot. Rest assured they've heard the stories of those who were there before them and want nothing more than to secure their own place in Hurricane history.
Born and raised in Miami, Chris Bello now lives in San Diego, CA and works as a freelance writer. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org