1987: Press On

Sitting pretty at 2-0, the No. 3 Canes would get their <I>true</I> road test the following week in Tallahassee against the No. 4 Seminoles in another down-to-the-wire meeting between these two rivals. FSU stole the momentum with an early 16-0 lead and while former Cane teams had handled this style of adversity, this was a first for the 1987 bunch. Yet Jimmy Johnson kept his kids optimistic.

"We really felt like we could come back on Florida State," said Johnson. "We had been behind against Florida State in the fourth quarter the two previous years and so at halftime I said all we have to do is settle down and not turn the ball over. Be patient on offense because we're going to be able to hit some of the passes. The other thing is we've got to play with more intensity on defense."

Spoken like a true prophet, Johnson's Canes rallied.

In the blink of an eye Steve Walsh found Melvin Bratton for a 49-yard touchdown. On the ensuing drive Daniel Stubbs came up with a clutch interception and the Miami offense made its way back onto the field. Michael Irvin caught a 26-yard touchdown and after the two-point conversion, the game was tied at 19. Within moments, a Bennie Blades fumble recovery would set up one of the most memorable plays in Hurricane history.

While Michael Irvin had more than his shares of jaw dropping plays as a Cane, none was more remarkable than his 80-yard sideline strike from Walsh. On this day No. 47 earned the name "Playmaker."

"Steve called the play – a 10 yard out," remembers Irvin. "I came out and when I lined up, it was man to man coverage. I looked over to Steve, patted my hip which means he's in man."

Walsh made the adjustment, threaded his pass between two defenders, found Irvin and it was taillights from there.

While the Noles rallied for a final touchdown, Bubba McDowell intercepted the two point conversion and Miami held on 26-25.

The next six games were all Miami. Maryland, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Miami (OH), Virginia Tech and Toledo never stood a chance. The Canes outscored their competition 240-59. Defense became the heart and soul of this UM team while Stubbs, Jones, Hawkins and Mark quickly solidified themselves in Miami history.

Holding tight to a 9-0 record, the No. 2 Hurricanes prepared for No. 10 Notre Dame's visit to the Orange Bowl. Lou Holtz brought an upset minded bunch to South Florida, but Miami would allow no one to play the role of spoiler this season.

Daniel Stubbs led a Miami defense that shut down Notre Dame's highly touted running game. Sporting a 10-0 halftime lead, the Canes pulled away late for a 24-0 final score. The first shutout against the Irish since Miami blanked them in 1983.

A final game stood between the Canes and another shot at a National Championship. Miami welcomed No. 8 South Carolina into the Orange Bowl for another nail biter. Much like the 2001 Canes against a Boston College or Virginia Tech – Miami found a way to win. The final score – 20-16. Up next – No. 1 Oklahoma.

Big VII power against Independent Miami. No. 1 versus No. 2, in the Orange Bowl, for the championship.

The Canes made their statement early with a 30-yard strike from Walsh to Bratton. None of that three yards and a cloud of dust nonsense for Miami. Open it up on offense and hang tough on defense.

While a knee injury forced him to leave the game, Bratton walked away with nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.

With starting linebacker George Mira Jr. suspended for the Orange Bowl, Bernard Clark rose to the occasion. With 14 tackles, "Tiger" Clark not only took part in holding the Sooners' offense to 255 total yards – he walked away with the game's MVP award as well.

When the clock hit 0:00, the scoreboard read 20-14. The Canes prevailed in fine form. Images of a wet headed Jimmy Johnson with arms raised in a "V" still bring a smiles to Canes' faces. A second National Championship was in the books. While Miami would never forget the Penn State loss, Miami fans nationwide slept a little better the evening of January 1, 1988 knowing that the No. 1 team in the country was in their backyards.

The bitter taste the 1986 finale left in their mouths helped propel the 1987 Canes to a National Championship. Riding a 21-game win streak into the 2002 Rose Bowl, this year's UM squad wants to experience the fruits of their labors. While 2001 didn't have the ending Miami was looking for; they are days away from making history and bringing the title back a once familiar site. The City of Miami is all too ready for that celebration parade. Bring it home fellas.

Click here to buy the 1987 "Press On" video!

"Press On" is the second installment in our four part "Remember The Times" series leading up to the 2002 Rose Bowl. Take a trip back in Hurricanes' football history and relive the amazing championship seasons of 1983, 1987, 1989 and 1991 in these editorials written by Grassy.com's Chris Bello. Also, be sure to check out our National Champs Video Set in the Online Store to get in that Rose Bowl state of mind!

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 cbello@san.rr.com

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