1991: King Of The Hill

Oh 1991, where have you gone? Feels like yesterday yet a million years ago at the same time. Memories of the last championship season have been savored by Cane fans for the past decade. Was it under appreciated and undervalued? Everyone associated with UM expected Miami to be in the title game year in and year out. The new precedence had been set. The Canes <I>had</I> to compete for it all every year.

Yet they didn't. Probation brought a drought to the mid and late nineties. Championships took place in Tallahassee and Gainesville. Miami was depleted – but no longer. A decade later the 2001 Canes are looking to do exactly what the 1991 Canes did. Defeat Nebraska, enjoy the fruits of an undefeated season and return the winning ways to Coral Gables where they belong. The City of Miami needs another championship parade, already.

Unlike 2001, Miami's last championship season began with low expectations. A young team with a tough schedule, 1991 looked to be more of a "reloading" year. The Canes opened at Arkansas and pounded the Razorbacks 31-3 before returning home the following week to meet No. 10 Houston. The Cougars sported quarterback and Heisman trophy candidate David Klingler and his run-and-shoot offense.

Sacked six times in the contest, both Houston and Klingler were exposed and while one Heisman candidate's dreams were squashed, another's were born. Future trophy winner Gino Torretta outplayed Klingler and led the No 2 Canes to a 47-10 victory.

Like a hot knife through butter, Miami did away with Tulsa and Oklahoma State. With a 4-0 record the Canes welcomed No. 9 Penn State to the Orange Bowl for another hardnosed, defensive contest between these two powers.

Miami opened the floodgates and attacked Nittany Lion quarterback Tony Sacca, sacking him nine times on the day.

Two Carlos Huerta field goals had Miami and Penn State tied 6-6 at halftime but in the second half the Canes' passing game exploded. Scoring strikes from Torretta to both Lamar Thomas and Horace Copeland put Miami ahead but it was Kevin Williams' 91-yard punt return that proved to be the difference in this 26-20 Hurricane thriller.

Special Teams proved to be an intriguing storyline for the Canes in 1991. Williams return ability was the main ingredient in putting points on the board but in regards to field position, it was Derrick Golden who electrified his troops on punt coverage. The ever-reliable Carlos Huerta maintained his consistency and was again one of Miami's most potent weapons in this championship season.

In typical Hurricane fashion, the Canes eased through their next three opponents before heading north to Tallahassee for a game that was immediately embedded in Hurricane hearts forever. What started out a typical, ho-hum No. 2 Miami and No. 1 Florida State contest ended with one of the most memorable finishes in this series' history.

Vintage Miami, the defense again was gang tackling everything in garnet and gold. Team speed and team strength would win this game. Miami took it to the ground immediately and a few Stephen McGuire runs had Miami ahead 7-0 in the first quarter.

From there the defensive slugfest began. Every receiver who caught a pass paid a price. There were no cheap yards in this battle.

Down 16-7 in the second half, it was a Charles Pharms interception that woke up the sleeping Miami giant. Moments later it was another McGuire run and Huerta field goal that had the Canes trailing 16-10 late in the third.

Fourth quarter the stage was set for Miami to pull ahead. While the first 10 minutes of the final quarter were nothing more than a game of cat and mouse, the Canes crept into scoring position and with a 4th down and 8 from the Noles 13-yard line. Torretta dropped back and found Copeland on the three-yard line for the first down. A play later McGuire's touchdown put Miami ahead 17-16 and the Noles began a final drive that would end with a thud.

Let the Wide Right era begin and may it never end.

Wins at Tallahassee have come few and far between. The 2001 and 1991 squads are the last two to take down the Noles at home.

Another similarity between these two memorable UM squads are their ability to struggle at Chestnut Hill. While the 2001 Canes needed Mike Rumph's "quad from God" to save what could've been an unthinkable outcome, 1991's Miami team needed a few defensive stands of their own to escape with a 19-14 win, setting up the season finale against San Diego State.

Canes 39 Aztecs 12

With another perfect regular season in tact, a shot at the title has been earned. Shouted from the rooftops by both the 1991 and 2001 teams – Bring on Nebraska.

As always, Nebraska brought the No. 1 rushing team to the 1992 Orange Bowl. In typical Miami fashion, the Canes shut it down completely.

Nebraska's first drive resulted in a three and out as Miami's defensive team speed was too much to handle. On offense, the Canes stayed true to form and began lighting up the Miami skyline. "The Gino Torretta to Kevin Williams Show" started early and ended late. Tallying 51-yards in five plays, the Canes were on the scoreboard within minutes. A drive later the Huskers were punting again and Torretta found human pretzel Lamar Thomas for a quick strike, setting up a Carlos Huerta field goal.

True to their playbook, Nebraska stuck with the option. Knowing what was in store, defensive back Ryan McNeil snuffed out the play, recovered the fumble and had the potent Miami offense back on the field wreaking more havoc. By the end of the first quarter, the Canes held a 13-0 lead and all of the momentum.

For all intents and purposes, the game was over by the half. Nebraska never showed up and Miami smelled victory. Holding the Nebraska offense to less than half a yard on first down for three quarters, the Hurricane defense no longer set its site on winning. They wanted the shutout. They got it.

With the score 22-0 going into the final quarter and staying remaining way, the Huskers total less than 200 total yards this evening and are shutout for the first time since 1973. The No. 1 rushing team in the nation is shut down and it is the Miami ground game that steals the show – grinding out the final eight minutes of the contest and earning running back Larry Jones MVP honors.

Three rings in five years for the Canes. Not to mention a 33-3 record for Dennis Erickson and two National Championships in his first three season. Almost expected a decade ago, yet unthinkable now… or is it?

In yet another déjà vu moment between the 1991 and 2001 Canes, it is another first year head coach gunning for a championship. An 11-0 Larry Coker leads his troops into battle in less than a week. Hoping for history to repeat itself over and over again, the 2001 Canes will look at that all too familiar "N" logo of the past and look to make some history of their own.

Keep the tradition alive, Canes.

Rose Bowl 2002 Prediction

Canes 38 Huskers 20

Click here to buy the 1991 "King Of The Hill" video!

"King Of The Hill" is the fourth and final 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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