25 Years Later: 1987 National Champions
Check the Miami Hurricanes football record books, and one year seems to pop up more often than any other: 1987.
That was the year the Hurricanes were supposed to be rebuilding. Reloading was more accurate. This Miami team was supposed be the lull before the storm of 1988 and 1989. After all, the Hurricanes had lost five starters on offense from a team that had come within a whisper of a national title in 1985 and a 1986 squad that was considered among the best ever, only to lose its title shot in the Fiesta Bowl.
But this team was more offensively balanced than the previous season's juggernaut and, with nine starters returning to an underrated defense, the Hurricanes were a more well-rounded team altogether. Ranked 10th in the preseason Associated Press rankings, this team quickly showed it would be better than advertised.
Miami ripped rival Florida in the season opener, then embarrassed Arkansas on the Razorbacks' home ﬁeld. The season's third game was a classic. Being dominated by fourth-ranked Florida State, 19-3, late in the third quarter, Miami launched one of its greatest comebacks. The Hurricanes scored three lightning-quick touchdowns: a 49-yard bomb from Steve Walsh to Melvin Bratton, a 26-yarder from Walsh to Michael Irvin (plus a two-point conversion to tie it at 19), then a 73-yard strike from Walsh to Irvin for the lead with 2:22 remaining. Miami would have to stop an FSU two-pointer to hold for a 26-25 victory.
There seemed to be no stopping these Hurricanes after that.
Miami rolled through the remainder of the regular season, ripping 10th-ranked Notre Dame (24-0) and surviving a scare from eighth-ranked South Carolina (20-16) to set up a matchup with top-ranked Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl Classic on New Year's Day. The Hurricanes bottled up OU's wishbone attack, holding the Sooners to just 179 yards on the ground (OU came in averaging 428.8). Elation for Miami was frustration for OU - the Sooners only three losses over the last three seasons had come to the Hurricanes.
"We played our way to this championship," head coach Jimmy Johnson said. "We have the best record versus anybody in the country . . . We beat Oklahoma three in a row, Florida State and Notre Dame three in a row, Florida a couple."
By year's end, the Hurricanes had allowed a mere 125 points. Miami took down six ranked opponents that fall - including No. 20 Florida, No. 4 FSU, No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 1 Oklahoma. The Canes earned victories by an average of 23.9 yards, scoring over 40 points on five different games. This was more than just the program's second national championship - this was history in the making.
"What is sweetest is that we did it as a team," Johnson said. "We lost starters and had other guys come in and played magniﬁcently.