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Published 07/24/2013
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#BuildingChampions Wednesday: 1991 Football
By David Villavicencio
The University of Miami has won five National Championships in football and each title-winning team has been unique from the others.
From 1983-2002, the Hurricanes won five of a possible 20 championships, the most of any school in that two-decade span. Five different head coaches guided the program over those 20 years, building one of the greatest dynasties in college football history.
After highlighting the award-winning #BuildingChampions campaign and the “It Starts With U” initiative to increase Hurricane Club membership, looked atthe characteristics of what made the 1987 team champions and the 1983 one-point win over Florida State that propelled the Canes into a match-up against No. 1 Nebraska.
The series also looked at arguably the greatest team assembled in college football history, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, as well as the 1989 team that won the first of two national championships under Dennis Erickson. 
Last week we broke down another key moment in the 1983 national championship season, the victory over No. 13 Notre Dame that was the biggest win to date in program history.
This week’s edition of #BuildingChampions Wednesday looks at the 1991 national championship season, the second under head coach Dennis Erickson and Miami’s fourth of five National Championships.
The Canes had already won a championship under head coach Dennis Erickson, capturing the 1989 title with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. But the 1991 season saw Miami put together its best season under Erickson.
The ‘91 Hurricanes were the second team to finish undefeated in University of Miami football history, joining the Jimmy Johnson-led 1987 team with a 12-0 record. Miami beat nine of their 12 opponents by double digits and knocked off four ranked teams on the year: No. 10 Houston, No. 9 Penn State, No. 1 Florida State and No. 11 Nebraska.
Miami started the season by ripping Arkansas on the road and dominating a Houston offense that had terrorized opponents for four seasons up to that game. The Canes’ first stiff challenge came against Penn State on October 12 and the Hurricanes, behind staunch defense and big plays by Horace Copeland (80-yard scoring catch) and Kevin Williams (91-yard punt return for a TD) held off the Nittany Lions.

Two challenges in November punctuated the season. First was the annual grudge match in Tallahassee against Florida State. In what became known as “Wide Right I,” the Hurricanes erased a 16-7 deficit in the final period on a 45-yard field goal by Carlos Huerta and a one-yard run by Larry Jones with 3:01 left to take a 17-16 lead. The Seminoles marched down
the fieldfor a potential game-winning field goal in the closing seconds, but FSU kicker Gerry Thomas’ 34-yard attempt was wide right and the Canes held on for a one-point win.

Miami escaped another close call a week later,
slipping past Boston College on the road. The Hurricanes defense held off a late BC drive in the final seconds to preserve the 19-14 victory. A blowout of San Diego State clinched an Orange Bowl berth.

With their fourth national title in their sights, the Hurricanes stymied Nebraska’s offense as few had, limiting the Cornhuskers’ ground game to just 82 rushing yards and throwing a shutout of the Big Eight Conference champions.

The victory gave Miami the national title in the Associated Press rankings. The Hurricanes shared overall national honors with Rose Bowl champ Washington, which nudged ahead in the coaches’ poll.

“To win one national championship is amazing,” Erickson said following the national title win. “For guys to win their second in three years, that hasn’t been accomplished by many. That’s what makes this championship special. And it came in a situation where we had not been picked to be that good. Some people said we’d be No. 3 in the state of Florida.”
Miami’s offense was led by the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Gino Torretta. Receivers Horace Copeland, Lamar Thomas and Kevin Williams teamed with running backs Stephen McGuire and Darryl Spencer to form a skill position group known as “The Ruthless Posse” that helped make the Canes one of the most explosive offenses in college football.
Defensively, the Canes had one of the top linebacking trios in the history of college football in BIG EAST Co-Defensive Player of the Year Darrin Smith, Micheal Barrow and Jessie Armstead. Defensive ends Rusty Medearis and Kevin Patrick pressured quarterbacks, while All-American free safety Darryl Williams led a talented secondary that included standouts Hurlie Brown and Ryan McNeil.
The ’91 Canes had five players earn first team All-America honors: offensive tackle Leon Searcy, linebacker Darrin Smith, safety Darryl Williams, return man Kevin Williams and kicker Carlos Huerta. Kevin Williams also was named BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year.
Searcy and Darryl Williams were both first round picks in the NFL Draft, leading a group of six Canes selected following the ’91 season.
To help build champions and join the Hurricane Club, visit Follow Associate AD Jesse Marks on Twitter, @jessehmarks, for all the latest Hurricane Club updates.