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, HurricaneSports.com looked at the characteristics of what made the 1987 team champions and arguably the greatest team assembled in college football history, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.
The series alos honored the 30th anniversary of the 1983 National Championship season by taking in-depth looks at key games such as the victory over No. 13 Notre Dame that was the biggest win to date in program history and the one-point win over Florida State that propelled the Canes into a match-up against No. 1 Nebraska.
This week’s edition of #BuildingChampions Wednesday focuses on the 1984 Orange Bowl game against the top-ranked Cornhuskers and what it meant for the Hurricanes football program.
Kenny Calhoun led the 1983 Hurricanes with three interceptions returned for a combined 92 yards. The Titusville, Fla., native was also the only Hurricane to return an interception for a touchdown that year.
But the junior safety’s biggest play of the season came late in the 1984 Orange Bowl against a heavily favored Nebraska.
The Hurricanes held a 7-point lead in the final minute until the Huskers scored with 48 seconds remaining to pull within one, 31-30. Instead of kicking the extra point to play for a tie, Nebraska’s legendary head coach Tom Osborne elected to go for two and the outright win.
“There was no doubt in my mind that he would go for two and there was no doubt in Tom Osborne’s mind that he would go for two,” Miami head coach Howard Schnellenberger said following the game. “He is a champion and he went after it like a champion.”
Nebraska QB Turner Gill rolled out of the pocket, aiming for Jeff Smith. However, Calhoun deflected Gill's pass away to seal Miami's 31-30 Orange Bowl victory and the program's first football National Championship.
“There is no doubt in my mind or in anyone else’s mind in our locker room that the Miami Hurricanes are the No. 1 team in America.”
Calhoun’s play clinched the first of Miami’s five football National Championships to date, but he was far from the only player to contribute in the program-changing victory over Nebraska.
Freshman quarterback Bernie Kosar threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns. Senior tight end Glenn Dennison was on the receiving end of both Kosar touchdowns, while senior Albert Bentley and freshman Alonzo Highsmith each ran for a score from the fullback position.
Miami’s Eddie Brown, who would earn All-America honors the following season, had 115 yards on six catches against Nebraska, while Stanley Shakespeare caught three balls for 63 yards that January evening.
Calhoun, who tallied 10 tackles against Nebraska, was one of several Miami defenders to make a big impact against the nation’s top-ranked team.
Three seniors led Miami in tackles against Nebraska, making a major contribution in their final game donning the orange and green. Linebacker Jack Fernandez tallied 15 tackles and an interception, while safety Eddie Williams collected 13 tackles and All-American linebacker Jay Brophy matched Calhoun with 10 tackles.
“Our defense played a super football game,” Schnellenberger said after beating Nebraska. “Playing great football against a great, great team, the previously No. 1 ranked team in America.”
Miami’s all-around effort on Jan. 2, 1984 allowed the Canes to win their first football National Championship on their home field. Though the Hurricanes were the visitors in the 50th anniversary Orange Bowl game, they claimed their first championship in front of 72,549 fans that were there to support their hometown team.
“You could see it in the stadium tonight,” Schnellenberger said following the victory. “This Greater Miami area is totally involved in our program. It is a love affair that has been blossoming for five years. It is the fulfillment of a dream, of maybe just the beginning of a dream for our football program to win this game tonight.”
Schnellenberger, who won the 1983 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, was right. The win over No. 1 Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl was just the beginning for what has become one of the greatest programs in the history of college football.
The Hurricanes would go on to win four more National Championships between 1983 and 2001. Miami would produce two undefeated seasons (1991, 2001) and set an NCAA record for consecutive wins at home, winning 58 straight games from 1985-94.
Miami would have two players win the Heisman Trophy, Vinny Testaverde (1986) and Gino Torretta (1992) and win multiple national awards including the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Thorpe Award, Outland Trophy, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Trophy, Unitas Golden Arm Award, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Rimington Trophy, Mackey Award and the Draddy Award.
Since 1983, the football program has produced 47 first-team All-Americans, four players and a coach that would become members of the College Football Hall of Fame and four players who would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Miami has had 261 players selected in the NFL Draft, including two No. 1 overall picks (Testaverde, 1986 and Russell Maryland, 1991), since the university won its first National Championship in 1983.
The Hurricanes have produced 39 players who have combined to make 122 Pro Bowl appearances and have seen 83 players reach the Super Bowl since their victory over Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl.