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Nebraska-UM rivalry through the years

Hurricanes are 4-1 all-time vs. Cornhuskers

OMAHA, Neb.This original column by Lee Barfknecht first appeared in the Omaha World-Herald

Miami and Nebraska have a complicated relationship when it comes to football.

The highs and lows they have handed each other are about as high and low as you can get. And the names involved are among the most recognizable in the sport.

Bob Devaney's first bowl game and bowl victory was over Miami in the 1962 Gotham Bowl. (If you have a program from that sparsely attended game at frozen Yankee Stadium, preserve it. Collectors pay $500 for them.)

Howard Schnellenberger transformed his coaching career and Miami's program by upsetting supposedly unbeatable Nebraska in the 1983 season. Yet Tom Osborne came away as the hero by going for a two-point conversion when a tying PAT would have secured his first national title.

Two of the sport's rascals, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, hounded the Huskers.

Johnson, in his final college game before going to the NFL, thumped NU in the Orange Bowl in the 1988 season. Erickson claimed a share of the 1991 national championship with an Orange Bowl shutout of NU.

Osborne gained the upper hand in the 1994 season, appropriately winning his first national championship by beating No. 3 Miami in Miami. That erased the can't-win-the-big-one talk for good.

Having covered eight Orange Bowls, I've spent nearly three months of my life in Miami, often writing about the Hurricanes and Huskers. With Miami coming to Memorial Stadium on Saturday night to renew this infrequent series, it's time to recall some of the back stories:

1983 season Orange Bowl: No. 5 Miami 31, No. 1 Nebraska 30

If there had been time at the time, a book about the seven days leading up to this game would have been a huge seller. Maybe it's not too late.

Husker stars Mike Rozier and Irving Fryar couldn't set foot in the hotel lobby without a cluster of agents trailing them.

NU defensive coordinator Charlie McBride was frantic about the task ahead.

Schnellenberger used a helicopter to travel to events, including landing at the 10-yard line during Orange Bowl media day just as Nebraska wrapped up its session.

Ten years later, he told me: "That was planned. We were sitting out over the city watching our watches. About 10 seconds before our scheduled arrival, we shot into the stadium — knowing that Nebraska would see it.''

New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who engineered the biggest Super Bowl surprise ever with an upset of the Baltimore Colts at the Orange Bowl, was drafted as Miami's "Assistant Coach in Charge of Upsets.''

Namath spoke to the Hurricanes the night before about winning the big one, then hung out with the team on game day and watched from the sideline.

Said Schnellenberger: "He was cracking jokes and telling guys to check out certain cheerleaders. He kept everybody loose.''

During the game, most remember that Nebraska fell behind 17-0 and resorted to the Fumblerooski to score, with All-America guard Dean Steinkuhler going in from the 19.

But how many recall Osborne's bizarre decision to have defensive backs Mike McCashland and Dave Burke switch jersey numbers, an attempt to confuse Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar's reads? It didn't work. The Hurricanes scored 31 points in the first 35 minutes.

The rest, you know about. Someday, more book material will come out on that crazy week in South Florida.

1988 season Orange Bowl: No. 2 Miami 23, No. 6 Nebraska 3

Nebraska beat Oklahoma on the road 7-3 to win the Big Eight title and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl. But OU coach Barry Switzer said the consolation to losing was that his team wouldn't have to go to Miami to play Miami.

The Huskers found out the hard way what Switzer meant.

Miami, which learned earlier on bowl day that Notre Dame had locked up the national title, took out its frustrations on Nebraska.

The Huskers never snapped the ball in Miami territory in the first half. Of NU's two first downs in the first half, one was by penalty and the other aided by a penalty. It took Gregg Barrios' career-long 50-yard field goal in the third quarter to avoid a shutout.

"I felt very bad for our seniors,'' Osborne said then. "I was embarrassed for them that we didn't play better. I really thought we would have a good chance to win. We played hard, but we weren't real sharp for some reason.''

1991 season Orange Bowl: No. 1 Miami 22, No. 11 Nebraska 0

God bless Johnny Mitchell.

Nebraska's ultra-talented sophomore tight end — tired of hearing how No. 1 Miami would drill the 10-point underdog Huskers — fired back while at Orange Bowl media day. He picked NU to win.

"It won't be an upset,'' Mitchell said, "because I know we have a great team. The media has made Miami out to be more than they seem to be.

"Nebraska has been up there for 25 or 30 years. But when you get some new teams on the block, the media tend to say, ‘Move aside and let the new teams in.' That irritates me. When the pushing and the shoving and the hitting starts, the real men will come out.''

That was about it as far as good things to write about Nebraska on that trip. Miami won its fourth national title in nine years by beating NU 22-0, the first shutout of the Huskers in 221 games over 19 seasons.