The Miami Hurricanes have a long and storied history, with many glorious, memorable victories.
They’ve produced the greatest football team in college football history.
They’ve invaded the national ethos. If someone mentions “Wide Right,” any college football fan knows exactly what is being talked about.
The program itself is iconic, with legendary filmmaker Billy Corben producing 2 documentaries on the football program, The U and The U Part 2. A third documentary, “Catholics versus Convicts,” talks about the Notre Dame-Miami rivalry in the 80s.
The Canes’ ascension into the ethos of sports culture, and the subsequent hyper focus on the program, has resulted in games and performances that would be legendary and program defining at most programs being relegated to the background, mere scenery.
But they shouldn’t be, and if the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that it’s never to late to right wrongs, to tell people we care about them, and to argue over inane, unimportant stuff. And this will accomplish all 3 of those things.
The Selection Criteria
The general selection criteria was flatly my opinion. But I did try to use some consistent logic, which I’m sure I violated multiple times. With that said, I did intentionally exclude any National Championship games or rivalry games (Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech) since by definition, those are never really forgotten. So, while Kirby Freeman dropped this dime to beat FSU in a game that would otherwise make the list, in this instance, it does not. I also intentionally excluded certain games, like 1998 UCLA, which do live on Canes’ lore.
I fully acknowledge my own recency bias towards games I remember. I didn’t even consider games prior to the Canes’ first championship in 1983. And some games received deference because they are important to me. The importance of the game in the larger scheme of things might have had a tangential impact, but was not specifically considered, with a huge exception for any game that was really important, but is now forgotten and not viewed as such. For the very recent games, I thought about whether it would make the list 15-20 years from now.
And that’s pretty much it. I’m sure I’ve excluded some games entirely that are other people’s number 1 game. In the end, I settled on 10 Honorable Mentions and 12 Games to countdown. And without further ado, the list.
These are in chronological order and just missed making the dozen.
- 1987 Miami vs. South Carolina – this one would have threatened to crack the Top 12, but it’s debatable whether this already memorable, due to a brawl . The Canes hung on for a 20-16 win en route to the 1987 National Championship. The story of this game was the defense, that stymied South Carolina multiple times to preserve the win. While the legendary FSU game of that year gets all the accolades, this game deserves recognition.
- 1991 Miami vs . Penn State – Another game that lead to a National Championship. This was a back-and-forth affair with the Canes having several explosive plays offset by long, methodical drives from the Nittany Lions. Future Heisman Trophy winner (and all-around great guy) Gino Torretta was brilliant, in particular in the second half. Torretta threw TD passes of 80- and 42-yards, and Kevin Williams ran back a punt for a 91-yard TD as the Canes escaped 26-20.
- 1992 Miami @ Penn State – The rematch a year later saw another close game. The Canes jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but Penn State repeatedly rallied. A huge Pick 6 from Darren Krein was ultimately decisive as the Canes hung on for a 17-14 win in a season that ultimately fell one game short of a championship. I also picked this game because it was one of 3 extremely close games in a row. 2 weeks before, the Canes escaped against Arizona 8-7 when the Wildcats missed a FG as time expired (barely Wide Right). The next week was the famous Wide Right II. And this game followed a similar pattern of the Canes just making enough plays to win. The narrative around the ’92 team is one of a team that went undefeated and then blew a title against Alabama. But this team was as mentally tough as it was good, and repeatedly gutted out wins. This game represents that.
- 2003 Miami vs. West Virginia – I take you back to a time where Miami was undoubtedly the premier program in the country. On a Thursday Night against West Virginia, we saw the first signs of the empire crumbling. It was a sluggish game, but the Canes were running the clock down, and at midfield, leading 19-13. Then everything came apart. Jarrett Payton fumbled, and all of a sudden West Virginia had an opportunity. On 3rd and 13, the Mountaineers called a screen pass which the Canes snuffed out…but Quincy Wilson made one of the great forgotten plays in College Football history, evading Vince Wilfork, juking past Sean Taylor, beating Jonathan Vilma to the corner, and then running over Brandon Meriweather on his way to the end zone. The Canes had their own conversion, on the following drive, with Kellen Winslow catching a pass on 4th and 13. The Canes kicked the winning FG to win 22-20. The highlights are worth a rewatch.
- 2005 Miami vs. North Carolina– The Virginia Tech win the next week is the one that everyone remembers. But it was set up by this comeback. The Orange Bowl was battered by Hurricane Wilma, with the upper deck closed. The Canes trailed 16-7 at halftime, and then exploded in the second half, running off 27 straight points. The late, great Tyrone Moss had 195 yards and 4 TDs in what was his last game before tearing his ACL, an injury that stymied his career. And that’s one thing that makes this game memorable. Watching a healthy Moss run was a thing of beauty. The throwback jerseys the Canes wore were not.
- 2010 Miami @ Clemson – This was back when 3 teams (Dolphins, Marlins, and Hurricanes) shared one stadium, with the Canes lowest on the pecking order. That means that if the Marlins happened to have a weekend series in September, the Canes had to hit the road. And this was the Canes 3rd consecutive road game against major competition, having already played Ohio State and Pitt. The game after this was essentially the beginning of the end of the Randy Shannon Era, where a favored Miami team was blown out by 4 TDs by FSU at home. And that’s why this game is lost to time. But Jacory Harris threw 4 TDs, and the Canes came out of one of the toughest places to play in the country with a 9 point win, thanks to a wild 2nd quarter where Harris threw 3 TDs and 2 INTs.
- 2013 Miami @ North Carolina – This was a prototypical Al Golden game. Both teams put up over .500 yards and the Canes found themselves in a close game with a poor North Carolina team who came into the game at 1-5. The Thursday Night game was on National TV. Duke Johnson had a concussion in the 1st quarter and missed most of the game. Miami’s offense struggled, but a huge blocked FG return for a TD at least kept the Canes in touching distance. UNC lead 23-13 in the 4th quarter, but from there, Dallas Crawford took over, with 2 TDs, including the winner with 16 seconds left. Crawford, who was not expected to play much, stepped up carrying the ball 33 times for 137 yards. But this was a Mark D’Onofrio defense, so somehow, North Carolina got into scoring range, and had a throw into the end zone to win, but it was batted down and the Canes escaped 27-23.
- 2015 Miami vs. Nebraska – I almost excluded this from the list, because it was a win that felt like a loss. Still, it is a crazy game. I also remember this because I was on a plane to Thailand during this game, streaming it on dodgy wifi that kept disconnecting. With the Canes up 27-3 in the 3rd quarter, and the game feeling out of hand, I briefly considered turning it off. But I know D’Onofrio better than that. The margin was still 33-10 with under 10 minutes left, when Nebraska ran off 23 straight points, including 2 successful 2-point conversions. The game was decided when Corn Elder had an INT in the first OT, and Nebraska made a late hit on him, setting the Canes up at half the distance on their possession. The FG was automatic from there.
- 2017 Miami @ Georgia Tech – This one is recent, and is remembered for Darrell Langham’s 4th down catch. But it’s hard to remember how wild this game was. Miami dominated this game outgaining Georgia Tech by 200 yards, but couldn’t finish drives, kicking 4 short FGs. GT scored TDs on consecutive drives to build a 14-3 lead, but the Canes responded and GT lead by 1 at the half. That’s when it got loopy. Mark Richt tried a surprise onside kick to start the 2nd half. It was returned for a TD and Miami spent the rest of the game chasing, especially after missing a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game. In the end, the Canes won on a last second FG in a monsoon.
- 2019 Miami @ Pittsburgh – This is from the past season, so probably doesn’t need much explanation. But when we look back on this game a decade from now, the Miami defense digging deep with a goal line stand to force a FG, Jarren Williams coming off the bench in relief to lead the winning TD drive, and the Canes escaping with a victory will be something we remember (or not), which is why this makes the list.
Every weekday, we’ll reveal the next game.
Game 12: 2013 Wake Forest at Miami
Game 11: 1997 Miami @ Boston College
Game 10: 2004 Miami @ Virginia
Game 9: 2012 Miami @ Georgia Tech
Game 8: 2009 Miami @ Wake Forest
Game 7: 2008 Miami @ Virginia
Game 6: 1991 Miami @ Boston College
Game 5: 2012 NC State @ Miami
Game 4: 2004 Louisville @ Miami
Game 3: 2005 Miami @ Clemson
Game 2: 1988 Miami @ Michigan
Game 1: 1999 Miami @ Boston College