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Victory in '85 marked Miami's arrival as college football beast

by Berry Tramel Modified: September 4, 2007 at 12:19 am •  Published: September 4, 2007
Here's when you knew tremors rippled under Owen Field during the 1985 Oklahoma-Miami game, when you knew that football history was altered right before our very eyes.

Not when Vinny Testaverde threw that 56-yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin that sparked Miami's 27-14 upset. Not when Jerome Brown sacked Troy Aikman into a broken ankle. Not when OU's reins were handed to little Jamelle Holieway.

Football's course veered when Miami fullback Alonzo Highsmith popped Sooner linebacker Brian Bosworth and knocked The Boz to the ground. Highsmith "stood over the top of (Bosworth) and said something to him that I can't repeat,” said then-Miami coach Jimmy Johnson.

Under that October sky, America saw the birth of a football culture. The Boz was brawny and brash and blessed with great talent. But here came a whole team of Bosworths. Irvin and Brown and the Blades brothers and Highsmith and a host of other epic Miami players who commandeered college football's villain role and started a reign of terror.

"I can remember Melvin Bratton and Alonzo giving Brian Bosworth fits with all the talking,” said Bennie Blades, a great safety on those Johnson teams. "It was a fun rivalry. I'm glad they're bringing that back.”

OU and Miami resume that storied series with a game Saturday at Owen Field. The Sooners seem the likely victor; they also seemed the likely victor in 1985. You never know when history will strike.

Miami had won the 1983 national title under Howard Schnellenberger but did so almost under dark of night. Those 'Canes won the title on their home field, the Orange Bowl, courtesy of Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who gave up a sure national title by going for a late 2-point conversion that failed.

On Oct. 19, 1985, Johnson was a year and a half into a so-far forgettable run at Miami. His record was 12-6. His victims included Cincinnati and Rice twice each, East Carolina, a Flutieless Boston College, a weak Pitt, a weak Louisville.

But starting that day at Owen Field, Miami went 84-7 over the next 7

seasons and won three national titles.

Barry Switzer's best 91-game stretch was 80-9-2. Bud Wilkinson's was 84-5-2. Bear Bryant's was 83-8. Knute Rockne's was 80-8-3. Big-talking and tough-acting and great-playing Miami joined the most elite gridiron dynasties.

"Even though we had come off an '83 national championship win over Nebraska, nobody around the country really knew who Miami was,” said Blades.

"Those schools that everybody around the country knew, if we beat those schools, we'd make a name for ourselves.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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Oklahoma defensive end Kevin Murphy, top, brings down Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde in 1985. This was one of only a few bright spots for OU which lost 27-14. The Oklahoman Archive


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