Miami (Fla.)-Nebraska renewal brings back memories of historic moments

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Any die-hard Hurricanes fan worth their orange and green could tell you a few stories about the Florida Gators. They could spin a couple yarns about Notre Dame. They could talk your ear off about Florida State.

You bet Nebraska’s in that category, too.

Few teams in college football’s modern era have earned more hardware — or played each other with higher stakes — than the Hurricanes and Huskers.

Miami and Nebraska have earned five national titles apiece. Since 1970, only Alabama (eight) can claim more. They have played each other 10 times, splitting the series. Miami has won four of the past five meetings — all of which have come in a bowl game, and four of which have decided national championships.

Getty Images
2002 Rose Bowl/national championship game.

Mention Nebraska to one of those Hurricane lifers, offensive line coach Art Kehoe, and he’ll tell you about the 1983 season, which ended with UM, a 13-point underdog, facing top-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

“The memories are unbelievable,” said Kehoe, a graduate assistant that season.

He remembers watching other teams in the national title hunt lose, setting up a UM-Nebraska title game. He recalls entering a raucous stadium to a standing ovation, nearly two hours before kickoff. Etched in his mind forever is the Huskers’ failed two-point conversion that sealed a 31-30 win and UM’s first national championship.

“It was the greatest win, for me,” Kehoe said. “I still think it was the biggest win in the history of our program.”

Saturday’s game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in Lincoln, Nebraska, will not carry those implications, but the history of this series is tough to match.

The first game was played Nov. 30, 1951 at Burdine Stadium, later renamed the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes beat the Huskers 19-7 in front of 32,283 fans.

UM lost in Lincoln in 1953, ’75 and ’76. The Huskers were a top-five team in the latter two years. Sandwiched between those losses was the 1962 game, which was played at Yankee Stadium and called the Gotham Bowl. It was UM’s first bowl game, a 36-34 loss in frigid conditions reportedly attended by just a few thousand people.

The Canes had better luck after that.

After the 1983 championship, UM beat the Huskers in the 1989 Orange Bowl and the 1992 Orange Bowl, which gave the Hurricanes their fourth national title. Undefeated Nebraska beat Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl to win a title of its own.

The last time the teams played, unbeaten UM celebrated its fifth national title in the 2002 Rose Bowl.

MIAMI (FLA.) VS. NEBRASKA, ALL-TIME

DATE WINNER SCORE
Jan. 3, 2002* Miami (Fla.) 37-14
Jan. 1, 1995* Nebraska 24-17
Jan. 1, 1992* Miami (Fla.) 22-0
Jan. 2, 1989 Miami (Fla.) 23-3
Jan. 2, 1984* Miami (Fla.) 31-30
Oct. 2, 1976 Nebraska 17-9
Oct. 4, 1975 Nebraska 31-16
Dec. 15, 1962 Nebraska 36-34
Oct. 17, 1953 Nebraska 20-16
Nov. 30, 1951 Miami (Fla.) 19-7
*National championship

That was the season that made Hurricanes fans out of many current Hurricanes. The title game, a 37-14 win, was the first UM game true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya remembers watching. He was only 6, but he was hooked.

“Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to go to the U,” said Kaaya, who hung in his dorm a picture of then-quarterback Ken Dorsey and receiver Andre Johnson hoisting the crystal ball, “for inspiration.”

Senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo, a third-generation Hurricane whose father, Tony, played from 1979-82, said his dad has told plenty of tales about the rivalry. “Kenny Calhoun [who broke up the final pass in the 1983 game] and him are real good friends,” he said. “I hear that story a lot whenever they’re together.”

Junior running back Duke Johnson, who like Kaaya fell in love with the Hurricanes of the early 2000s, called Miami-Nebraska “one of the greatest rivalries in college football.”

“It reminds me of my freshman year, when we played Notre Dame,” Johnson said. “The way the guys talked about it and the way the old alumni used to talk about it, I just feel like it’s one of those games.”

Athletic Director Blake James, who called this “a great week,” said UM is happy to renew the rivalry. UM will host Nebraska on Sept. 19, 2015.

“I think they’re some of the greatest times in Hurricane football history,” James said. “I’m excited to have these two games set up. I’m looking forward to being in Lincoln this week.”

The Hurricanes, who lost their season-opening road game at Louisville on Sept. 1, can’t wait to enter 92,000-seat Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Senior linebacker Denzel Perryman feels another classic in the making.

“Watching Nebraska getting after it, I know we’re going to get after it,” he said. “We’re going to rekindle that fire from back in those days.”

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