Friday, December 13, 2002
1985 - UCLA 39, Miami 37
By Jordan Burchette
The lead changed hands six times. The combatants combined for 827 yards in total offense. The rosters included players named Kosar, Bono, Blades and Norton Jr. And the scoring was fast and furious up until the game's final moments.
In Fiesta Bowl XIV, UCLA squared off against Miami in the fourth-highest scoring Fiesta Bowl ever. The Hurricanes, reigning national champions, aimed to salvage a disappointing four-loss title defense under first-year head coach Jimmy Johnson, which included one of the most famous games in college football history -- a loss to Doug Flutie and Boston College. The Bruins, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl champions the previous two years, were also cold coming off of a season that failed to meet expectations. However, both teams boasted high-wattage offenses that were given a showcase at Sun Devil Stadium on Jan. 1, 1985.
|Fiesta Bowl XIV was no defensive battle featuring nine touchdowns and 43 first downs.|
Former Bruin wide receiver Mike Sherrard recalled his thoughts entering the affair.
"That (year) was the first time I'd really heard of Miami. I just knew they had some athletes. I just thought 'this is a team with a lot of talent.'"
A lot of talent, indeed. Occupying the roster were future NFL star quarterbacks Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testeverde; the Blades brothers, Brian and Bennie; and the Browns, unrelated, Eddie and Jerome.
The Bruins got on the board first, with UCLA quarterback Steve Bono engineering a lengthy drive that was crowned by a six-yard Gaston Green touchdown run that put the Bruins up 7-0, a lead that would prove to be short-lived.
Anxious to respond, Miami drove 16 yards into Bruin country on the next possession. From there, running back Darryl Oliver strolled 34 yards for the first of 21 unanswered points for the 'Canes.
Late in the first quarter, UCLA punted the ball to Miami receiver Eddie Brown. The All-American took the kick back 68 yards for a touchdown giving the 'Canes their first lead of the game.
UCLA's woes compounded early in the second quarter when Hurricane quarterback Bernie Kosar connected on a 48-yard pass to receiver Brian Blades to bolster the 'Canes' lead to 21-7.
Sherrard, now a broadcaster for Fox Sports, called to mind the sentiment on the Bruins' sideline following Miami's foray.
"During the week (leading up to the game), we did a lot of partying," said Sherrard. "Once we found ourselves down by two touchdowns, I recall a teammate yelling 'look, we had a good time this week, but we came to play football.' That kind of refocused us."
Just when it appeared as though Miami was about to break the game wide open, the Bruins methodically rebounded on the legs of Green and All-America kicker John Lee. Later in the second quarter, Green, in his first-ever start as a Bruin, again tore off another spectacular touchdown run, this time for 72 yards. UCLA was now within a score, down 21-14.
Pinned deep within Hurricane territory, Miami punter Rick Tuten was forced to kick from his own end zone and was promptly sacked by Josh Shinnick for a safety. The Bruins were now within five points, and would be receiving the free kick.
UCLA managed to squeeze in two offensive drives before the half that culminated in Lee field goals of 51 and 33 yards to reclaim the lead, putting the Bruins ahead of the 'Canes 22-21 going into the half.
"At halftime, we were all confident," remembered Sherrard. "We realized that we didn't just come to have a good time in Tempe. We came to win this game."
That attitude carried them the majority of the second half, as the Sons of Westwood continued to roll. Following a field goal by Miami's Greg Cox, which briefly gave the Hurricanes the lead, UCLA posted two more scores. Sherrard found the end zone on a 10-yard Bono pass, followed by a 33-yard strike from Bono to Mike Young that put the Bruins up 36-24 heading into the game's final quarter of play.
|Sherrard scored one of four Bruin touchdowns on the day.|
The fourth quarter transpired without much fanfare, but a storm was brewing on the Hurricanes' sideline.
Late in the quarter, Kosar, a Heisman candidate the month prior, negotiated the Bruins' defense the length of the field. Hitting running back Melvin Bratton for a 19-yard touchdown with 2:58 remaining, Kosar had his Hurricanes down by only six points. The subsequent two-point conversion was intercepted in the end zone.
The effort harked of classic Miami comebacks of games gone by.
"We knew they had weapons," said Sherrard. "We knew they could score at any time."
On their next drive, the Hurricanes maneuvered 79 yards for the go-ahead score. Kosar and Bratton hooked up again on a three-yard pass to put the 'Canes on top 37-36.
However, in a game this frenetic, the story couldn't possibly end there.
"I had confidence in our team," said Sherrard, who played seven seasons in the NFL with San Francisco and Dallas. "We didn't have to score touchdowns because we had such a good field goal kicker. John Lee was one of the best in college. All we had to do was get the ball back, and if we got close, John Lee was good to make it."
So, from their own 32-yard line, the Bruins embarked on their final drive of the day. Exhausting 2:07 of clock time on eight plays, Bono completed three-of-three passes, while Green and his backfield buddies instituted a hostile takeover of Tempe real estate. UCLA found its way to the Hurricanes' 7-yard line. From there, Lee footed a 23-yard field goal for the game's 76th point.
With 51 seconds remaining in the season, Kosar was charged with directing another cinematic, come-from-behind victory. Conductor of one of the nation's most potent offenses, Bernie managed to carry his 'Canes near midfield.
However, there would be no comeback in the cards for Kosar this time. With about a half-minute remaining, Bernie was pillaged in the backfield by Bruin nose guard Terry Tumey, who forced the future NFL journeyman to fumble away the ball, and the game, at his own 31-yard line.
|UCLA's Tumey denied Kosar and the 'Canes another classic comeback.|
The loss did nothing to hamper the Jimmy Johnson regime in Miami, which went on to play for national championships in each of the following three years, finally bringing the title back to Miami in the last of those attempts. Though the Bruins had won the battle, their third straight New Year's bowl victory, the Hurricanes would go on to earn the distinction as the "Team of the Decade," departing the 80's as three-time national champs.