Friday, December 13, 2002
1990 - Miami 33, Alabama 25
By Alex Laracy
On the first day of the 1990s, the Miami Hurricanes firmly proclaimed themselves the team of the '80s by clinching the 1989 national championship with a 33-25 victory over seventh-ranked Alabama in the 56th Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Coming off a 27-10 drubbing of previous-No. 1 Notre Dame in their season finale, the high-strutting 'Canes were more confident than ever going into the Superdome.
One of the loudest venues in the nation, the Superdome was buzzing with excitement. Thousands of Alabama fans had flocked to nearby New Orleans and were more than willing to adopt the Superdome as their home field that day.
"It was extremely loud in that stadium," recalls former Hurricane quarterback Craig Erickson. "We had to use hand signals throughout the game. If there were 80,000 fans in that dome, 70,000 were Alabama fans, so it was just like an away game for us."
Miami's head coach Dennis Erickson was known for his high-octane offensive style of football, while Bill Curry's Tide boasted one of the top defenses in the country.
"We knew Alabama had a very good defense," says Erickson. "They had a great linebacker in Keith McCants, however, we were pretty confident that we could move the ball against any team in the country."
Miami struck early, moving ahead 7-0 with 4:55 left in the first quarter on a three-yard run by fullback Stephen McGuire. The play briefly quieted the Superdome crowd, however, two series later, the Tide evened the score at 7-7 as 'Bama quarterback Gary Hollingsworth hit Marco Battle from four yards out.
But the 'Canes were quickly back in front after going 78 yards in five plays with Erickson and Wesley Carroll combining on three completions for 50 of those yards, including an 18-yarder for the score. Carlos Huerta's extra point was blocked, leaving the score at 13-7.
The second quarter fireworks continued with Tide freshman Antonio London recovering a fumbled Miami punt to set up an eventual 45-yard field goal by Philip Doyle. Nine plays later, the Hurricanes went up 20-10 after Alex Johnson scored from three yards out.
"I think Alex Johnson was like our third string tailback at the time," recalls Erickson about one of the game's unlikely heroes. "He just came out and ran the ball really well for us."
But once again, the Tide struck back with its most impressive drive of the night, covering 80 yards in 11 plays and scoring on a seven-yard pass from Hollingsworth to Lamonde Russel with 40 ticks left in the half.
Only seconds later, 'Bama senior Lee Ozmint intercepted an Erickson toss and ran it back 23 yards to the Miami 19. Three plays later, after two runs and an incompletion, Doyle tried a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. Doyle had the distance to hit it from better than 60 yards, but the kick sailed to the left and the halftime score read Miami 20, Alabama 17.
Both teams came out slow in the second half, and failed to score in a conservative third quarter.
|Wide receiver Randal Hill helped Miami win the 1989 championship with a win in the Sugar Bowl.|
The fourth quarter, however, began with the Hurricane offense in its typical high gear, as Erickson hit tight end Rob Chudzinski for an 11-yard score. Only minutes later, Erickson found his other tight end, Randy Bethel, from 12 yards out to give Miami a commanding 33-17 lead.
Late in the game, Alabama made a heroic effort to get back into the tilt, as Hollingsworth hit Miami native Prince Wimbley with a scoring pass from the 9-yard line with 2:53 left. A Hollingsworth to Russel two-point conversion pass had the Tide within eight. However, Alabama's on-sides kick attempt failed and the 'Canes had little trouble running out the clock and claiming not only the Sugar Bowl crown but the unanimous No. 1 ranking in the nation as well.
Dennis Erickson became only the second coach in college football history to win the national championship in his first season at a school, and Craig Erickson was named the game's Most Outstanding Player.
"Winning the MVP was nice and all, but I'm a lot more proud of winning the national championship," says Erickson. "I've lived here in Miami ever since, and can tell you that Hurricane fans are the greatest. So, it was nice to win them a national championship."
What Erickson remembers most about the game, however was the incredible bowl atmosphere that encompassed New Orleans.
"Just being able to interact with all the crazy New Orleans fans on Bourbon Street both before and after the game was unbelievable. It was the ultimate bowl atmosphere. We had a lot of respect for Alabama. In fact, we saw them after the game at a few bars, and even celebrated with them a little bit."
Alex Laracy is an assistant editor for ABC Sports Online.
|Dennis Erickson won a national title in his first season at Miami.|