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From 1983 to 1991, the AP national champion during every odd-numbered year was either Miami or Oklahoma.
Over that span, the teams met three times and twice, it was a match-up of No. 1 vs. No. 2. The first of those occasions came on this day 35 years ago as the second-ranked Hurricanes outclassed No. 1 Oklahoma, 28-16.
Setting the Stage
Oklahoma was the reigning national champion as it arrived at the old Orange Bowl on Sept. 27, 1986. The scene was where Oklahoma concluded its national championship campaign as the Sooners easily disposed of No. 1 Penn State to end the 1985 season, 25-10. The top-ranked Sooners had opened the year with wins over UCLA and Minnesota by a combined 101-3 margin.
Miami finished 10-2 in 1985 as it began its third season under Jimmy Johnson. The Hurricanes however, did hand Oklahoma its only loss from the year before with a 27-14 victory in Norman. Miami was 3-0 with victories over South Carolina, Florida and Texas Tech.
Miami never trailed in the contest, but for more than a quarter, the game was scoreless. The star of the show was Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who finished with 261 yards passing and four touchdowns, but also made plays with his legs.
Testaverde’s 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alfredo Roberts got the scoring started, but Oklahoma looked to have answered late in the half. With less than a minute to go, quarterback Jamelle Holieway found Patrick Collins in the end zone for what appeared to be the tying score, but an Oklahoma penalty forced the Sooners to settle for a field goal.
Oklahoma trailed 7-3 at the break and from there, it was all Miami. At one point, Testaverde completed 14 straight pass attempts and in the third quarter, gave the Hurricanes a commanding lead with two scoring strikes in less than a 1-minute span.
Following an Oklahoma punt, Testaverde led the Hurricanes down the field, finding Charles Henry for the 8-yard touchdown. After Oklahoma’s Anthony Stafford fumbled the ensuing kickoff, it took Miami just three plays to find the end zone as Testaverde found Michael Irvin for the score.
The Sooners showed signs of life as Holieway was able to hit Keith Jackson for a 54-yard scoring strike, but they would get no closer. Testaverde’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Irvin extended the lead back to 18. Stafford would add an Oklahoma touchdown, but it was with the contest already well in doubt.
Although Testaverde stole the show, the Miami defense also stood tall. The Sooners finished with less than 190 yards of offense in the loss. Oklahoma linebacker and reigning Dick Butkus Award winner Brian Bosworth tallied a school-record 22 tackles in the defeat.
With the victory, Miami would ascend to No. 1 and would not relinquish that ranking for the duration of the regular season. Testaverde would go on to become Miami’s first Heisman Trophy winner, but threw five interceptions in the season-ending 14-10 loss to eventual national champion Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Sooners would not lose again as they closed the year on a 9-game winning streak. Only Nebraska stayed within 19 points of Oklahoma the rest of the way.
Oklahoma capped the year with a 42-8 rout of Arkansas in the Orange Bowl, but it was a loss at the Orange Bowl that kept the Sooners from repeating as national champions. It came on this day 35 years ago.