Miami players didn’t lack confidence.
“I don’t think Nebraska would score unless we played until tomorrow about noon,” Hurricanes defensive tackle Eric Miller said following the 1992 Orange Bowl.
He was nothing if not brash.
Top-ranked (more about that later) Miami had shut out the Huskers 22-0, the first shutout of Nebraska since 1973, Tom Osborne’s first season as head coach, after 220 games.
Oklahoma defeated the Huskers 27-0 in the final game of the 1973 regular season.
Miami led the nation in scoring defense in 1991, but had shut out only one opponent, Long Beach State. Nebraska ranked third nationally in scoring, averaging 41.3 points. The Huskers led the nation in rushing, averaging 352.3 yards, and ranked third in total offense, averaging 506.5 yards.
They managed 82 rushing yards, 171 total yards and nine first downs against Miami. All were season lows. Mike Stigge punted eight times. And the Huskers had four turnovers.
Quarterback Keithen McCant, the coaches’ Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year, was sacked five times—four by defensive end Rusty Medearis—and tackled for losses two other times to finish with a net of minus-32 yards rushing. He was six-of-18 passing, with two interceptions.
I-back Derek Brown, who had rushed for 1,313 yards, was limited to 10 on five carries.
“It was almost too easy for us,” said the Hurricanes’ Miller.
Continue with the Nebraska negatives?
The bowl loss was the Huskers’ fifth in a row, the victory Miami’s 45th in a row at the Orange Bowl Stadium, its home field. The Hurricanes led 13-0 just 11 minutes into the first quarter, then opened the second half with a 10-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to go up 19-0.
Nebraska didn’t pick up a first down until midway through the second quarter.
On a positive note, senior cornerback Tyrone Legette intercepted two Gino Torretta passes, including one at the Husker 1-yard line in the second quarter. Torretta, who would win the Heisman Trophy the next season, had thrown 117 consecutive passes without an interception.
Discussion after the game included whether the NCAA needed a D-I playoff for football.
Miami was the No. 1 team in the nation according to the Associated Press. The coaches’ poll had Washington No. 1. The Huskies defeated No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl, 34-14.
As had been the case the previous season, there was a split national championship. And Nebraska had played both national title claimants—Georgia Tech and Colorado in 1990. The Huskers had lost to then-No. 4 Washington 36-21 in Lincoln in late September of 1991.
Washington was the best team in the country, “hands down,” according to Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride. Husker Athletic Director Bob Devaney opted for Miami. Washington wasn’t “in the same ballpark,” he said. Osborne didn’t pick between the two.
Regardless, setting aside the Miami loss, any loss, was difficult. “I don’t feel good for a long time,” said Osborne. “I hypnotize myself into thinking that we could play, could win, and we didn’t.”
He would deal with such frustration again the next bowl season and the bowl season after that before the “hypnotized” thinking would be right—against Miami no less.
Warren Sapp, Frank Costa, and, yes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were among those who were Hurricane freshmen on the 1992 Orange Bowl team and would be on the 1995 team.
None played in the 1992 game, however.
Tom's Time is a regular feature that will take a closer look at the life of Tom Osborne. Nebraska has a storied history in football that dates back to the earliest years of the game, but the tradition to which Husker fans hold Nebraska is mostly a reference to Osborne's 25 years as head coach. And that will always be worth exploring in greater detail. Click here for all of the entries in the series.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.