MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The past generation of fans of a pair of America’s prominent college football program are in a storytelling mood this week. They have their respective teams to thank for their ability to give these lessons to the youth.
Rebounding from an early season loss to Georgia, Notre Dame has run up seven-straight impressive wins en route to the third ranking in the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile Miami has gone unblemished through their eight games this season to earn the seventh spot in the same poll.
As fate would have it, the two programs are meeting in November in Miami for the first time in 28 years for their biggest match-up in 27 this Saturday.
They met in the 2010 Sun Bowl, in Chicago in 2012, and then in South Bend last year.
But it’s the significance of this game has managed to “Wake Up The Echoes” of this rivalry’s past, which is certainly something “U” need to hear about before the current Irish and Hurricanes meet Sunday night.
While they’ve met off and on through the years, the golden era of the Notre Dame-Miami rivalry came in the late 1980s and early 1990s when both programs reached the top of college football.
From 1987-1990, both the Irish and Hurricanes met with each team ranked in the Top 10 in the country.
The first of these meetings was the least dramatic. In 1987, Miami overwhelmed a still building Notre Dame team under Lou Holtz 24-0 at the Orange Bowl en route to a National Championship.
Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown was held to just 95 total yards and had just three drops as the Irish were shutdown for the first time in five years, which also came at the hands of the Hurricanes. Meanwhile Miami gained 417 yards of total offense and was never challenged as they won their 10th game of the year.
The next year’s match-up was so epic, a documentary was made about the events of October 15, 1988 in South Bend, Indiana.
“Catholics vs Convicts” was the moniker for the game developed by a few students at Notre Dame, setting the stage for an incredible afternoon between the top-ranked Hurricanes and fourth-ranked Irish.
A pre-game dust-up in the tunnel only added to the intensity of the afternoon, which only grew over the course of three-and-a-half hours. Notre Dame got the early lead and went back-and-forth with Miami the rest of the way.
It’s ending is still celebrated by Irish fans, as defensive back Pat Terrell knocked down Steve Walsh’s two-point conversion pass to seal a 31-30 Irish win. Holtz’s team would finish the rest of the season undefeated to win Notre Dame’s last National Championship.
The Irish remained undefeated through till the next game against the Hurricanes the following November. A second-straight 11-0 regular season was just a win away for Notre Dame, but Miami had something to say in their home.
In front of an Orange Bowl record crowd 81,634, the Hurricanes controlled the contest under new head coach Dennis Erickson. They scored the final 17 points of the game – while also completing and incredible 3rd-and-43 on a touchdown drive – to beat Notre Dame 27-10.
Oddly enough, the Irish returned to Miami a month later and beat No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl, but their previous loss at the venue cost them back-to-back championships. The Hurricanes finished No. 1 and the Irish No. 2 since they won the match-up between the two teams.
With Miami headed to the Big East, 1990 was the last year of the traditional yearly match-up between the teams.
Even with each team suffering an upset loss, a bizarre year in college football still had the Hurricanes second in the polls with Notre Dame sixth when the met in October.
Rocket Ismail electrified the 59,075 crowd with a 95-yard kick return in the first half to tie the game, but it was kicker Craig Hentrich that was the star. He booted a school-record five field goals and along with a touchdown pass from Rick Mirer to Rodney Culver, helped the Irish to a 29-20 victory to end that era of the series.
That last game was 27 years ago, played a few years before those in this year’s Notre Dame-Miami game were even born. Instead of it being a memory, it’s a history lesson.
“I think that the rivalry is really embedded. Really before I was born, probably before some of you guys have been born, like even you. It’s true. I’m sorry,” said Notre Dame linebacker and Crete native Nyles Morgan. “But overall I just feel like that just brings more into like the hype of the game. But it has nothing to do with us.
“Because our motto on defense is nameless and faceless. So all that stuff is cool and everything. And it’s all glamorous and builds more hype and more attention, but we’re just worry about winning the game.”