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Torretta’s Gem: Miami 35, West Virginia 23 (10/31/92)

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SOTU looks back at a hidden gem during Gino Torretta’s march to the 1992 Heisman Trophy.

Gino Torretta

1992 was a season filled with thrilling moments and memorable matchups. The Canes matched up against three teams ranked in the top 10 during the regular season – vs. #3 FSU; at #7 Penn State; at #8 Syracuse – and managed to escape with victories in each by less than a touchdown.

And although the season ultimately ended with a disappointing loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl/de facto national championship game, Gino Torretta turned in a memorable season, taking home the Canes’ second and last Heisman Trophy.

Now, there were certainly many moments that one could look back on and say, “here’s where Gino had his ‘Heisman moment’”. In fact, the first thing that came to my mind was on October 3, when FSU came to the Orange Bowl.

Although Torretta completed only 20 of 48 passes for 252 yards, he completed one that would be replayed and celebrated for years to come. Trailing 16-10, Torretta dropped back and saw Lamar Thomas streaking downfield out of his peripheral vision. He released the ball just ahead of being drilled by a Seminole defender, which landed in the hands of Thomas for a 33-yard touchdown and the eventual winning margin.

When I spoke with Torretta while writing my book Game of My Life: Miami Hurricanes, I fully expected that to be the game that we would be discussing as the game of his life, given the opponent, circumstances, and outcome.

Instead, Torretta turned my attention to October 31, 1992. Torretta was in a tight race for the Heisman with San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk and Georgia’s Garrison Hearst. Miami had been winning the big games, but by close margins in low scoring affairs. As far as numbers, they hadn’t quite been there.

But on Halloween night, Torretta put up a scary-good performance against West Virginia, which helped give him a little bit of separation in the Heisman race. Torretta completed 28 of 40 passes for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. But most impressively, he completed 13 consecutive passes. The 14th attempt should have been completed to match the school record for consecutive completions, but WR Horace Copeland dropped a would-be 64-yard touchdown.

But that drop and near-miss wouldn’t spoil Torretta’s performance before a national audience on ESPN. In fact, after Torretta’s last touchdown pass – a 22-yarder to Thomas – Thomas broke out into the Heisman pose in the end zone. Presumably it was for his quarterback, who indeed rode the performance to capture the bronze statue in New York.

It wasn’t the prettiest, most memorable game by any means. But, it was one that helped boost a Miami legend to claim the nation’s biggest honor.