The 1993 season was not one of the most remarkable seasons in Miami lore, as the Canes would finish that year 9-3, finishing 2nd in the Big East Conference and ending the season by getting trounced by Arizona 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl. Miami did finish ranked 15th in the polls however, and like nearly every season under Dennis Erickson, the Canes were in the National Championship conversation at some point in the season (if not at the end). The lackluster finish to the season did not prevent Miami from having some memorable games in the process, the most notable being their midseason tussle with the Colorado Buffaloes.
For those of you not well versed with the college football landscape of the late 80’s and the 90’s, Colorado was a legitimate program, winning the national title in 1990 and finishing in the top 10 nearly every season between 1989-1996. They started the 1993 season with similar aspirations to the Canes, but had faltered early, dropping a tough 41-37 loss to Stanford the week before their matchup with Miami. Still, the Buffaloes boasted a dangerous offense, led by quarterback Kordell Stewart, wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Charles Johnson, tight end Christian Fauria, and future-Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam. The Canes also had a few recognizable faces on their 1993 squad, including all-time greats Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp, as well as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Miami arrived at Folsom Field ranked 3rd in the country, while Colorado was currently 13th. The Canes were unfazed by the hostile crowd, storming out to a 21-6 first-half lead behind the arm of quarterback Frank Costa and the legs of running back Donnell Bennett. Following a touchdown pass from Costa to receiver C. T. Jones near the end of the second quarter, a bench-clearing brawl ensued between the two squads. Canes special-teamer Antonio Coley was blocked to the ground despite the kickoff going out of the back of the endzone for a touchback, and from there nearly every single player on both teams was involved in fisticuffs. If you want to relive the brawl, it starts at the 1:13:00 mark in the video below. There’s an awesome shot of The Rock walking away from the fight (a little foreshadowing?), and there’s plenty of individual players just diving into larger groups to restart the fight as soon as you think it’s coming to a close. Just riveting stuff. Don’t let anyone pin this fight solely on the Canes either, as you can see plenty of Colorado players instigating skirmishes in this video.
Back to the game, a few players were ejected as a result of the brawl, most notably Colorado receiver Michael Westbrook (even more foreshadowing, as he would compete as an MMA fighter after his NFL career). In the second half, Miami extended their lead to 28-6 behind another TD pass from Costa this time to A.C. Tellison for 37 yards. As the game progressed to the 4th quarter, the Canes maintained their lead, pushing the score to 35-15 behind some masterful running by Donnell Bennett (he literally broke 100 tackles in this game). It appeared that Miami had successfully knocked off the Buffaloes in their home stadium (in more ways than one), until Colorado decided to make the game interesting with over 8 minutes remaining. Kordell Stewart led Colorado on a quick touchdown drive, capping it off with a throw to receiver Charles Johnson to cut the lead to 35-22 with 6:34 left. Down at least two scores, Colorado decided to go for an onside kick, which they recovered despite Miami being set up to field the short kick. Stewart led the Buffs on another fast scoring drive, taking off only 1:29 of game clock before running back James Hill broke through, cutting Miami’s lead to 35-29.
With Miami’s offense taking the field and under 5 minutes remaining, the visitors called in a prescription for a heavy dose of the run game. This would not be what the doctor ordered, as Canes running back James Stewart was stripped by Colorado corner Chris Hudson with 2:07 remaining near mid field. All the momentum was falling towards the Buffs, now with the home crowd roaring behind them. Kordell Stewart completed his next two passes for 47 yards, and Colorado found themselves on Miami’s 17 yard line. The next play eliminated all of Colorado’s momentum instantly, as a 6 yard Rashaan Salaam run was called back for an offensive facemask flag (which carried a 15-yard penalty). Colorado fans are still in disarray because of the call, and the Miami defense would easily keep the Buffs out of the endzone as time expired, surviving the late Colorado onslaught, 35-29.
An iconic brawl coupled with avoiding what could’ve been an iconic comeback for Colorado made this contest a game to remember for Canes fans. How does it stack up with the other games of the 90’s? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to vote at the end of the week!