In this edition of Miami Hurricanes Games We Love, I am going to be breaking down the 1992 matchup between the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes and the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions. It was early October and two of the hottest teams in the country were facing off in front of 96,704 people in Happy Valley, a Penn State record at the time. The Miami Hurricanes were riding a 22-game winning streak and Penn State were winners of their last 11. The last time these two teams met had been a year ago – almost to the day. Miami defeated Penn State 26-20 in the Orange Bowl, which happened to be Penn State’s last loss. A week before,
Miami was in a nail-biter with No. 3 Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The Canes came out victories due to Dan Mowrey’s infamous wide right with a chance to tie the game at 19. The Hurricanes streak was alive, but it was going to be tested again against an undefeated Penn State team at home in front of a record crowd.
1992 Penn State featured eight guys that would go on to be drafted that year, including O.J. McDuffie. McDuffie, as some of you old school guys may know, was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the 1993 draft.
Miami came out the gates slow and quickly gave Penn State and quarterback, John Sacca, the ball. After a couple first downs, the Miami defense tightened up and forced Penn State kicker, Craig Fayak, to line up for a 48-yard attempt that was blocked by Miami cornerback Dexter Seigler.
Miami gained possession around the 50-yard line and running back Donnell Bennett handled the rest. Apart from a short pass to Jonathan Harris, Bennett was responsible for every yard on the possession. He capped off the nine play, 51-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, with the help of the Miami offensive line that was doing a fantastic job creating holes for him. That would be the only score for either team after a quarter of play.
Penn State was on a long drive that was kept alive by conversions on 4th and 1 and 3rd and 10 that eventually led to a goal line situation. Penn State tried a trick play at the two-yard line on third down to try to even the score. Miami was having absolutely none of that as Jessie Armstead and Michael Barrow teamed up to stop the Penn State back at the one. Kicker Craig Fayak lined up for a chip shot but felt the pressure from the Miami rush and shanked it left. A drive that could have tied the game and kept the Nittany Lions in the game resulted with zero points and a second missed field goal.
Gino Torretta was not sharp by any sense of the word. In Miami’s first possession of the second quarter, Torretta had just ten passing yards on the day. John Sacca was absolutely out-playing the eventual Heisman Trophy winner through a quarter and a half.
But on their second possession, the Hurricanes were able to get into a rhythm. Torretta hit Jonathan Harris for a first down to move the sticks and sophomore running back Larry Jones did his job to help get Miami into scoring position. Miami’s 14 play, 79-yard drive took 5:31 off the clock and was capped off by a Dane Prewitt 26-yard field goal. Miami went up 10-0 and that is the way the half would finish. Miami’s defense and special teams play were the highlights of that first half.
Penn State would come out of the second half on fire. Running back Richie Anderson and fullback Brian O’Neal would lead a determined ground game that got the best of the Miami defense and ended with a touchdown. Just 2 minutes and 38 seconds into the second half, the Nittany Lions were within three points.
Deep into the second half, Gino Torretta was just 8 of 20 passing for 58 yards. Not exactly the game you would expect from the eventual winner of the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Davey O’Brien Award. But Miami had to keep rolling with the punches. The offense became stagnant because of Torretta’s inability to find open receivers. Even when wide out Corey Bell broke free and was all alone, Torretta overthrew him and came up empty. The Penn State defense deserves a lot of credit for Miami’s struggles. They were big and fast up front and really limited the throwing windows.
Miami started to bring heavy pressure after Penn State’s opening touchdown drive, almost daring quarterback John Sacca to beat them. And it worked. Jessie Armstead came on a blitz on first down with just 23 seconds left in the third quarter, forcing Sacca to throw the ball that landed right into the hands of Miami defensive end Darren Krein for a 28-yard pick six. That throw also ended a streak of 261 passes that a Penn State quarterback had not thrown an interception.
Penn State drove down the field in their first drive of the fourth quarter as they did their first drive of the third. Miami stopped them, and kicker Craig Fayak missed his third field goal of the day, but an offside penalty gave Penn State a first down. On 4th and 1 from the five-yard line, Penn State ran a toss to running back Richie Anderson that was blown up by Miami linebacker Michael Barrow. Turnover on downs. Resilience. Man, this team had so much resilience.
Penn State had some of that too, though. They would not give in. John Sacca got the ball back and took the Nittany Lions on another drive down the field. Sacca made a spectacular throw right over the Miami corner and star wide receiver, O.J. McDuffie, came up with the catch for a touchdown. It was bound to happen. Miami was bullying Penn State all game in the red zone and it was just a matter of time before they got one. 17-14 Canes.
The momentum seemed to have shift to over. Miami got the ball back with about six minutes left. They needed a long drive to kill some clock or to, at least, shift the field position and pin the Penn State offense deep in their own territory. Miami thought they had done that on 3rd and 5 when Torretta threw up a deep pass to receiver Lamar Thomas. Thomas caught the ball, but the referees said he had stepped out of bounce, despite clearly being forced out of bounds, therefore no catch was made.
Miami gave Penn State the ball with a chance to drive down the field and win or tie this game up with under two minutes left. The Hurricanes had not allowed more than one touchdown in a quarter for 81 consecutive quarters. This was going down to the wire.
Penn State was inside their own five-yard line when Miami brought pressure, forcing Sacca to get rid of the ball. Miami cornerback, Paul White, intercepted the pass and that was all she wrote. Miami’s winning streak moved to 23 games and the Hurricanes were responsible for Penn State’s last two losses.
For the second straight week, Miami defeated a top ten team in the country. This game, however, in front of a record crowd in Happy Valley, was one that Miami fans would never forget.