The peak of Miami’s swagger might have come in a season where Miami didn’t even claim a national title (until now, bahahahah).
The 1990 Miami Hurricanes were arguably one of the most talented teams in school history to not win a championship. Led by Craig Erickson, Stephen McGuire, Leonard Conley, Leon Searcy, Randall Hill, and Lamar Thomas, the 1990 Hurricanes followed up a national championship season (in which Miami averaged an insane 454 yards per game) with another impressive performance. After dropping a season-opening shocker against Ty Detmer and the BYU Cougars in Provo, the Canes would fail to reach 30 points only once the rest of the season. The problem is that they needed those 30 points that one time to top the Irish that season. The resulting 29-20 stinker effectively sunk the Canes’ chance at a repeat title….and ultimately a three-peat after 1991.
Miami wrapped up the regular season at #4 in the AP Poll after a 30-28 win over San Diego State in the season finale. Their consolation prize? A matchup in the Cotton Bowl with #3 Texas. It was billed as, on paper, perhaps the most anticipated and exciting bowl game of the season.
Then, to the chagrin of the Longhorns, the teams took the field and football happened.
From the opening kickoff, Miami flexed its muscles against the outclassed Horns. Texas’ Chris Samuels fielded Carlos Huerta’s opening kickoff and was crushed at the 14-yard line by UM’s Robert Bailey. A woozy Samuels tried to walk the field and crumpled back to the ground.
Although the message was already sent, the intimidation occurred even before that. Miami players flooded onto the field as the Longhorns took the field, pointing at themselves and challenging their opponents.
And the Longhorns looked every part of juicy, Texas-style brisket for a Miami monster that ate them up all afternoon on both sides of the ball.
Before the game, Texas offensive lineman Stan Thomas had plenty to say.
”[UM] had players wearing earrings on both ears and funny hats jumping up on stage,” Thomas told the Sun-Sentinel. ”They looked like typical gangsters. I thought I was in prison. They are real arrogant and cocky. They try to intimidate you. I’ll show them some real intimidation. I’ve been thinking of some good stuff to use.”
The only one left looking intimidated was Thomas. Russell Maryland rolled up three sacks, manhandling the Longhorns’ outspoken Thomas on several occasions. A panicked Texas offense turned the ball over 5 times on the day.
Craig Erickson ended his Miami career with a bang, throwing for 272 yards and setting a Cotton Bowl record with 4 touchdown passes. Wesley Carroll, snared two of those in the first half as the Canes stormed to a 19-3 halftime lead.
Although Miami dominated in a positive manner, let’s face it --- the 1991 Cotton Bowl has become a thing of legends for two words: penalty yards. Miami finished with 16 penalties for an incredible 202 yards – both Cotton Bowl records.
But it didn’t matter. The Canes pounded their chests as they took the Longhorns behind the wood shed. They talked smack. They danced. The “Miami Rule” relating to personal fouls and player conduct was born because of this game.
And they gave the Longhorns a near-literal 60 minutes of pure hell.
The coup de grace came late in the third quarter. Randal Hill streaked past his defender and pulled in Erickson’s pass for a 48-yard touchdown. But Hill went full-on Forrest Gump up into the Cotton Bowl tunnel. As he made his way back to the field, he pulled out imaginary six-shooters and took aim at Longhorns. Pew! Pew! Pewpewpew!!!
It was 33-3. Miami would tack on touchdowns from Randy Bethel and Leonard Conley to finish with a 46-3 spanking. It was undoubtedly the most dominating bowl game performance in school history. Heck, this might even have been the most impressive single-game performance by any Miami team in the history of its program, in all honesty.
Georgia Tech and Colorado split the national championship that season, with Tech claiming the AP top spot and Colorado finishing #1 in the UPI/coaches poll. That said, the 1991 Cotton Bowl showed that Miami was perhaps the most talented team in the country in the 1990 season. It also showed the Canes were starting something special, as they claimed the 1991 AP national championship and didn’t lose again until the 1993 Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama.
(Here’s a link to the full game, which I can’t embed for your eyeballs, unfortunately)