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Miami Hurricanes Games We Love: 1988 at Michigan

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The Defending National Champion Hurricanes took the show on the road to face a traditional power.

Miami of Ohio v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

2 Tight Ends. I-formation. WRs in a 3 point stance. And that’s just the Hurricanes!

Yeah, it was a different era, to be sure.

This Miami Hurricanes Game We Love featured Jimmy Johnson’s top-ranked Canes going to Michigan Stadium aka The Big House to take on Bo Schembechler’s 15th ranked Michigan Wolverines. This was the return game of the 1984 matchup that saw Michigan win a 22-14 battle against Miami.

This game, the second for both teams in the 1988 season, was a key game for both teams’ title hopes. Michigan needed to rebound after dropping a 19-17 nailbiter to the rival Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and a win against the defending National Champions would be just what the doctor ordered. For the Canes, they traveled north to Ann Arbor fresh off delivering a 31-0 asskicking to the Florida State Seminoles in the season opener. LOL. Bums.

With 105,834 fans in the stands, Miami put their 13 game winning streak on the line. And, at least to start, the Wolverines were up to the challenge.

After a stop on Miami’s first offensive possession, Michigan marched down the field before stalling and settling for a 22 yard Mike Gillette field goal. Though he made that kick, Gillette’s struggles on the day (3-5 on the day) would have a major impact on the game later. Miami, undaunted by the big crowd or giving up the early score, answered back with a 49-yard screen pass from Steve Walsh to Cleveland Gary, who took the short pass and did the rest of the work to find the endzone and give the Canes a 7-3 lead.

After that, the teams would trade scores, with Mike Gillette hitting from 30 to bring Michigan within 7-6, and Miami extending the lead to 8 with a 1 yard Cleveland Gary TD run to make it 14-6.

At this point, it looked like Miami was finding their stride, kicking into gear, and would run away with another easy win against a top opponent. But, Michigan had other ideas.

After Gary’s 2nd TD put the Canes up by 8, Michigan went on a huge 24-0 run spanning the middle of the 2nd quarter all the way into the 4th. Led by relative-unknown Michael Taylor at QB, Michigan scored time ad again and stole all the early momentum that Miami once had. All of a sudden, the Wolverines were up 30-14 and looked to be on their way to a signature win vs the best team in the Country.

Even with the memories of the 22-14 loss in the Big House in 1984, the Canes weren’t going to lay down and let Michigan kill their dreams of a repeat National Championship.

Junior QB Steve Walsh stepped up to lead his team when they needed it most. “We’ve been in this position before,” Walsh told his team after Michigan’s last score. “We can come back and do it.” And they did.

The comeback, 17 points in the last 5 minutes and 23 seconds of the game, started with a 7yd td pass from Walsh to sophomore tight end Rob Chudzinski. Miami followed with a 2-point conversion pass from Walsh to Dale Dawkins to cut Michigan’s lead to 30-22.

Needing a stop, the Canes’ defense came through in the clutch and got Walsh and the offense the ball again and their rhythm from the previous drive continued. Walsh quickly marched the Canes down the field, ending the drive with a 48 yard TD pass to Cleveland Gary, who did yeoman’s work all day long, including this highlight reel play to evade several Michigan defenders, cut to the sideline, then turn on the jets and find the endzone. Jimmy Johnson elected to go for 2 after that TD as well, but the pass was incomplete, leaving Miami behind 30-28 with just 2:58 left in the game.

Michigan wanted to rely on the combination of QB Michael Taylor (16-24 for 214 and 3 TDs to go along with some timely running) and RB Tony Boles (33 carries for 129 yards) to run out the clock behind Michigan’s GIGANTIC offensive line that outweighed Miami’s front by an average of 32lbs per player. But, fate had other plans.

Walk-on placekicker Carols Huerta, subbing for normal kickoff specialist Edgar Benes, hit a PERFECT onside kick off Michigan Stadium’s the-artificial turf. The kick bounced 3 times, and the shocked Michigan return team did little more than watch junior DB Bobby Harden jump up and recover the ball at the Michigan 47 yard line, giving the Canes possession once more, and a chance to steal a win.

Miami converted a first down on a big completion from Walsh to Andre Brown which moved the ball down to the Michigan 33 yard line. Walsh, who at one time passed on 18 consecutive plays, finished the game 24 for 45 for 335 yards and 3 TDs.

After a big run by Cleveland Gary to get to the 17 yard line, Miami went conservative, running the ball twice before calling on Huerta to try a FG. The redshirt freshman showed the calm demeanor and excellent performance that would come to be his calling cards by hitting a 29 yarder to give Miami a 31-30 lead with 43 seconds left.

Michigan completed a couple short passes on their final possession, but ultimately the last ditch pass — one thrown by their backup QB after Taylor left the game with a leg injury — fell harmlessly to the ground, giving Miami a huge comeback victory.

“A loss is a loss,” Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler said after Michigan lost its first two games for the first time since 1959. “It was an ungodly set of circumstances.”

“We knew we could go out and score a touchdown,” said Walsh. “One thing just led to another.”

“It’s nice to know this team plays well on the road,” Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson said. “With 105,000 people screaming at you . . . it’s difficult to come back like we did.”

But, comeback they did, and in doing so, Miami eared a huge win, sent Michigan to their first 0-2 start since 1959, and cemented this game among the Miami Hurricanes Games We Love.