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Miami Hurricanes Games We Love: 1988 vs LSU Tigers

Braving the elements and a hostile Baton Rouge crowd, the Hurricanes made Death Valley their second home.

The Miami Hurricanes and LSU Tigers will renew hostilities in less than 100 days in their season opening tilt at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Before we look forward to the future, today we reminisce on the past. In this particular instance, we’ll focus on the 1988 contest between the two programs.

The Tigers held the upper hand in the series against the ’Canes, winning eight of 10 against Miami dating back to the first game in 1946. The two teams squared off against one another often. Going back to 1958, the two out-of-conference foes played each other on nine occasions in an 11-year span (1958-1969). The 1988 game would be the first since the ’Canes were shutout at home to the Tigers 20–0 in the 1969 game.

For Miami, there was more at stake than your average bragging rights. Led by head coach Jimmy Johnson, the Hurricanes were a team on a mission having recently won the 1987 National Championship. After losing by a single point to Notre Dame in a series that soon became infamous for its “Catholics vs Convicts” motifs, the ’Canes decimated Cincinnati (57–3), East Carolina (31–7) and Tulsa (34–3) in subsequent weeks. On a path of destruction and with eyes on repeating as National Champions, Miami had a mid-November date with the Tigers of the Bayou. While the Hurricanes had already played in a larger stadium against the Michigan Wolverines in the second game of the season, there’s something different about going to Death Valley in primetime.

Quarterbacked by Steve Walsh and complemented by the running back duo of Cleveland Gary and Leonard Conley, the Hurricanes deployed a vicious backfield on offense. With wide receivers Randall Hill, Dale Dawkins, Andre Brown and TE Rob Chudzinski, Miami had legitimate threats on offense across the board.

For their part, the Tigers came into that November game looking to make a case for the Southeastern Conference title. After suffering back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Florida in consecutive weeks in the early portion of their schedule, the Tigers rode into the game on a five game win streak of their own. They dispatched Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State before hosting the boys from South Florida in a very important game late in the season. The head coach at the time was Mike Archer, a man who led LSU to a 10–1–1 record in his first season in the big chair.

Led by their quarterback Tommy Dodson, the Tigers’ offense was a formidable group. Keep in mind that Dodson was the QB who found RB Eddie Fuller wide open in the endzone in a play that resulted in what became known as the ‘Earthquake Game’ based on the overwhelming jubilation from the Tiger faithful in attendance. LSU’s defense trotted out their own stars in linebacker Eric Hill and All-American Greg Jackson, who forced opponents to operate on their terms.

It was No. 3 Miami vs. No. 11 LSU (according to the AP rankings). This was a big deal!

The Tigers may have survived an earthquake, but they most certainly were wiped out by the Hurricanes. The game took place under heavy downpours, both meteorologically and symbolically. In front of a reported crowd of 79,528 at Tigers Stadium, Miami jumped out to a 10–0 lead in the first quarter. That vaunted Miami offense went to work against LSU, silencing the hostile Baton Rouge, Louisiana, crowd into submission. At halftime, the ’Canes held a firm 20–3 lead.

For most teams, that would be enough to nurse a lead, try to avoid injuries and begin to think about getting out of the game with a healthy roster. But most teams did not have Jimmy Johnson as their head coach. Known for his relentless aggression, Johnson was not going to take his feet off the pedal against the Tigers, or anyone for the matter. LSU did manage to make adjustments at the half, keeping the Hurricanes off the scoreboard for the entire third quarter. It would be LSU’s one shining moment. The Hurricanes defenses bent, but never broke, holding LSU to a field goal in the first half, and then playing shutout ball for the remainder of the evening. For good measure, Miami scored 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter on way to a 44–3 lopsided victory over a team that had has gotten the best of Miami in previous matchups. It was the most lopsided loss suffered by the Tigers since their 46–0 loss to Tulane.

Walsh finished the game with 16 completions on 29 pass attempts for 220 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His counterpart, Hodson, completed 18 of his 40 pass attempts for 226 passing yards along with two interceptions. It appeared that LSU certainly was not prepared to face the intense weather as well as a blistering Hurricanes team looking to get back into the national title picture.

The Significance of the Game

On the road, in one of the most hostile venues in college football and on a night where the elements were less than favorable, the Miami Hurricanes went about their business as if the game were any other. Yes, there were some fortunate bounces, with RB Cleveland Gary fumbling as he crossed into the endzone only to have Randall Hill pounce on the loose ball for a touchdown. Even still, on a night where inclement weather could have been an excuse, it was this Miami Hurricane squad that was their own force of nature, causing havoc and dictating the course of the game.

HC Jimmy Johnson was quoted by the Sun Sentinel, summarizing, “Defensively, we took away most of what LSU wanted to do. And offensively, we did a good job moving the ball in the adverse conditions.” The head coach then went on to say that “[w]e did an exceptional job in all phases of the game.” The win was emblematic of Johnson’s bravado and intensity as a coach. There were no excuses—on the biggest stages, in the worst weather, Miami was going to be a problem for anyone who stepped on the opposite side of the field. Let’s hope that mentality carries over some 30 years later to this season.