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Canes-Gators: Miami's Top Performances in the Sunshine State's Oldest Rivalry

Hurricanes that did their part (and then some) to knock off the hated Gators.

A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Beginning with a 19-7 Miami victory in 1938, the Canes and Gators have met 55 times prior to Saturday night’s showdown in Orlando. Following that win 81 years ago, Miami would defeat the University of Florida 28 more times to accumulate a 29-26 all-time record in a matchup once known as the “Battle for the Seminole War Canoe.”

Here is a look at some of Miami’s top individual performances (in chronological order) in a rivalry that predates the Canes-Noles by 13 years and the Noles-Gators by 19 years.

Harry Ghaul (multiple - 1940s) University of Miami Sports Hall of Famer Harry Ghaul saw just about everything there is to see in the Florida-Miami rivalry. In 1942 his 82-yard scamper set a program record for the longest run from scrimmage (now tied for sixth) during a 12-0 victory over the Gators.

The rivalry was put on hold in 1943 – when neither program could field a team during World War II – but Ghaul was back in 1945 with more heroics vs the University of Florida. This time, as the Miami placekicker, Ghaul’s point-after try was blocked but he grabbed the ball in mid-air and lateraled to Ernie “Inky” Mazejka, who took it in for the conversion and a 7-6 victory. Two years later, as a punter, Ghaul booted a 77-yard punt – the second longest in Hurricanes’ history.

George Mira Sr (1961) - One of many Miami “MIRAcles” under All-American quarterback George Mira Sr. came in 1961 when he sealed a Hurricanes victory with a left-handed touchdown pass (he was right-handed, by the way) vs the Gators in Gainesville. Tied at 6-6 in the third quarter with former high school teammate and Florida defensive end Sam Holland tugging at his right arm, “The Matador” lobbed a left-handed touchdown pass to halfback Nick Spinelli to put Miami on top for good.

Ted Hendricks (1966) - Ted Hendricks earned the nickname “The Mad Stork” while in Coral Gables because of performances like the one in 1966 vs eventual Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier. While sack and QB pressure statistics were not kept in those days, the 6-foot, 8-inch Hendricks spend the majority of the contest in the Gator backfield, harassing the future “Ole Ball Coach.”

Miami would prevail 21-16 as Florida fell to 9-2 following consecutive losses to Georgia and Miami. Afterwards, instead of giving credit where credit is due, Spurrier accused Hendricks and the Miami defense of dirty pool, putting the loss on the officiating, while, at the same time, claiming he "never" blames the officiating.

“These officials were gutless,” Spurrier ranted. “In four years at Florida, I’ve never said anything about the officiating, but at least twice today, I was trying to watch receivers catch a ball and got the hell knocked out of me. I’m not crying, but I’ve thrown more than 700 passes and I’ve never had one roughing-the-passer penalty called. It was obvious today and I feel I should say something.”

As for Hendricks, he took the high road calling Spurrier “a cool quarterback.”

Meanwhile, Miami defensive coordinator Ottis Mooney offered another take on Spurrier’s postgame tirade.

“He just didn’t like the way we were after him,” Mooney said of Spurrier. “He sits back there week after week and throws touchdown passes, but when someone chases him, he sounds off.”

Ottis Anderson (1978) - Miami running back Ottis Anderson closed out his senior season with a school record 39 carries (a record he still shares) during a 22-21 victory in Gainesville in the 1978 regular season finale. Anderson rallied Miami from a 21-3 halftime deficit with a 3-yard touchdown catch and the game-winning 8-yard scoring run. In 1978, Anderson would finish with 1,266 rushing yards and eight scores, becoming the first Hurricane to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season. He would also leave Coral Gables as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,331 career yards until he was surpassed by Duke Johnson in 2014.

Danny Miller & Mark Richt (1981) - In 1981, Danny Miller connected on a 55-yard field goal to beat Florida 21-20 after future Hurricanes’ coach Mark Richt replaced an injured Jim Kelly and led Miami to a come-from-behind victory in the season opener. In the 1980 finale, Miami head coach Howard Schnellenberger received criticism when he elected to kick a field goal in the final moments while leading 28-7 in The Swamp. He made the decision after Florida students began pelting the Miami sideline with oranges, connecting with a cheerleader and Schnellenberger’s own son.

So when Florida jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the Miami Orange Bowl, nine months later, the Gators thought karma would grant a victory vs the hated Schnellenberger. As it turns out, Richt did just enough to flip the script, connecting with Rocky Belk on a 55-yard score to pull Miami within two, and later, finding Glenn Dennison to move the Canes into field goal range for Miller.

Miller’s 55-yarder off the left upright remains tied for the third longest field goal in program history behind his 57-yarder vs Florida State earlier in the year and Michael Badgley’s 57-yarder vs Georgia Tech in 2015. John Peattie also connected from 55 yards vs Virginia Tech in 2006.

Greg Cox, Bernie Kosar & Willie Smith (1984) - Sophomore tight end Willie Smith tied a school record with 11 receptions in a 32-20 victory over Florida in 1984. Coming off a narrow win over top-ranked Auburn the week before, the Canes would meet the Gators in a prime time, neutral site matchup in the early days of ESPN’s college football coverage. But when the smoke cleared, it was a pair of late Miami touchdowns that allowed them to escape Tampa with a 32-20 victory. Coming off the 1983 National Championship, redshirt-sophomore Bernie Kosar connected on 25-of-33 passes for 300 yards vs Florida, setting a then-Miami record for single game completions. Meanwhile, Smith would haul in 152 receiving yards and kicker Greg Cox would connect on four field goals – the second best single-game mark in Miami history.

Willis McGahee (2002) - After not meeting in the regular season since 1987, the two teams faced off during a September 2002 showdown in The Swamp. Miami was coming off its fifth National Championship but question marks lingered as the Canes were replacing three key contributors from its 2001 backfield in the NFL-bound Clinton Portis and Najeh Davenport, and an injured Frank Gore. In the second game of ‘02, redshirt-sophomore Willis McGahee put any doubts to rest with a 24-carry, 204-yard performance in a 48-16 Miami victory, en route to being named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy later that year.

Brock Berlin (2003) - In the return game a year later, the Gators were out for revenge and overcame an early special teams onslaught from Devin Hester and Sean Taylor to build a 33-10 advantage in the third quarter at the Orange Bowl. Miami QB Brock Berlin (a Florida transfer following the 2001 season, who sat out in 2002 per NCAA rules) overcame extensive cramping to fire a pair of second half touchdowns, rallying Miami to a 38-33 victory behind a 27-for-41, 330-yard performance.

Which current Hurricanes player is most likely to give us a breakout performance that we’ll be talking about for decades to come? Tell us below in the comments or hit us up on social media.