When Miami Hurricanes fans recall on high points over the past three seasons of both glory and agony (too much more of the latter than the former), a few shining moments stick out. Darrell Langham’s touchdown catch at Doak Campbell Stadium to end the seven-year losing streak at Florida State in 2017, a Trajan Bandy-highlighted thrashing of Notre Dame later that season and the second-half rally over the ‘Noles in 2018 stick out for obvious reasons.
But sandwiched between some of UM’s neoteric conquests and excruciating failures sit an array of forgotten gems. Lack of relative recollection of these episodes can be forgiven because the opponents were ordinary, the foes weren't arch-rivals, or the respective seasons lacked a pleasant overacting taste. But on these singular afternoons, things went right for the Canes, leaving Hard Rock Stadium rocking hard through all four quarters.
Pittsburgh at Miami — November 24, 2018 (24-3 Win)
The back nine of the 2018 season for Miami was nothing short of a catastrophe. Just as fans began to increasingly believe a 5-1 record was reason to brush off a season-opening cataclysm at the hands of LSU as a fluke, four inexcusable losses fueled by an inept offense quickly put bowl eligibility into question. But a win at Virginia Tech in the penultimate contest guaranteed postseason football, leaving room in the regular season finale for nothing but domination.
That year’s ACC Coastal Division champions looked lost from the get-go against the Canes. A defense that had been dominant all season saved arguably their best showing for last in a bloodbath that wasn't remotely as close as the score indicated. The Hurricanes would force the Panthers to go 1-15 on 3rd downs, record six sacks and 14 tackles for loss. DeeJay Dallas returned a punt for a score thanks to a devastating Travis Homer block. Even with the stands featuring large swaths of empty seats thanks to a difficult year, Miami won by three touchdowns, in spite of a 6-24 outing from QB N’Kosi Perry.
Louisville at Miami — November 9, 2019 (52-27 Win)
Dan Enos lone year at the helm of the Miami offense was an abysmal one that flopped in comparison to the hype he brought into the building. But the 90th-ranked offense in 2019 was spectacular for a day.
That day came a week after the program’s third win over FSU in as many years. Even in the midst of a highly erratic year, a day for the record books treated the homecoming crowd at the Rock.
Those records included Jarren Williams’ six touchdown passes, which set a program-high and tied the all-time ACC mark. Miami moved the ball however they wanted, had drives stalled whenever they (rarely) wanted, and won by as much as they wanted.
And in spite of Miami Northwestern alum Tutu Atwell having more than a solid day for the visiting Cardinals, the Cane crowd was really buzzing when the home team was on defense. Three sacks and 14 tackles for loss would appear in the postgame box for Blake Baker’s defense in a matchup that was for once was really about the offense.
Virginia at Miami — November 18, 2017 (44-28 Win)
It is extremely easy to overlook this result, in large part of what happened both immediately before and after it. One week earlier, the Hurricanes had stomped Notre Dame in glorious, sadistic fashion. And one week later, UM would find its unbeaten season evaporated at Pitt, kickstarting a soul-searching four-game losing streak that would extend into 2018.
But none of that mattered on an unseasonably steamy and searing day when the Virginia Cavaliers rolled into Miami Gardens undeterred to face the No. 2 Canes.
It would've been easy to remain hungover from the fanfare-filled previous week. A clinched berth in the ACC Championship game couldn't have helped alleviate a possible sense of overconfidence for the 9-0 bunch.
UVA didn't show an once of respect for anything Miami had achieved that year to date. It showed in humbling fashion as UM found themselves behind 14-0 and then 28-14 early in the second half as Virginia QB Kurt Benkert completed 18 of his first 19 passes.
Yet Hurricanes would turn it back around on the ‘Hoos, opening the floodgates in a fraction of the time that Virginia spent building and maintaining their lead. It took just seven seconds to erase a two-score deficit when Malik Rosier hit Lawrence Cager for a nine-yard score right before Jaquan Johnson returned a Benkert interception for a touchdown.
At this point, the game was merely tied, but the final result was sealed. In a rare occurrence outside of a rivalry game, Hard Rock was virtually sold out, and Johnson’s pick-six blew the roof off the stadium. While the team may have entered the noon kickoff still high off of the Notre Dame win, the fans came in hungry for a cherry on top of the home slate, and help deliver a raucous atmosphere they did. Make no mistake about it, while this day may always be overshadowed by recent rivalry wins, this crowd was one of the loudest UM has seen since the move out of the Orange Bowl. Feeding off the energy, Mark Richt’s players would score the last 30 points of the game and win handedly.
Yes, there have been some extreme highs and lows over the more recent years of this team’s illustrious history. Few programs have had to endure a constant whiplash that the Canes have undergone over the past couple of seasons. Naturally, fans will more likely rather revisit the ups than the downs, and this retrospective is no exception. But big moments have come not just when College Gameday has come to town, or when the rivals from Tallahassee are placed in opposition. Regardless of what many of the respective subsequent matchups have often painfully brought, the Miami Hurricanes have come out of under-appreciated games feeling very high-minded.