Sun Bowl evokes memories of 1980s
Laura Myers | Thursday, December 16, 2010
The Sun Bowl will be the first game Notre Dame and Miami have played against each other in more than 20 years. The games it follows, though, are still remembered as some of the best in college football history.
“This matchup certainly brings back the memories of some of the great games that were played,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said in a press conference Monday.
One of those great games, the 1988 contest in which No. 4 Notre Dame defeated No. 1 Miami, 31-30, was listed by USA Today in 2007 as one of the best of the past 25 years.
That game, dubbed “Catholics vs. Convicts,” thanks to a clever student-made T-shirt, began with a fight in entrance of the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel and a rousing speech by then-coach Lou Holtz, who told his team, “save Jimmy Johnson’s ass for me.” It contained a controversial fumble ruling, and it ended with Hurricanes coach Johnson attempting a two-point conversion when he could have tied it with an extra point at the end of the game.
Of course, the season ended with Notre Dame on top, the win over Miami a stepping-stone for the Irish to capture their last national championship.
It was Holtz’s quote that Kelly said he remembered the most.
“That’s classic,” he said. “I still think of that one and go, that’s probably one of the best all time lines leading into a football game that I can imagine.”
Kelly’s other memories were less specific.
“The great players in it. I remember that,” he said. “The intense rivalry. Intense. It got downright ugly at times.”
And it did. Though Notre Dame leads the series, which began in 1955, by a mark of 15-7-1, many of Miami’s wins were painful.
In 1985, Miami defeated Notre Dame 58-7, and was accused of running up the score, possibly beginning the tension that lasted through the next six seasons.
Through the latter half of the 1980s, Notre Dame and Miami were two of the top teams in college football.
The Hurricanes won championships in 1987 and ’89, while the Irish won it all in 1988. The two often played spoiler to one another.
In 1987, the first time the Irish faced the Hurricanes with Lou Holtz as coach, No. 2 Miami defeated No. 10 Notre Dame 24-0.
In 1989, the No. 7 Hurricanes ended No. 1 Notre Dame’s 23-game win streak with a 27-10 victory, Notre Dame’s only loss of the season.
The Irish ended that installment of the rivalry with a victory, though, defeating No. 2 Miami 29-20 on Oct. 20, 1990.
The Hurricanes won a national title the following year, and another in 2001.
While the history adds a level of interest that may have spurred the Sun Bowl to sell out in a record 21 hours Monday, players said it was of secondary importance to the game at hand.
“I don’t think it’s going to matter at all,” senior nose guard Ian Williams said at a press conference Sunday.
Senior running back Robert Hughes, who grew up cheering for the Hurricanes, agreed.
“It’s more for the fans with the history and tradition,” Hughes said. “It’s pretty much specifically our task to go out there and win. We’ll be focused on that.”