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October 19, 1985
The third-ranked Sooners (3-0) returned home to play their first game in Norman, hosting unranked Miami (4-1). It would be the first meeting between the two schools in then years, and only third overall, a team that Switzer had beaten twice in his first three seasons. The game made local headlines primarily for the fact that Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson was coming back, an Oklahoma defensive line coach with Switzer from '70-'72 and former Oklahoma State head coach who was 0-5 against the Sooners while coaching the Cowboys. In his first season at the helm in '84, Miami had lost their final three games by two points each in high-scoring shootouts, with their defense embarrassingly yielding an average of 42.6 points in those three games to Maryland, Boston College and UCLA.
Miami had lost their '85 opener to current #5 Florida, 35-23, before reeling off four straight wins against unranked opponents. But the Hurricanes were the nation's top offensive team, and they were loaded with a pro-style passing attack never seen before in Norman. At the helm was junior quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who had been a backup to Bernie Kosar. He had help with Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton lined up behind him, and speedy receivers Michael Irvin and Brian Blades ran precise routes and had helped the team average 36.2 points per game. Their defense featured 285-pound junior tackle Jerome Brown and cornerback Bennie Blades, and coming off a shutout of Cincinnati, they came in permitting an average of 16 points per game.
Oklahoma was riding the nation's fastest and toughest defense, which got better each week, and was led up front by All-American nose tackle Tony Casillas, who would miss the game with an injury. Also along the line was sophomore tackle Troy Johnson, sophomore end Darrell Reed, and senior end Kevin Murphy, himself an All-American candidate. Lining up behind the group was the menacing Brian Bosworth, with fellow linebackers Paul Migliazzo, a junior, and Dante Jones, another talented sophomore. This group had permitted an average of only 32 yards rushing per game. Juniors Tony Rayburn and Sonny Brown, and sophomores Rickey Dixon and Derrick White, patrolled the secondary, allowing only 91 yards passing per game. In three games, the defense had allowed only 16 first downs, total, and had permitted an average of 6.6 points per game. And thanks to a 41-6 pasting at Kansas State, the offense came in averaging 22.6 points per game, and it was under the direction of sophomore quarterback Troy Aikman. A battle was expected.
Interestingly, despite Oklahoma's dominating performance a week earlier against Texas, previous #3 Michigan gained enough votes, though many were redirected from top-ranked Iowa, to leap over the Sooners and grab the #2 ranking in the AP poll. It was felt by many that it was a ploy to set up the game being played in Iowa as a #1 vs. #2 showdown, a first for the Big Ten conference.
In front of a sellout crowd of 75,008 at Memorial Stadium, Miami got on the board first. With 8:44 left in the first quarter, Testaverde seared the young and inexperienced Oklahoma secondary and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Irvin, and Greg Cox's extra point gave the Hurricanes a 7-0 lead.
The Sooners came right back on their possession and went 89 yards in six plays. The biggest play was a 50-yard completion from Aikman to tight end Keith Jackson that moved the ball down to the Miami 16. They tied the game a few plays later when split end Derrick Shepard hauled in a nine-yard scoring toss at the 6:34 mark and Tim Lashar added the extra point.
The Oklahoma defense followed and held Miami on downs. Taking over after the punt, the Sooners marched down to the 19-yard line, where they attempted a field goal. Miami's Brown came right up the middle to block the kick, and the Hurricanes took over at the Sooner 45 with 1:28 left in the first quarter. Miami moved the ball down to the Oklahoma nine-yard line as the first quarter ended.
Early in the second quarter, Miami was faced with a fourth down-and-one from the four. Johnson decided against a field goal try, figuring he was extremely close against the best defense in the land. Testaverde fooled everyone on a bootleg and scored, sending Miami ahead 14-7 with 14:16 to go in the half.
After the kickoff, Aikman passes drove the Oklahoma offense down the field. Faced with a third-and-ten at the Miami 17, Aikman again dropped back to pass. Brown broke through and sacked him back on the 29-yard line with 9:18 left in the half, but Aikman, who had been six of eight passing for 131 yards, broke his ankle on the tackle, and would be lost for the season. Oklahoma attempted a 46-yard field goal, but it missed to the left.
Testaverde and company took over, and subsequently drove down to the Sooner 23, where they were finally halted. The Hurricanes tried a 40-yard field goal, but it also drifted wide to the left.
With 6:30 showing on the clock until halftime, Oklahoma quarterback Jamelle Holieway, a true freshman from Carson, CA, entered the game and led the charges onto the field. On his first play, he threw a 19-yard pass to Shepard. Behind the freshman, the Sooners used running plays to move down the field, but were stalled on a fourth down at the Miami 27-yard line when Brown tackled Carr for a one-yard loss. The half ended with the Hurricanes on top, 14-7.
Miami broke the game wide open in the third quarter. First, with 12:21 left, Oklahoma ran a reverse and Shepard tried to pass, but Bennie Blades intercepted the ball at the Miami 27. Their offense marched downfield, and Greg Cox kicked a 17-yard field goal. The points pushed the lead to 17-7 with 8:49 to go in the period.
Miami's defense forced Oklahoma into a punting situation and, after a short punt, took over with great field position on the Sooners' 38-yard line. A few minutes later, the Hurricanes were looking at a third down and 18, from the Oklahoma 35. Testaverde burned the secondary again, throwing a perfect pass between two defenders to Brian Blades for the touchdown. The extra point extended the Miami lead to 24-7 with 4:06 still left in the quarter.
After the kickoff, Oklahoma started at their own 22. A few plays into the drive, Holieway ran an option, was hit by Brown while attempting to pitch, and fumbled. Miami recovered on the Sooner 23, and went to work with 3:18 left in the quarter. The defense held, as Bosworth batted down two Testaverde passes, and Cox kicked a 36-yard field goal. Miami looked up and saw a comfortable 27-7 score with under three minutes in the quarter.
Oklahoma finally solved the Hurricanes' defense and mounted a drive early in the fourth quarter. Lydell Carr finished the march when he carried the ball across from the one. The gap had closed to 27-14 with 10:28 left in the game.
Miami controlled the game and the clock, and started to grind out both. After a Miami punt, Oklahoma got the ball on their own 26 with only 6:39 left in the game. Two running plays and an incomplete pass brought fourth down, and they had to punt the ball away.
Miami started on their own ten-yard line with 5:14 left, and proceeded to run time off the clock keeping the ball on the ground. The Sooners did get the ball back at the 3:06 mark, but were forced into a fourth down-and-three situation. Holieway dropped back to pass, scrambled and fumbled again. Oklahoma recovered, but it was short of the first down marker, and Miami ran out the clock.
The Sooners were brought back down to earth, losing 27-14. A mobile Testaverde and his speedy receivers had scorched the Oklahoma secondary with 270 yards passing, and the backs picked up another 105, against the tough Sooners' defense, and most importantly, they played mistake-free football, with no turnovers. Brown led the Miami defensive effort with 16 tackles, a blocked field goal, and a sack on Aikman. And on the other side, pressed into duty, Holieway had rushed for 57 yards on 17 carries and attempted just six passes.
Said Switzer, "The blocked field goal was one of the biggest plays in the game. At that time, we had moved the ball as well as Miami, and Aikman had looked great. But instead of being ahead, all of the sudden were behind. Then, when Troy hot hurt, we did not have the ability to come back."
Testaverde's performance did not surprise Johnson. "Vinny threw both touchdown passes on the money. But we thought he could do that. He is a great talent. Oklahoma has a good defense against running but they had not faced the kind of team we have. This is certainly no surprise to me."
Switzer also commented, " I was afraid this might happen if we did not control the ball. We just don't see that kind of passing scheme or that kind of talent. Thank goodness, I don't think we will see it again this year. There are a lot of teams and good passers left on our schedule but I don't think we will play anyone with Miami's balance."
Source: Jeff Linkowski