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Loran - Smith Orange Bowl 1984

Smith Orange  Bowl 1984
By Loran Smith
Smith Orange  Bowl 1984
By Loran Smith


MIAMI – By nightfall, Jan. 2, 1984, the football world had already gone into a tailspin with Georgia having upset No. 2 Texas in the Cotton Bowl in the afternoon, 10- 9, which opened the door for Miami to claim the national championship. All the Hurricanes had to do was defeat No. 1 Nebraska, a team considered by many to be the best of all time. The Cornhuskers had already been called “the team of the century” by some soothsayers.

Howard Schellenberger, the Miami coach, seethed at such commentary. He had evaluated every Cornhusker game film over and over, and told a close friend, John Underwood of Sports Illustrated, that while Nebraska was good, they were certainly beatable.

Underwood was head of the Orange Bowl public relations committee which authorized the publishing of a book on the bowl’s first 50 years. I was fortunate to land the commitment to write the book which gave me an inside relationship with Schellenberger and several members of the Hurricane coaching staff.

However, there was unfinished business in Dallas, with Georgia playing Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The underdog Bulldogs, as all good Dawgs know, defeated the Longhorns 10-9 which brought about pandemonium at the Miami team headquarters as the pre-game meal was being served to the Hurricanes.

“I don’t think many of them ate anything,” Schellenberger told me after the game. “Steaks were flying off the wall. There was complete bedlam, and I worried that we would not be able to settle them down.”

Meanwhile, back in Dallas, I needed to get to the airport for a flight to Miami for the Orange Bowl continued from page

game. GilBrandt,Vice President of Personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, was giving me a ride to Love Field for my flight. He was anxious to miss the traffic emptying the Cotton Bowl, but I kept lingering back until I saw Texas fumble the punt which gave Georgia one last opportunity for victory.

The Longhorn punt returner fumbled the punt and Brandt is yelling, “Let’s go.” I lingered until that fateful moment. Vince (Dooley) was telling George Haffner, offensive coordinator and play caller, to “put it up George,” but Haffner went with his gut which was to have John Lastinger run the option. You, like everybody else, know the rest of the story. Lastinger scored on a 17-yard run which brought Georgia one of the sweetest victories in history. Geogia fans to this day talk about the time in Dallas where it will always be 10 to 9.

I got to see Lastinger score, and I made it to the airport on time to make my flight to Miami where I got to the Orange Bowl just after kickoff. Nebraska, experiencing one of the coldest cold spells ever in Lincoln landed in Miami in one of the balmiest conditions possible.

That likely made it tough on the Cornhuskers to practice and play in all that heat, but you would not know it when the second half came around. Miami jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but Nebraska fought back.

With time ebbing away, Nebraska scored and could have won the game with a two-point conversion pass with Miami leading 31-30. I was standing on the Cornhusker sideline, no more than a dozen yards from Coach Tom Osborne.

He never wavered following Nebraska’s touchdown. He quickly raised his right hand with his fore finger and middle finger signaling that he wanted to go for two.

An all-out blitz by Miami forced quarterback Turner Gill off balance. Even so, if he had led the receiver a yard to the outside, Nebraska likely would have completed the pass for victory.

A few weeks later, I was with Osborne in Atlanta, and we had a long conversation about the game. I asked him if he had thought about kicking the extra point since a tie might have enabled his team to win the national championship.

“Never crossed my mind,” Osborne said. “I know I would not have voted for a coach who made that decision. I wanted to win it on the field. I did not want to back into a championship.”

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