There are only two (2) coaches in the history of football in the United States who have won both an NCAA National Championship and a Super Bowl NFL Championship….Jimmie Johnson and Barry Switzer…. which make this National Championship Orange Bowl game even more special….and when you add into this eqution that their teams played against each other for this 1988 National Championship seen herewith….plus they coached the same NFL team (Dallas Cowboys) to Super Bowl wins…..plus Switzer replaced Johnson as head coach of the Cowboys…..then when all is considered…..this is a sports record that may never again be matched.
The 1988 Orange Bowl featured “Game of the Century” type billing…..as the undefeated and top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners faced off against undefeated and second-ranked Miami for the national championship. Adding to the hype was the recent on-field history between the teams….when Oklahoma was a dominant force in college football….while winning the national championship in 1985….and losing just one game in each of the preceding two years….who were led by five (5) All Americans in CB Rickey Dixon (who won the Jim Thorpe Award)….TE Mark Hutson….TE Keith Jackson….LB Danté Jones….and DT Darrell Reed. Miami, though, had proven to be the thorn in OU’s side, as the Sooners’ losses in ’85 and ’86 had both come at the hands of Miami. Now, with the national championship on the line, Miami sought to make it three-losses-in-three-years for Oklahoma….and also their first postseason bowl win under Jimmy Johnson after three straight bowl losses….two in which they struggled and lost their chances to win the national championships. Further fuel for the fire was provided by the growing personal animosity between former Arkansas player Johnson and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer….who was also a former Arkansas player…..so, to say that this 1988 Orange Bowl matchup had branches of their strong-rooted football programs that overlapped each other would be an understatement.
Miami’s vaunted defense set the tone early in the game by forcing the Sooners to punt on their first five possessions…..meanwhile, QB Walsh settled into a nice rhythm by putting Miami on the board first with a 30-yard touchdown pass to FB Melvin Bratton….who caught 9 passes for 102 yards for the game. Oklahoma got on the board with a second-quarter touchdown to tie things up….but Miami responded with 10 unanswered third quarter points….coming on a 56-yard field goal by kicker Greg Cox and a 23-yard touchdown pass from Steve Walsh to Michael Irvin. Oklahoma would add a fourth-quarter touchdown to trim the score to 20-14….but Miami held on for the win and be named the national champions….as Johnson received a Gatorade bath….which messed his trademark impeccably coiffed hair….and was carried off the field after having finally won “the big one” at Miami.
The Hurricane defense held Oklahoma to just 255 yards of offense….while Walsh’s efficient play (18 of 30, 209 yards, 2 touchdowns) paced the Hurricane offense. Middle linebacker Bernard “Tiger” Clark- a backup middle linebacker who was forced to start after starting MLB George Mira Jr. was suspended for failing a drug test was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl after recording 14 tackles (12 unassisted).
With the win, Miami completed its first ever undefeated season. In winning their second national championship, the Canes once again had to go through the nation’s top-ranked team at the Orange Bowl, just as they had done in 1983….and any way you cut the pie….this game is MUST SEE TV for any and all college football fans.