The 1988 Orange Bowl featured “Game of the Century” type billing as the undefeated and # 1 Oklahoma Sooners faced off against the undefeated and # 2 ranked Miami Hurricanes for the national championship.
Adding to the hype of the game was the recent on-field history between the teams…..as 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…..whereas Miami had proven to be the thorn in Oklahoma’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 Coach Jimmy Johnson….after three straight bowl losses….with 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 players and teammates of Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer.
Miami’s vaunted defense set the tone early by forcing the Sooners to punt on their first five possessions….whereas, Miami QB Steve Walsh had settled into a nice rhythm….while putting Miami on the board first with a 30-yard touchdown pass to fullback 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…..which came on a 56-yard field goal by kicker Greg Cox….and a 23-yard touchdown pass from 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 the national championship.
The Hurricane defense held Oklahoma to just 255 yards of offense….while Walsh’s efficient play of 18 of 30 passing for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns paced the Hurricane offense. Middle linebacker Bernard “Tiger” Clark….who was a backup middle linebacker that was forced to start after starting MLB George Mira Jr. was suspended for failing a drug test…..as Tiger was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl after recording 14 tackles….with 12 being unassisted.
With the win, Miami completed its first ever undefeated season…..while winning their second national championship….as 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.