Thursday, February 17, 2011

Orange Bowl Snapshot: Bennie Blades vs. Notre Dame 1985

November 30, 1985: Miami safety Bennie Blades returns an interception 61 yards for a touchdown against Notre Dame. Miami won 58-7

During the 1980s, the University of Miami Hurricanes were the bad boys of college football. But where did that reputation begin? If I had to pick one moment in a specific game, it would be Bennie Blades's pick six against Notre Dame in 1985.

At the time Blades was a young sophomore who was just beginning to make a name for himself as a college player. Notre Dame's program may have been at its lowest point. Gerry Faust was coaching his final game and the Irish entered with a 5-5 record. Late in the second quarter, Miami led 13-0 and was in control of the game. Notre Dame quarterback Steve Beuerlein fired a pass intended for running back Allen Pinkett. Blades cut in front of Pinkett, intercepted the pass and then used his sprinter's speed to easily cruise 61 yards to the end zone. As Blades returned the interception he slowed down and high-fived teammate Selwyn Brown before crossing the goal line.

By today's standards, that's not much of a big deal. Players celebrate all the time and this one was tame. But looking back, that play was the first sign of Miami "swagger" that I can remember witnessing. It also opened the floodgates as the Canes rolled to a 58-7 victory. CBS broadcasters Brent Musburger and former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian would voice their outrage over the lopsided score and accused Miami coach Jimmy Johnson of running it up.

Before that game, Miami didn't have much of a reputation other than upsetting Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl and losing to Boston College on the famed "Hail Flutie" play. But this game forever changed Miami's image. Many like to look back at the Canes antics prior to the 1987 Fiesta Bowl against Penn State. But the 1985 Notre Dame game was when Miami became the villains of college football.

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