Oklahoma football: The ‘U” was Oklahoma’s kryptonite in the mid-1980s

MIAMI - OCTOBER 03: Running back Javarris James #5 of the Miami Hurricanes is brought down by defensive back Quinton Carter #20 of the Oklahoma Sooners on October 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida. Miami defeated Okalahoma 21-20. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
MIAMI - OCTOBER 03: Running back Javarris James #5 of the Miami Hurricanes is brought down by defensive back Quinton Carter #20 of the Oklahoma Sooners on October 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida. Miami defeated Okalahoma 21-20. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) /

Between 1985 and 1987, Oklahoma football under head coach Barry Switzer was virtually unbeatable.

During that three-year span, the Sooners won 33 games and lost only three times. All three losses were against the University of Miami.

The Hurricanes are one of a very select group of college teams that have played Oklahoma more than five times in football and have a winning record against the Sooners. Miami is 4-3 all-time against Oklahoma, and three of those four victories were against Switzer.

Switzer also defeated Miami twice (in 1973 and again in 1975), but both wins were by four or fewer points.

Oklahoma held a 2-0 lead in the series when Miami traveled to Norman, Oklahoma, in October of 1985 to take on Switzer’s No. 3-ranked Sooners. Miami came in with a 4-1 record but was unranked.

Unlike the present-day Oklahoma team, the OU teams during that period were among the best in college football on the defensive side of the ball. Despite that, Miami drew first blood in the 1985 game, scoring on a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Vinny Testaverde to Michael Irvin (two names that should be familiar to all football fans). The Sooners came right back on an 89-yard scoring drive, the big play being a 50-yard pass from Troy Aikman to tight end Keith Jackson.

Early in the second quarter, Miami went ahead 14-7. On the ensuing Oklahoma possession, the Sooners moved the ball deep into Miami territory, and on a third-and-10 play at the Miami 17-yard line, Aikman dropped back to pass. Miami defensive back Sonny Brown broke through the line and sacked Aikman for a loss.

The failure to pick up the first down wasn’t the worst thing that happened to the Sooners on the play. Aikman suffered a broken ankle and would not play again that season (he would transfer to UCLA after the season). Oklahoma missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt on fourth down, and the score remained 14-7 at halftime.

Miami scored 13 unanswered points in the third quarter to stretch its lead to 27-7. The Hurricanes would go on to win the game 27-14. True freshman Jamelle Holieway took over at quarterback for Aikman and Oklahoma ran the table the rest of the season, winning eight consecutive games, including a 25-10 win over No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl to capture OU’s sixth national championship and the third under Switzer.

The Miami Hurricanes where Oklahoma’s kryptonite in the mid-1980s.

After the 1985 loss to Miami, Holieway and the Sooners would not lose again until the third game of the 1986 season, in a rematch in South Florida against the Hurricanes. This time it was a classic college football matchup pitting No. 1 Oklahoma versus No. 2 Miami. It marked the 20th time in college football history that the two top-ranked teams played each other.

Miami took control of the game early and never let up. At one point, the Hurricanes were up 21-3 and again at 28-10. Oklahoma never got any closer than 12 points, falling 28-16 for the second straight year.

Testaverde completed 21 of 28 passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns in leading Miami to the victory. He would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that year. Miami would finish No. 2 in the final Associated Press Poll. The Miami loss was the only one the Sooners would incur that season as Oklahoma finished No. 3.

In 1987, Oklahoma and Nebraska met in the final game of the regular season. Both teams came into the game with perfect, unblemished records and ranked No. 1 and No. 2, just as they had 16 years earlier in 1971 in the game billed as the “Game of the Century.” Unlike the 1971 game, though, the Sooners prevailed in 1987, winning 17-7 at Nebraska and won the Big Eight championship, their 12th under Switzer.

That set up a 1 vs. 2 rematch between top-ranked Oklahoma and Miami in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s night for what would be the national championship.

For the first time in three seasons, the Sooners did not have to face Miami QB Vinny Testaverde. He was gone in 1987 and the controls were turned over to Steve Walsh. The two teams battled to a 7-7 tie in the first half.

Miami put a field goal and a touchdown on the board in the third quarter and added another field goal in the fourth quarter to go up 20-7 in the contest. Quarterback Charles Thompson, who had been the star in the Sooners’ win over Nebraska a month earlier, was unable to get the famed OU wishbone offense untracked as the Miami defense managed to shut down the vaunted Sooner run game.

Oklahoma scored a touchdown on a trick play late in the game, but the outcome was pretty much decided much earlier despite the closeness of the final score.

For a third consecutive year, Miami had gotten the Sooners’ number, and twice when Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 in the country. The Sooners were perfect against every other opponent over that time, but Miami proved to be the Sooners’ kryptonite, an obstacle Sooner Magic was powerless to overcome.

No team has dominated Oklahoma three straight years like Miami did between 1985 and 1987.

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Jimmy Johnson, who had worked under Switzer for three seasons at Oklahoma in the early 1970s, was a perfect 3-0 against Oklahoma and Switzer as the Miami head coach. While Johnson was the head coach at Oklahoma State before going to Miami, though, he never beat Switzer and the Sooners, losing five consecutive times.