There is no Oklahoma football this weekend as the Sooners enjoy the second of three bye weeks this season.
That was not the case 35 years ago, in 1985, as OU returned home this same week to host the University of Miami (Florida) in their first home game of the season. The Sooners were 3-0 in Barry Switzer’s 13th season as head coach, ranked No. 3 in the country and coming off of an emotional 14-7 win in the annual Red River rivalry game with Texas.
The Hurricanes came into the game unranked but sporting a 4-1 record.
The game featured a classic matchup between the country’s top-ranked offense in Miami and one of the nation’s best defensive teams in Oklahoma. (That’s not a misprint. The Sooners actually have had some great defensive units in the past.)
Miami head coach Jimmie Johnson, a familiar face to the Sooners and the Sooner State, was making his first trip back to Oklahoma since leaving as the head coach of Oklahoma State from 1979 to 1983. A decade earlier he had been an Oklahoma assistant along with Switzer on the staff of Chuck Fairbanks. Johnson coached the defensive line while at OU.
This was only the third meeting between Oklahoma and Miami, and the last game between the two teams had been 10 years before. The Sooners had won the previous two games, but only by a combined margin of seven points.
Before a sellout Oklahoma Memorial Stadium crowd of 75,000, Miami drew first blood in the game, scoring midway through the opening quarter on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to future NFL All-Pro Michael Irvin to take a 7-0 lead.
Oklahoma responded on the ensuing change of possession, going 89 yards on six plays, the big play a 50-yard pass from Sooner quarterback Troy Aikman to tight end Keith Jackson that gave OU a first down on the Miami 15-yard line. Several plays later, Oklahoma scored on a nine-yard scoring pass from Aikman to wide receiver Derrick Shepard (father of Sterling Shepard). Tim Lashar added the extra point to tie the game.
There was no further scoring in the first quarter, although both teams threatened.
Reflecting back 35 years ago this week in Oklahoma football history
The first quarter ended with Miami on the Oklahoma nine-yard line. Early in the second quarter, faced with a fourth-down-and-one from the Sooner four-yard line, Miami’s Johnson decided to go for it instead of kick a field goal. On the fourth-down play, Testaverde scored on a bootleg, putting the Hurricanes back in the lead at 14-7.
Aikman led an Oklahoma drive inside the Miami red zone on the Sooners’ next possession. On third-and-10 from the Miami 17-yard line, Aikman dropped back to pass and was sacked for a 12-yard loss on the 29-yard line by 285-pound Miami defensive tackle Jerome Brown.
Aikman suffered a broken ankle on the play, an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Aikman’s day ended having completed six of eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. Lashar’s 46-yard field-goal try drifted wide left.
Miami drove to the Oklahoma 23-yard line after taking over after the missed field-goal try, but could go no farther. A 40-yard field-goal try met the same wide-left fate as Lashar’s.
A true freshman named Jamelle Holieway replaced Aikman, and on his first play from scrimmage connected on a 19-yard pass to Shepard. In contrast to Aikman, Holieway was more of a triple-option, running threat, and Oklahoma used its wishbone attack to advance the ball to the Miami 27-yard line. The Hurricane defense stiffened from there, as the Sooners were unable to convert a fourth-and-one play.
The first-half ended with Miami holding a 14-7 advantage.
Miami took a commanding lead in the third quarter. An Oklahoma reverse and wide-receiver pass ended badly when Hurricane defensive back Bennie Blades intercepted a pass by OU’s Shepard. The Miami offense moved the ball deep into OU territory, but had to settle for a 17-yard field goal by Greg Cox.
Oklahoma was forced to punt on its next possession, and a short punt set up the Hurricanes at the OU 38-yard line. Miami took full advantage of the short-field, and a few plays later Testaverde found Bennie Blades’ brother, Brian, in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point made the score 24-7 with a little over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
After the kickoff, Oklahoma started at its own 22-yard line. A few plays later, a mishandled pitch by Holieway was recovered by Miami at the Sooner 23-yard line. The Sooner defense went to work and stopped Miami there, thanks to a couple of batted-down passes by linebacker Brian Bosworth.
Miami was able to kick a field goal, and extend its lead to 27-7. That’s the way the third-quarter ended.
Oklahoma mounted a long scoring drive early in the final quarter, with Lydell Carr finishing off the drive with a one-yard run. At that point, there was still over 10 minutes left
The Sooners did get the ball back on two other occasions, but were forced to punt on one of the possessions and fumbled on fourth down on the other. The Hurricanes controlled the ball and the clock for most of the final 10 minutes, keeping the ball on the ground for most of it.
It was a tough loss for Oklahoma on several levels.
Testeverde passed for 270 yards and Miami also gained 105 yards on the ground. After replacing Aikman, the young Holieway rushed for 57 yards on 17 carries and threw just six passes as the Sooners stuck mostly to a ground game.
After the game, Switzer was quoted as saying, early in the game we had moved the ball as well as Miami and Aikman had looked great. But instead of being ahead, he said, we’re behind. Then, when Troy got hurt, we weren’t able to come back.
“We just don’t see that kind of passing attack,” Switzer said. “Thank goodness, I don’t think we’ll see it again this year.”
The Sooners fell to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll after losing to Miami, but they went on to win their final seven regular-season games and claim the Big 12 championship.
Switzer was right. OU did not face another offense like Miami’s the rest of the season.
Oklahoma climbed back to No. 3 in the AP poll and, as the Big 12 champion, earned the automatic right to meet No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl that season. The Sooners rushed for 228 yards and Holieway completed three of six passes for 91 yards as Oklahoma defeated the Nittany Lions 25-10. and Holieway became the first true freshman quarterback to win a national championship