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Flashback: Miami-Florida State 1987
By Mike Diegnan
ABC Sports Online

In the epitome of the rivalry, Miami and Florida State met in Tallahassee on Oct. 3, 1987. Few college games will be able to repeat the drama and magnitude of this game.

No. 3 Miami visiting No. 4 Florida State in front of a then-record crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The intensity of this contest remains felt today as players from the game still run ragged over football fields every Sunday.

One side had Deion and Sammie Smith.

On the other were Michael Irvin, Steve Walsh, and the Blades brothers.

Both teams were loaded. On the field that day were more than 60 players that would eventually play football on Sundays in the NFL, including 10 first-round draft choices.

"I have a couple of team pictures from the '86 Miami team and '87 Miami team and I'm counting like 40 guys that played in the NFL out of 85-90," Walsh recalls. "Then you look at Florida State with Sammie Smith, Deion (Sanders), and (LeRoy) Butler. Just all over the field, there's guys that went on and played in the NFL and for quite some time. There was some great talent on both sides of the ball."

The trash talking between the Sunshine State powers reverberated all week. FSU's Deion Sanders called Miami receiver Brian Blades the most talkative Hurricane, "but one good hit will stop all the talking."

Afterwards, Jimmy (Johnson)'s motioning to me, 'I almost put (backup) Craig (Erickson) in there. He was just going to let me work myself out of it.
Miami QB Steve Walsh

When they finally took the field, FSU ran all over the Miami defense, rushing for 225 yards. Smith had 187 yards himself. His backups -- and most NFL teams would have drooled at such a backfield -- were Dexter Carter and Victor Floyd. One would think this sort of commanding performance would secure an easy victory.

Meanwhile, Walsh was struggling. Starting in just his third game as a Hurricane, the sophomore was left with the unenviable task of replacing Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde.

"Afterwards, Jimmy (Johnson)'s motioning to me, 'I almost put (backup) Craig (Erickson) in there," says Walsh, who completed just eight of his first 20 attempts. "He was just going to let me work myself out of it."

With 16 minutes to go, the Hurricanes trailed 19-3 and Bobby Bowden thought his Seminoles would escape from the shadow of their southern nemesis.

"I thought we had won," Bowden said after the game.

But Walsh connected with Melvin Bratton for a 49-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the third quarter.

After Florida State kicker Derek Schmidt missed a 31-yard field goal with 6:17 remaining, Walsh hit Irvin with a 26-yard touchdown pass. The 'Canes tied the game 19-19 on the two-point conversion.

FSU quarterback Danny McManus was putting the Seminoles in position for a game-winning drive with three minutes to go, but fumbled a snap on the Miami 11, which Miami All-American Bennie Blades jumped on.

Four plays later, Irvin and Walsh combined on a 73-yarder and the Hurricanes looked ready to move to 3-0.

"Even after we had come back and got the lead, I had never felt like we had won the game," says Walsh, who retired last year after backing up Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts. "There was never that thought."

McManus calmly moved FSU back down field with an eight-play, 83-yard drive. With 42 seconds remaining on the clock, McManus hit Ronald Lewis in the end zone and the Seminoles were within one, 26-25.

Before the game, Bowden had determined he would go for a tie -- not the win -- if that situation arose.

"We had decided before the game, and I had decided after 1980 when we lost by one (10-9), that I would go for the tie in the same situation," Bowden said after the game. "We had the extra-point team in, but I changed my mind. We had missed so many (kicks) today and the wind was really affecting our kicker.

"I was just afraid of missing it."

Each team called a timeout before the conversion took place.

"I was on my knee praying, 'Come on defense, give us strength,'" Walsh says.

McManus' pass intended for tight end -- and 11-year NFL veteran -- Pat Carter was knocked down by Miami's Bubba McDowell.

"If I had to do it over, I'd kick it," Bowden said then.

The Hurricanes recovered the onsides kick and the game was over -- Miami 26, FSU 25.

"I don't really know how we lost this one. I didn't think we deserved to lose it," Bowden added.

Jimmy Johnson's boys would remain third in the country until Thanksgiving. In the Orange Bowl that January, Miami defeated No. 1 Oklahoma and won its second national championship in five years. FSU would finish the season ranked second in the country.

There may never again be a roster-full of future professionals than were on the field that October afternoon. And few games will ever be able to match the intensity and drama that the Hurricanes and Seminoles provided a captivated audience.

Mike Diegnan is the college football editor for ABC Sports Online.

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