Nebraska and Miami met five times in bowl games from 1984 to 2002, with the winner staking claim to the national title four times. Here’s a look inside the series at three of the most memorable games from an era gone past in college football:
1984 Orange Bowl: Miami 31, Nebraska 30
December 1983 rated as one of the coldest months on record in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The high temperature was 36 degrees on Dec. 8. The low? Minus-24 on Dec. 22, part of a weeklong stretch when the thermometer did not reach zero while the top-ranked Cornhuskers readied to play Miami in the Orange Bowl.
At the time, Nebraska practiced outdoors on frozen grass and AstroTurf. Four years later, the school built an indoor facility, spurred in part by the horrendous conditions of that month. When the Huskers arrived in Miami, players and coaches exited the plane in their winter coats. The heat and humidity hit them hard -– which was a factor as the Hurricanes jumped to a 17-0 lead on Jan. 2.
The 1983 Huskers averaged 50.3 points and 370.8 rushing yards per game behind quarterback Turner Gill and Heisman Trophy-winning I-back Mike Rozier. But in that Orange Bowl, Nebraska sputtered offensively as Rozier left in the second half with an ankle injury.
The Huskers pulled within one, but Gill’s two-point conversion pass failed in the final minute as Kenny Calhoun knocked the ball away from Nebraska I-back Jeff Smith.
The whole scenario couldn’t have worked any better for Howard Schnellenberger, the Hurricanes’ showman of a head coach who, in buildup to the bowl game, landed a helicopter on the Nebraska practice field in Miami, jumping out with a pipe in his mouth.
A wayward program just five years prior when Schnellenberger took charge, Miami won its 11th consecutive game to earn the school its first national title and first of four in a nine-year period.
And the Huskers, again under Tom Osborne, were left out in the cold.
1995 Orange Bowl: Nebraska 24, Miami 17
The story is part of Nebraska lore. Not the two-touchdown comeback or the prescient halftime vow to his team by Osborne that Miami would tire late -– well, that’s all legendary, too -– but Tommie Frazier’s version of the trash talk shared with Warren Sapp perhaps best symbolizes Nebraska’s rise to surpass Miami in this once-lopsided postseason series.
Osborne had replaced Frazier with Brook Berringer early, the arrangement in place for much of the 1994 regular season as blood clots sidelined Frazier for eight games.
When Frazier returned to field late in the fourth quarter, the Huskers trailed 17-9. Sapp, the Hurricanes’ boisterous defensive tackle, shot jabs at the junior quarterback.
“Where you been, Tommie,” Sapp shouted, according to Frazier.
“It’s not where I’ve been,” Frazier said in 2009, recounting the exchange. “It’s where I’m going, fat ass.”
With fresh legs, Frazier, the Florida native who came up two points short against Florida State a year earlier in the same stadium, gashed Miami on the option. With less than eight minutes to play, fullback Cory Schlesinger burst through middle for a 15-yard score. Frazier found tight end Eric Alford for a two-point conversion to tie it.
Less than five minutes later, with Frazier at the helm, Schlesinger scored again from 14 yards out. The victory secured Osborne’s first national title and one of three in his final four seasons as coach.
As usual in his college career, which concluded with 33 wins in 36 starts, Frazier had the final word.
2002 Rose Bowl: Miami 37, Nebraska 14
Six years before this most recent Nebraska-Miami meeting, the Cornhuskers fielded a team in 1995 that was considered by some as the greatest in history. Its average margin of victory approached 40 points. And true to form, Osborne’s team crushed Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl.
If only the 1995 Huskers could have met 2001 Miami. Because this Nebraska team had no chance. The Hurricanes, loaded with 16 future first-round NFL draft picks, blitzed the Huskers for 27 second-quarter points en route to a 34-0 halftime lead. Miami could have named its score, but coach Larry Coker showed mercy in the second half as the championship celebration began early.
The star power at Miami in 2001 was incredible, featuring running backs Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, quarterback Ken Dorsey, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow, safeties Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams, receiver Andre Johnson, cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork -- the list seems never-ending. In all, 38 players from that team were drafted. They accumulated more than 40 appearances in the Pro Bowl.
Miami outscored its opponents in 2001 by 33.2 points per game. Its offense, defense and special teams units each could lay claim to a ranking as the nation’s best.
And for all the work Nebraska accomplished in the '90s to close the gap on Miami’s dynasty of the previous decade, it looked wider than ever on Jan. 3, 2002.