After proving themselves better than Nebraska, the Miami Hurricanes claimed they're better than No. 1 Notre Dame.
The Hurricanes thumped Nebraska 23-3 in Monday night's Orange Bowl game to ensure retention of their No. 2 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. Miami's only loss in 12 games was a 31-30 decision at Notre Dame in October."We might not be number one, but at this time we are the best football team in the country," Miami coach Jimmy Johnson said.
"Notre Dame has a great football team, and they beat us up in South Bend. But we've come a long way since then, and we're not the inexperienced team now that we were at that time."
The Fighting Irish beat West Virginia 34-21 Monday afternoon in the Fiesta Bowl to end Miami's hopes of a second straight national championship. Most of the Hurricanes learned that Notre Dame had won when the score was announced over the public address system midway through the Orange Bowl game.
"We were a little upset, and it got us a little fired up," quarterback Steve Walsh said. "We wanted to show the country that we were the best team in the country, maybe not in the polls but on the field."
Miami definitely was the No. 1 team in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes rolled to a 20-0 halftime lead thanks to two touchdown passes from Walsh to Leonard Conley and a defense that allowed only two first downs.
"They're the best team we've faced this season," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. "I'm sure that Notre Dame will be number one, but I don't think there are many teams that would come into the Orange Bowl and be favored to beat Miami."
Sixth-ranked Nebraska, 11-2, finished with 80 yards rushing, its lowest total in a bowl game since the 1941 Rose Bowl. I-back Ken Clark, who rushed for 1,497 yards during the regular season, was held to a season-low 36 yards in 14 carries.
"The defense pretty well had them zeroed in with everything that they did," Johnson said. "I think that we dominated the line of scrimmage more than anything else."
Nebraska's Steve Taylor completed only eight of 21 passes for 55 yards and ran 17 times for 12 yards. He suffered six sacks, including two by defensive end Greg Mark.
"We practiced containing Taylor all week long, because we felt that was the key," Mark said. "Our defense just got off the ball real quick and beat the Nebraska line to the punch."
The Hurricanes had a big advantage in total yards, 354-135.
"I'm proud of ourselves," Mark said. "Even though Notre Dame did win, our team showed a lot of character by not giving up and not pouting."
The game's only touchdowns came on Walsh passes of 22 and 42 yards to Conley. The latter score included a dazzling effort by the running back, who caught a swing pass at the 38-yard line and weaved down the left sideline with the help of blocks by three teammates.
Miami's Carlos Huerta added field goals of 18, 37 and 37 yards. One of the kicks followed a blocked punt by Bubba McDowell, the 10th of his career.
Nebraska's Gregg Barrios kicked a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter.
"Our big problem was that we couldn't generate enough offense to keep the pressure off of our defense," Osborne said.