The Miami football team is headed to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium to play Wisconsin in the Bronx, New York. This will be Miami’s second trip to Yankee Stadium for a bowl game.
The Miami football team’s first holiday trip for a bowl game in the Big Apple came in 1962 for a game called the Gotham Bowl against Nebraska. It was the second and last Gotham Bowl played. Like the Pinstripe Bowl, it was played at (the old) Yankee Stadium.
The 1962 Miami football team entered the Gotham Bowl as the nation’s 18th ranked team led by All-American quarterback and future Miami Sports Hall of Fame George Mira Sr. Mira held several Miami passing records until they were initially broken by Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly in the early 1980s.
Mira threw for a then outstanding 1,893 in 11 games. The passing game was much different in that era and Mira threw for 12 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Mira had one of the best games of his career in the 1962 Gotham Bowl. He threw for 321 yards, which was an enormous number in that era, and two touchdowns.
Mira was named the Gotham Bowl MVP despite the Miami football team losing 36-34 to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. That was the first of six bowl games that Miami and Nebraska have played in. The Canes and Huskers played in 20-degree weather in front of a sparse crowd announced at 6,166.
Mira was inducted into the Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. He and his son George Jr are one of only two pairs of father-sons who are in the UM Sports Hall of Fame.
SB Nation’s metrics expert Bill Connolly wrote about the Gotham Bowl’s history and the 1963 Showdown between Miami and Nebraska in his book “The 50 Best* College Football Teams of All-Time...”
“The game was called the Gotham Bowl. Created to raise funds for the March of Dimes, the game had good intentions and no organization whatsoever. In fact, it would never actually make enough money to give any to the charity…
The teams (Miami and Nebraska) would battle in the 1984, 1989, 1992, and 1995 Orange Bowls, along with the 2002 Rose Bowl, and the winner of four of those five games would become national champion.
Miami would provide a stiff test, though. The Hurricanes had been outclassed by awesome LSU, Alabama, and Northwestern teams by a combined 82-13 but had otherwise gone 7-0 and averaged more than 20 points per game with All-American quarterback George Mira running the show. Could the Huskers keep up?
With a couple of breaks, yes they could…
The game: From the Lincoln Star:
“All 3 goals were accomplished with Gusto as George Mira, a magnificent moleskin matador, lost out in a brilliant individual fight against Nebraska’s superb team effort…
After a 20-20 halftime tie, the Huskers twice went for the two-point conversion and made it both times. This was the difference in the game.
And although Mira made them look helpless on pass defense, the Huskers intercepted twice and these were the key plays.”
Miami gained more than 500 yards but kept making mistakes before crossing the goal line. That, along with a second-quarter kick return touchdown, gave the Huskers just enough leeway to pull off a 36-34 win against the run of play. Two fourth-quarter interception(s) wrapped things up.”
Other than the combined 70 points, the game seems eerily similar to the Miami football team’s loss to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl 24 years later. The Hurricanes lost 14-7 in a game that determined the National Championship.
Miami outgained Nebraska 502 yards to 296. The Hurricanes ran 89 plays to Nebraska’s 56. Four Miami turnovers to the Cornhuskers two also made a difference.
The Hurricanes had 445 total yards to Penn State’s 162 in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. Seven turnovers to the Nittany Lions three cost the Hurricanes the National Championship.
Connolly continued about how the game turned out and where the Hurricanes program would go after the loss to Nebraska.
“Mira was the star, going 24-for-46 for 321 yards and two scores. But the late picks were devastating. Meanwhile, NU’s Dennis Claridge (9-for-14 for 146 and a touchdown) hit on some big plays in the passing game while Willie Ross (10 carries for 77 yards, one catch for 28 yards, and the kick return score) was the MVP…
Miami…would stagnate. Andy Gustafson was gone after going 3-7 in 1963, and while Charlie Tate drove the Canes to a No. 9 finish in 1966, he quickly fizzled as well.
The program became lifeless in the 1970s, and the school weighed whether or not to fold the team up altogether. It decided against that, however, and instead hired Howard Schnellenberger in 1979. Good choice.”
Miami had their opportunities to win the 1962 Gotham Bowl. The two turnovers stung and Miami wide receiver Bill Sparks fell down at the goal line with a chance for a touchdown. The Hurricanes went 3-7 in Mira’s final season in 1963 They went to bowl games in 1966 and ’67, but that would be their last one until 1980.
Between 1968-77 the Hurricanes had only one winning season. Hiring Schnellenberger was a program changer that still has an impact today. This year’s Hurricanes have a chance to become the first Miami team to win a bowl game in New York.