57 Days to Miami football: Orange Bowl MVP Bernard Clark

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 30: (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 30: (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Bernard Clark rose from backup to 1988 Orange Bowl MVP as the Miami football team won the 1987 National Championship.

Bernard Clark was thrust into the starting lineup for the Miami football team in the 1988 Orange Bowl following the suspension of star middle linebacker George Mira Jr. Clark recorded 14 tackles as the second-ranked Hurricanes finished off an undefeated season with a 20-14 victory over top-ranked Oklahoma.

Clark used the 1988 Orange Bowl as a springboard for the rest of his career. As a starter at middle LB, Clark led a stout Miami defense as the Hurricanes lost only two games with Clark in the middle of the Miami defense and won another National Championship in 1989. Miami finished second in the nation in 1988.

Oklahoma averaged 428.8 rushing per game in 1987. With Clark at MLB in the Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes allowed 179 yards rushing and 255 total in a defensive battle as the Miami offense only gained 281 yards in the victory. Clark cemented his star performance by being named the MVP of the 1988 Orange Bowl.

The victory gave Miami its first National Championship under Jimmy Johnson and second in five seasons. Miami finished second in the nation in defense allowing 9.7 points per game in 1988 with Clark in his first full season as a starter at MLB. Miami led the nation in defensive scoring in 1989 allowing 10.6 PPG.

In the 25 games Clark started for Miami beginning with the 1988 Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes finished 23-2 with two National Championship and a questionable fumble call away at Notre Dame from winning three titles in a row. It was the best era of Miami football. The Hurricanes dominated from 1983-92.

Four National Championships and other seasons with Bowl Game losses that would have resulted in National Titles with victories. Clark was a huge part of that success. Like many of his teammates, Clark was drafted into the NFL following his collegiate career. The Cincinnati Bengals chose Clark 65th overall in the 1990 NFL Draft.

Clark played two seasons in Cincinnati and two games with the Seattle Seahawks before his career ended. Clark became the defensive line coach at James Madison in 1998 to begin a coaching career. After 20 seasons as an assistant at the FCS and FBS levels, Clark became a head coach at Robert Morris in 2018.

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Clark improved the Colonials from a 2-9 record overall, 0-6 and seventh in the Northeast Conference in 2018 to 7-5 overall, 6-1 and second in the conference in 2019. Clark is a legendary figure in the history of the Miami football program with his 1988 Orange Bowl MVP performance and best player to wear number 57.