On November 10, 2007, the Miami Hurricanes suffered its worst home shutout loss in school history; a 48-0 drumming by Virginia. It was the last college football game played before the historic Miami Orange Bowl was closed and torn down so that the Florida Marlins could build their brand new ballpark and rebrand themselves as the Miami Marlins.
A 70-year run of highs, lows, championship moments and brawls was revived on Monday at the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl. The bowl game served as the first ever matchup between BYU and the American Athletic Conference Champion Memphis Tigers, who won the game 55-48 in double overtime.
BYU was entering their 10th straight bowl game under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, a school record for a coach in his first 10 seasons. Meanwhile, Memphis came into this bowl game, their first bowl appearance since losing 41-14 to South Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl in 2008, looking to “complete the mission” of finishing the season with their first 10 win season since 1938.
The Miami Beach Bowl was set up for success in their first season of existence. It’s the only college football game going on ESPN as a way to set up a huge Monday Night Football matchup between the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. It’s during the day on a Monday preceding a holiday week, so the only people that were going to the game were fans of the two teams and other people on vacation looking for a college football game. And finally, a game that ended 55-48 in double overtime and a fight to top it off.
Both teams went back and forth with touchdowns and comebacks. The fourth quarter was quite possibly the most exciting quarter of the bowl season with BYU capping the comeback with an interception returned for a touchdown by Zac Stout to give the Cougars the lead.
The interception didn’t faze Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch who finished the game with 302 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. On fourth down with the ball on the five-yard line, Lynch was scrambling around a fallen BYU defensive linemen failing to tackle him. He waives a signal to receiver Keiwone Malone and throw the ball to him through the BYU secondary like a thread through the eye of the needle for a game-tying touchdown.
“This is probably the craziest and [most] emotional game I have ever been a part of,” Lynch said. “I knew it was going to be like that coming in here and we knew when the ups and downs started happening that we just had to go with the flow.”
Memphis’ overtime possession couldn’t have went as bad as it did without ending in a demoralizing turnover. The only saving grace of being thrown back 12 yards is that in overtime, you get to start on the other team’s 25-yard line. So Bronco Mendenhall’s attempt to freeze Memphis kicker Jake Elliot failed and his 54 yard kick pushed the game into double overtime.
“It gave me a little bit of a chance to get focused up and get a couple more kicks in to get my leg loose,” Elliot said. “I know my teammates had my back so it was a good feeling.”
Roderick Proctor, a freshman from Orlando, Fla., caught his first collegiate touchdown catch for the give Memphis the victory after an interception by DaShaughn Terry sealed the game.
In celebration, the Tigers rushed towards their fans. Their fans were behind the BYU sideline and had to go through the frustrated Cougars to get there, thus sparking a brawl that reminded everyone about the 2006 fight between the Hurricanes and FIU in their first ever meeting.
Speaking of the Miami Hurricanes, things have not been looking up for the once proud football powerhouse since the demolition of the Orange Bowl and the move to Sun Life Stadium. Watching Billy Corbin’s “The U Part 2” documentary had many football fans in South Florida lamenting the Orange Bowl days of Hurricane football and cursing the Miami Marlins for how Marlins Park was built over one of Miami’s few historical landmarks.
The success of the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl opens up the possibility of Marlins Park hosting the Hurricanes as their new home venue.
UM’s home opener against Florida A&M of the FCS had an announced attendance of 48,254. That looks depressing in Sun Life Stadium, yet would be beyond a sellout in Marlins Park. The stadium seemed to pass all the tests necessary to field a college football game and with the roof over and place packed, the acoustics of the venue would give the Hurricanes a home field advantage unique to anyone in college football.
“I tell this to people all the time,” said Miami Beach Bowl director Carlos Padilla ll, “you don’t realize how intimate [ballparks] are until you go to a baseball stadium to watch a football game. The upper deck is stacked right on top of the field.”
There are plenty of baseball stadiums that hosted college football bowl games. The Pinstripe Bowl is in Yankee Stadium. The Fight Hunger Bowl was in AT&T Park before moving to the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and becoming the Foster Farms Bowl. The St. Petersburg Bowl is played in Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay and even Chase Field in Arizona hosted a bowl game for a few years. Even historic Wrigley Field in Chicago also hosted a Big Ten game between Illinois and Northwestern.
Money is always an issue with the University of Miami athletic program. So much that it’s in the process of becoming a basketball school because it’s cheaper. An on-campus football stadium – with likely less seating capacity than Sun Life Stadium – is unrealistic. They are playing their games in the home of the Miami Dolphins because it’s there and easier and cheaper to set up than building their own stadium.
Miami Hurricane football worked in the location of the original Orange Bowl and with a less capacity demand to pack in Marlins Park is a no-brainer. Less supply means more demand and a higher value for the tickets in a venue with no bad seat.
The Hurricanes will start their home-and-home series with Florida Atlantic in 2015 and could test the waters of playing games in Marlins Park by moving their home game with the Owls there in 2016. Since neither of the game times and dates have been announced, UM can move their 2016 home game with FAU in November during what normally be a bye week so it wouldn’t impede with the Miami Marlins schedule during a critical time in the MLB season.
With a realistic effort and more examples of college football working in Marlins Park, the Miami Hurricanes could and should bring college football back at the site of their past success.