While many Gamecocks fans are disappointed that South Carolina is headed to Shreveport to play the Miami Hurricanes in the upcoming Independence Bowl, the matchup does have some interesting history on its side. This will be the first time the Gamecocks have played Miami since 1987. That year, one of the most talented Gamecocks teams ever lost narrowly to the eventual national champion Hurricanes in the final game of the regular season.
Both teams were loaded with talent in 1987. Miami, which was coached by the legendary Jimmy Johnson, featured a lineup including future NFL star WR Michael Irvin, as well as longtime NFL players such as QB Steve Walsh and WR Brian Blades. Future Miami head coach and current Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon also played for that Hurricanes team.
Joe Morrison's Gamecocks featured some memorable stars of their own that year. Tailback Harold Green would go on to be drafted in the second round of the 1990 NFL Draft and would play most of his career with Cincinnati. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after rushing for over 1000 yards in 1992. The most memorable player from that squad, though, was future first-round pick WR Sterling Sharpe, who set what were at the time a number of records while playing at Carolina before beginning a record-setting NFL career that was unfortunately cut short by a neck injury in 1994. Current Gamecocks radio personality Todd Ellis also starred for the 1987 team at QB.
After the Gamecocks lost early-season games to Georgia and Nebraska, they blazed through the middle part of their schedule. Their winning streak set up a showdown in Columbia between eighth-ranked Clemson and the twelfth-ranked Gamecocks. Carolina's defense would dominate the game, holding the Tigers to only 166 yard, the lowest total of the Danny Ford era. The Gamecocks won 20-7 in one of the biggest wins in series history.
That victory set up a top-ten matchup between the second-ranked 'Canes and the eight-ranked Gamecocks in Miami's Orange Bowl. That game lived up to the hype. The Gamecocks roared out to a 13-7 lead in the second quarter when Ellis hooked up with Sharpe for a long TD pass. However, Miami would take a 14-13 lead to the half. The second half was mostly all 'Canes, who despite not being able to run away with the game due to Carolina's stifling defense, were able to play some good defense of their own and shut down the Carolina offense. The 'Canes would prevail 20-16.
Their victory set up a bowl matchup between Miami and fellow undefeated Oklahoma for the national title. The 'Canes won to earn the second of the program's five national championships.
Miami's teams from this era were known for the brash, unruly style of the 'Canes players. That style was on full display against the Gamecocks, when an after-the-whistle hit on Ellis started a brawl between the two teams.
South Carolina ended the series with Miami due to complaints regarding Miami's behavior during the game. The two teams will finally have a chance to renew hostilities when they square off in this year's Independence Bowl.