Some good stuff dropped last week as SB Nation’s own Bill Connelly wrote another book, The 50 Best* College Football Teams of All Time (obligatory plug is obligatory), and in it he discusses the lone MAC team in that book, the 1974 then-Miami Redskins. In the chapter, Bill C talked a bit about the Cradle of Coaches (which is neat to see in a relatively big-time publication) before going into a recap of Miami’s season (which was tremendous), something that I have mixed feelings on.
I’m not entirely sure how to feel about using the Cradle to frame a discussion on those mid-1970’s Redskin teams. On the one hand, it is arguably Miami’s biggest contribution to college football (and pro football as well), and is something that should be recognized and discussed at length. On the other hand, you would think that an unbeaten MAC team with two wins over squads from the SEC would be able to stand on its own merits. But alas, this is what we’ve got here and it’s still pretty good.
Now it’s on to the actual 1974 season, and what a season it was in Dick Crum’s first year at the helm in Oxford. After shutting out a pre-MAC Eastern Michigan team 39-0, Miami scratched and clawed its way to a 7-7 tie at Purdue as the ‘Skins turned the ball over four times and the Boilermakers had three chances to kick the game-winning field goal with seconds remaining as Miami jumped offsides twice, but they missed all three tries of 42, 37, and 32 yards. Purdue was able to knock off #2 Notre Dame 31-20 the following week before limping to the finish line with a 4-6-1 record.
Following a 42-0 shellacking of Marshall the next week, the Red and White were in another dogfight on the road as a decent Kentucky team took a 10-0 lead after seven minutes of play. In the third quarter, a touchdown toss from Sherman Smith to tight end Ricky Taylor cut the deficit to three points, and Miami took a 14-10 lead shortly after that with Brad Cousino blocking a punt in the endzone for a defensive TD. The Wildcats threatened late, but the ‘Skins made a goal line stand at the three-yard line for the win and a AP Top 20 ranking.
The Redskins cruised in the next two games to kick off the MAC season with a 31-3 victory at Ohio and a 34-10 home win against Bowling Green. A good Toledo team scared the ‘Skins early with a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, but Miami then reeled of 31 unanswered points to extend its unbeaten streak to 19 games. The following week, MU clinched at least a share of the MAC title with another shutout, this time a 31-0 decision at home vs. Western Michigan.
In the game at Miami Field for the match-up with a very good Kent State team, Miami found its streak in serious jeopardy as a KSU score gave the Flashes a 17-16 edge with just 58 ticks left on the clock. Then #MACtion happened, as the ‘Skins hit a QB throwback to Smith for 26 yards to start the drive and starting quarterback Steve Sanna then drove the team 30 yards in two passes. Kicker Dave Draudt, who went 4-14 on field goals in 1974, made the 19-yarder to keep the Redskins unbeaten.
After downing Cincinnati 27-7, the Red and White earned a bid to the Tangerine Bowl to take on Georgia after defeating Florida 16-7 in the same bowl in 1973. Miami managed to take a 21-3 lead into halftime before allowing a Bulldog TD in the second half as the Redskin defense continued to be awesome as it only allowed 74 yards on the ground. The ‘Skins win (along with some help elsewhere in bowl season) earned them the #10 spot in the final AP Poll.
The three-year stretch from 1973-75 for Miami might be as good as the MAC will ever see as the boys from Oxford registered a 32-1-1 record as the team was anchored by Smith, Rob Carpenter, and Randy Walker. These teams are arguably the best that the league has ever seen, but this level of dominance may never happen again in the conference with the changes in recruiting dynamics. But for now, it’s nice to see some of the great teams of this league get the proper recognition that they deserve.