University of Miami

Miami’s 1991 national title team, led by quarterback Gino Torretta, gets honored

UM kicker Michael Badgley drills a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter of Saturday night’s showdown. He added a 51-yarder in the second quarter.
UM kicker Michael Badgley drills a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter of Saturday night’s showdown. He added a 51-yarder in the second quarter. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

The University of Miami’s 1991 national championship team, in its 25th anniversary year, was celebrated on Saturday at halftime of the game against Florida State, as about 75 players, coaches and staff members attended the game and were spread among a dozen or so suites at Hard Rock Stadium.

Coach Mark Richt named Gino Torretta, the quarterback of that team and the next season’s Heisman Trophy winner, the honorary captain of Saturday’s game.

Torretta was busy hosting a pregame tailgate that benefitted ALS research through his Torretta Foundation and presented a check for $50,000 to the UM Miller School of Medicine’s neurology department to conduct the research.

“ALS is a horrible, debilitating disease,’’ Torretta said. “Unfortunately, more and more people I know have come down with it, including a kid who was in my fraternity and was a walk-on in [1992]. We had the foundation, it was the 25th anniversary for our ’91 team and I figured, ‘Why not use both to raise money for its research?’ ’’

Some of the 1991 champions who attended: Ray Bellamy, Gary Dunn, Darrin Smith, Rohan Marley, Darryl Williams, Leon Searcy, Kelvin Harris, Eric Miller and Warren Sapp.

The coach that year, Dennis Erickson, sent a video for the players to watch.

Another person affiliated with that team who UM fans of ESPN’s “College GameDay” would recognize: Chris Fallica, a research producer known as “The Bear’’ on GameDay. Fallica, a 1994 UM graduate, worked in the sports information department for UM in 1991 and ’92. He was presented with a nifty leather bag with the 1991 team’s 25th anniversary insignia stitched on it, along with his name.

As for Torretta, who is fourth on UM’s all-time career passing yardage list entering the FSU game (7,690 from 1989 to ’92), he will be passed on that list soon by Brad Kaaya. Before Saturday’s kickoff, the Miami junior needed another 320 yards to go past Torretta.

“There are a lot of people who have passed me since I left,” Torretta said, grinning. “It is what it is. I started a lot of games. I don’t care how many records Miami breaks. I just want them to win.”

Next week, when North Carolina comes to Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes’ 2001 team and its coaches will be honored.

▪ Stacy Coley’s 16th career touchdown catch, a 21-yard pass by Kaaya to the right rear corner of the end zone in the second quarter, put him all alone at No. 8 on the all-time UM touchdown receiving list. He came into the game tied with Brian Blades (1984-87). Michael Irvin is the career leader with 26 from 1985 to ’87.

▪ Michael Badgley made a season-long 51-yard field goal late in the second quarter and a 37-yarder in the first quarter. By halftime, Badgley had made 72 consecutive extra points of his 101 total.

▪ UM redshirt freshman defensive end Scott Patchan made his career debut in the first half, hitting quarterback Deondre Francois on one play. Patchan returned after tearing the ACL of his right knee during the spring.

▪ The Florida State Marching Chiefs marching band did not attend the game because they were advised to stay off the roads as Hurricane Matthew was making its way up the coast. The band travels by bus, and because of its absence the Seminoles War Chant seemed nonexistent.

▪ Starters for the Hurricanes on offense: QB Kaaya, RB Mark Walton, WR Coley, WR Ahmmon Richards, TE Christopher Herndon IV, TE David Njoku, LT Trevor Darling, LG Kc McDermott, C Nick Linder, RG Danny Isidora, RT Sunny Odogwu.

Starters on defense: DL RJ McIntosh, DL Kendrick Norton, DL Demetrius Jackson, DL Chad Thomas, LB Shaquille Quarterman, LB Michael Pinckney, LB Zach McCloud, DB Sheldrick Redwine, DB Corn Elder, DB Jamal Carter, DB Rayshawn Jenkins.

▪ Parking lot adjustments for tailgaters were announced the day before the game, when late Friday afternoon Miami announced officially that the game would be played.

Tailgaters had fewer hours to party outside the stadium, with the first two lots opening at 4 p.m. while five others opened at 5 p.m. because of the impact Hurricane Matthew had on “logistical challenges,” Hard Rock Stadium senior vice president of operations Todd Boyan said.

It was rowdy nonetheless.

“I’ve been a diehard Canes fan since 1989,’’ said tailgater Abe Maldonado, 35, who lives in Long Branch, New Jersey, but said he “grew up in a really bad neighborhood on the lower east side of New York and that bad-boy image of the teams back then was one I could relate to.

“I come to at least one game every season — and this is it.”

Nearby, Hector Monzon, a 22-year-old FSU graduate, sported a Florida State cap and said the tailgating atmosphere wasn’t “as fun as FSU’s.’’

“Obnoxious fans,’’ said his friend, Felingo Diaz, who attends FIU Law School.

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