MIAMI, JAN. 1 -- Miami's Bernard Clark credited the player he replaced at middle linebacker, George Mira Jr., for his outstanding game in the Orange Bowl.

"He was on the sidelines talking to me," Clark said. "He helped me a lot. He said, 'You've got to stuff the wishbone and you've got to look for Keith Jackson on the pass.' "

Mira, Miami's all-time leader in tackles, was suspended from the game last week after he failed an NCAA drug test.

"I got a chance to start in one of the biggest games ever. But I'm still upset that George wasn't able to play," said Clark, a 238-pound sophomore who finished with 12 tackles, two assists and a fumble recovery and was named his team's most valuable player. "He missed a chance to build up his NFL stock. But the coaches told me, 'You have to step in,' and that's what I tried to do."

Clark, who made 53 tackles as Mira's backup during the season, said he just tried to play hard. "I was nervous about letting the team down. But I didn't have to prove anything to anyone. George is an excellent player and I just had to fill in the best I could."

Clark said the Sooners tested him by running inside early in the game.

"After me and the defensive tackles shut down the inside game, they went outside more. Our defensive tackles, Derwin Jones and Greg Mark, did a great job," he said.

He also said he wasn't surprised that the Sooners had difficulty passing.

"We knew we could cover them on the pass because they ususally go to one receiver -- Keith Jackson. We knew if we covered him, we'd be all right."

Clark said the victory was especially sweet because the Hurricanes had lost bowl games in each of the three previous seasons.

"Three years of trying, and we finally got it," he said. "We finally won this thing."

Clark's showing came as no surprise to his coach, Jimmy Johnson.

"Bernard Clark did a great job. I said a week ago he would do a great job," Johnson said.

Two second-half field goals by Greg Cox provided the margin of victory. Cox kicked an Orange Bowl-record 56-yarder, his career best, in the third quarter and added a 48-yarder with 3:41 to play.

"It's a dream come true," Cox said. "I've been waiting for this a long time."

Cox's first field goal of the game was his longest ever by four yards.

"I couldn't believe they were going to let me try one that long," Cox said. "Trevor Weeks, a freshman, said, 'Greg, I know you can do it. You're the best in the nation.'

"He gave me the confidence and I just stroked the hell out of it."

For quarterback Steve Walsh, the victory meant vindication.

"It's something we wanted for three years," he said. "We've been in the other locker room like Oklahoma and we know how that feels. It's really an unbelievable feeling to win and it's such a relief."

"If there's such a thing as exorcism this is it," Johnson said after being carried off the Orange Bowl field by his players. "It's unbelievable what this University of Miami football team has been through the last four years. Everybody throws rocks at us but I'll tell you what, they've got heart.

". . . This makes the hurt a little better. The 'other guys' win every once in a while."