By J.T. Wilcox | Staff Writer
Sometimes things are too wild to explain.
After Miami saw its 12-point fourth quarter lead evaporate and Duke take a 27-24 lead with six seconds left in the game; the Hurricanes fielded the ensuing kickoff, lateraled it eight times – the final toss back into Corn Elder’s hands and he dashed 75 yards down the UM sideline for a touchdown – giving the Canes a stunning 30-27 win over the host Blue Devils.
Once Elder crossed the plane of the endzone, his teammates mobbed him as he had just completed a play that can only be compared to the fabled 1982 Stanford-Cal play.
After the wild return, officials appeared to have thrown a flag for a block in the back. But after a brief review to see if a Miami players’ knee was down during the return followed by another review for a block in the back, the referee said that all of the laterals and blocks were legal and that Miami’s touchdown stood.
The confirmation sent Miami’s sideline back into a frenzy as the Hurricanes had just won the first game played under interim head coach Larry Scott and stayed in full control of their ACC Coastal destiny.
“We practice until there’s nothing but zeroes left on the clock,” Scott was able to muster during the postgame interview on the field. “A wise man once told us that ‘unity overcomes adversity’, and that’s what happened tonight. This is a group of kids that was not going to lose. They weren’t going to lose.”
Duke fans and players were stunned while many Hurricanes players celebrated on the field and with the small throng of UM supporters that made the trip to Durham, North Carolina.
Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC) had a tumultuous week leading up to Saturday’s game – dismissing Al Golden as head coach, naming Scott the interim coach, dealing with the loss of Artie Burns’ mother and the indefinite suspension of senior defensive lineman Michael Wyche – but the team stayed connected.
As a sign of solidarity the team even walked, with arms locked, on to the field before the start of the game and back onto the field after halftime.
It was a roller coaster of emotions for Canes fans during the fourth quarter though.
Things were great when Miami went on an 8-play, 88-yard scoring drive that was punctuated by a Malik Rosier 19-yard touchdown pass to Stacy Coley – giving UM a 21-12 lead early in the fourth quarter. They got even better when the Canes took advantage of a Duke (6-2, 3-1) turnover on downs and took a 24-12 lead after a Michael Badgley 37-yard field goal.
Rosier, getting his first collegiate start in place of injured starter Brad Kaaya – who missed Saturday’s game with a concussion – put up Kaaya-ike numbers against a Duke defense that was among the best in the country against the pass.
The sophomore finished the game 20-of-29 for 272 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Also, running back Joe Yearby ran for a game-high 82 yards on 21 carries and freshman Mark Walton added 49 yards – most of which he gained during the fourth quarter.
Coley was Miami’s leading receiver with five catches for 87 yards and Herb Waters was right behind with four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Holding on to a 12-point lead with just over five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Miami fans started to fret when Duke drove 75 yards in 14 plays and cut the deficit to 24-19 after a Johnell Barnes bulldozed his way through a UM defender and an official for a 13-yard touchdown.
With 2:40 left, the Blue Devils tried an onside kick – which Chris Herndon recovered for the Canes. Miami’s ensuing drive yielded little and Duke took its two remaining timeouts, forcing Miami to punt the ball with 1:50 left in the game.
Duke began moving down the field with Thomas Sirk passes and with penalties – including two pass interference calls on Elder. The Blue Devils ended up going 80 yards in 10 plays, taking the lead on a 1-yard Sirk run and extending the lead to 27-24 after Sirk busted through Miami’s defensive line for the two-point conversion.
Sirk ended up completing 31 of 52 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown.
Penalties were a big issue for Miami Saturday. The Hurricanes committed a school-record 23 penalties for 194 yards and it nearly cost them the first game in a five-game stretch that will decide their ACC Coastal fate.
After Duke took the 27-24 lead, fans were upset by the number and validity of penalties that were called against the Canes and hope was bleak as only six seconds remained in the game.
The Blue Devils elected to squib kick the ball down the middle of the field, setting up one of the greatest plays in football history.
Elder could barely find the words to describe it after the game.
“That was a miracle,” Elder said.
“We just kept fighting and wanted to do this for Artie’s mom and Coach Golden.”