Miami overcomes week of heartache, turmoil to stun Duke

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To say it’s been a rough week for the Miami football program on and off the field would be a sizable understatement.

Exactly a week ago, the Hurricanes sustained the worst loss in the history of the Hurricanes, leading to the firing of head coach Al Golden the following day. Starting quarterback Brad Kaaya sustained a concussion in the loss and was ruled out of today’s game against No. 22 Duke, while defensive tackle Michael Wyche was charged in a domestic violence incident. Most tragically, the much-beloved mother of defensive back Artie Burns suffered a heart attack Monday and passed away the next day.

With all of that tumult and heartbreak thundering around them, The U proved once again what kind of sanctuary a football field can be as they went into Durham and stunned the Blue Devils 30-27 on one of the most wild endings in the history of any sport.  Duke had scored a touchdown with just six seconds left on the clock to take a 27-24 lead.  The Blue Devils squibbed the ensuing kickoff and, eight laterals, 46 seconds of real time, 75 yards of statistical movement, a couple of hundred yards of actual motion and a seemingly eternal officiating review, Miami-Duke told Stanford-Cal to go have a seat, son.

We’ll now await word from the ACC as to if or, even worse, why the block in the back that was initially called on that play was reversed under review when such a penalty is not reviewable.  Or how the knee of a Miami player that was seemingly down during the course of one of the laterals wasn’t picked up during the nearly 10-minute review.  Or how Miami players had begun to stream on the field before the touchdown was scored.  That said…

The Hurricanes played like an inspired bunch the entire night, and it’s not hard to understand why as Burns, showing the depth of character that the coaching staff loves about him, not only made the trip with his teammates but played four days after his mom’s death.  The stunning finish culminated a game that was dedicated to the courageous young man, and one that had taken on the look of a romp at least partway through.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Miami jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter and took a 14-3 lead into halftime.  A rejuvenated Blue Devils squad scored a touchdown in the first three minutes of the third quarter when, combined with a safety late in the same period, cut the lead to 14-12.  10 points in the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter stretched Miami’s lead out to 12 at 24-12 with 5:54 remaining.

A Thomas Sirk touchdown pass to Johnell Barnes from 13 yards out sliced the lead to 24-19 with 2:40 left in the game.  An ensuing onsides kick was recovered by the ‘Canes; the Blue Devils got the ball one last time with just under two minutes remaining, setting the stage for the crazy ending.

Playing for an injured Kaaya and making his first career start, Malik Rosier was, for the most part, superb. While he did have an interception, he nonetheless managed the game extremely well as he completed 19-of-28 passes for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

One final statistical note: Miami was flagged a whopping 23 times for 194 yards, Duke five times for 41 yards.  Say what you want about reversing the penalty on the final play or the possibility a Miami player’s knee was down on the same play, I’ll just label it an officiating market correction — anyone see Duke’s final drive and the three somewhat questionable flags on the ‘Canes? — and move on from a shoddily officiated game on both sides.

The loss for Duke when it comes to the ACC Coastal race is a potentially significant one, but also one from which they can bounce back quickly. At 3-1 in ACC play, Duke finds themselves one game behind 4-0 North Carolina; next Saturday, the Blue Devils will travel to Chapel Hill for a critical matchup with the Tar Heels. Pittsburgh, which was dealt its first ACC loss by UNC Thursday night, is 4-1 and idle in conference play until a Nov. 14 date with Duke.

Depending on the outcome of the Duke-UNC game next weekend, that Pitt-Duke game the following week could end up being a play-in game to the ACC championship game.