From ecstasy to agony — sometimes both in a matter of seconds.
That just begins to explain the range of emotions that coursed through the body of Jamal Carter during the University of Miami’s 30-27 loss at Notre Dame last Saturday.
Carter, a 6-1, 215-pound senior safety whose hits are always hard and energy always intense, was part of two critical plays, both of which could have been game-changers for the Hurricanes but instead went the Irish’s way.
The biggest play in that regard, perhaps of the game, was with 2:11 left on the clock, the score tied at 27 and the Irish with third-and-3 from the UM 7-yard line. Quarterback DeShone Kizer completed a 6-yard pass to tight end Durham Smythe before UM linebacker C.J. Perry hit Smythe and forced a fumble. The ball came bouncing toward a group of Hurricanes — led by Carter.
The ball skipped through Carter’s hands and bounced into his chest. He fell on it. A whole bunch of football players fell on him. And when they were peeled off, one by one, the final ruling was Notre Dame’s possession, specifically Kizer.
Instead of the Hurricanes having two minutes to drive toward a field goal, or at least force overtime, the Irish kicked the deciding 23-yard field goal with 30 seconds left.
The TV replays showed the pileup and UM players pointing as if it were their ball, but never showed the end result.
Carter, who said Wednesday he has learned from the play in preparing for Pittsburgh on Saturday, described the ball as first bouncing awkwardly toward the side of his body, “so it kind of deflected off my hand. And then when I turned around and went to go for it and I dove, and I had it, and I hit the floor, it kind of rolled under my left leg.
It was under my leg, and I was holding it. I was like, ‘Come on, ref. It’s my ball. I know you seen me got it.’ He was like, ‘No, you got your leg on it.’ And he gave it to them.
Jamal Carter, UM safety
“Then I still had my leg on it and I had it like this,’’ he demonstrated, showing both hands holding an imaginary ball behind his left thigh. “Then another guy came from Notre Dame, and he put his hands on it, too.
“And everybody was on the pile and the ref was like, ‘White ball! White ball!’ Meaning, the jersey color. Then another ref came over there and he was like, ‘Hold on.’ He moved everybody off the pile and then, ‘Nah. Nah. Blue ball!’
“It was under my leg, and I was holding it. I was like, ‘Come on, ref. It’s my ball. I know you seen me got it.’
“He was like, ‘No, you got your leg on it.’ And he gave it to them.”
UM coach Mark Richt, who assessed Carter’s play this season as “outstanding,’’ said “when it was all said and done,’’ Kizer “was in better position to get it.
“His play has been great,’’ Richt said of Carter. “Very physical. Great on special teams — he’s been doing a beautiful job on that, too. I really like what he has done for this team.’’
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Wednesday that the fumble was “more than a key moment in the game.’’
“The one thing about Jamal is his effort is never in question,’’ Diaz said. “He has been a great leader for us in terms of keeping the guys going. … When we watched that play we actually talked about other guys, the second wave of guys, that really should have covered him up. We felt like we might have had a chance to get on that ball.’’
Diaz mentioned freshman Malek Young being “one of the guys that was a first responder to that fumble pile and was excited and watching what was happening as opposed to just going full speed and getting in [there].’’
Carter, a starter who is fourth on the team with 43 tackles, had another big play Saturday that did go his way but resulted in no points.
About midway through the second quarter, after UM’s first touchdown made it 20-7, the Hurricanes surprised everyone with an onside kick that was recovered by Carter.
“Just a beautiful job there by Carter,’’ Richt said after the game. “I thought his patience to wait for it to go 10 [yards] was huge. A lot of guys might have jumped on it too quick.’’
But the Canes, who got the ball at their 47-yard line and drove to the Notre Dame 37, ended up punting from their own 46 after Brad Kaaya was sacked for a loss of 17 yards.
“It was just crazy,’’ Carter said.
▪ UM cornerback Corn Elder (thumb injury) was back at practice and will be ready for the Pittsburgh game, Richt said.