It was a handoff aimed at attacking the heart of Pittsburgh’s defense.
Duke Johnson did the rest. He cut right, then left and knifed his way forward for a 9-yard gain on the second play of the second half.
That’s how Johnson etched his name at the top of the Hurricanes’ all-time rushing list, passing Ottis Anderson, who held the previous mark at 3,331 yards since 1978.
Johnson’s run to the top of UM’s record books was about the only good thing Hurricanes fans could take with them as they left Sun Life Stadium on Saturday night. UM dropped its third game in a row, 35-23, falling to 6-6 on the season.
Johnson finished with 89 yards on 18 carries, bringing his career total to 3,387 yards rushing. Johnson also had three catches for 16 yards and scored on a 17-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Johnson said his mother will get his record-setting game ball.
“It’s satisfying and disappointing at the same time because it happened in a loss,” Johnson said.
His 1,520 rushing yards this season rank second all-time to Willis McGahee’s 1,753 yards in 2002.
The Hurricanes were a much different team back then. McGahee’s Canes played for national titles. On Saturday, as Miami’s seniors were honored for the final time about 10 minutes before kickoff, there were hardly 15,00 fans in attendance. It resembled more of the type of audiences Anderson played in front of.
Johnson, tabbed by NFLDraftScout.com as the fifth-best draft-eligible running back in its rankings and the 51st-best overall prospect, has yet to decide if he will forego his senior season. But this week at practice he said he felt like he has proven all he has to in college.
Johnson’s mother was photographed sitting in the crowd with agent Drew Rosenhaus.
Told after the game that his mother was sitting next to an agent, Johnson said he would tell her to keep her distance because he still has eligibility left. Asked if he’s decided yet if he will leave UM early, Johnson said “no.”
Johnson is UM’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards and now the school’s most prolific running back ever.
Here’s how he got there:
Johnson began the season 15th on UM’s career rushing list. He passed Leonard Conley (1,892 yards), Alonzo Highsmith (1,914), Lamar Miller (1,918), Tyrone Moss (1,942) and Stephen McGuire (1,953) to move into 10th place after running for 90 yards in the opener at Louisville.
The following week against Florida A&M, Johnson ran past Frank Gore (1,975) and had McGahee (2,067) in his sights.
Before he put up a season-high 249 yards on 29 carries in a win at Virginia Tech, Johnson had run past Javarris James (2,162), Danyell Ferguson (2,214), Graig Cooper (2,383) and Clinton Portis (2,523) for fourth all-time.
He churned past James Jackson (2,953) and Edgerrin James (2,960) with 177 yards and two scores against North Carolina before finally catching Anderson on Saturday.
“I just wish it was a better environment to celebrate what he accomplished. Because what he did was incredible,” UM coach Al Golden said.