If Duke Johnson played his final game in a Miami Hurricanes uniform Saturday, he went out to familiar roars of “Duuuuke” — even though his swan song came in Louisiana.
Johnson joined Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis as the only Miami running backs to collect 14 career 100-yard rushing games as he tallied 132 yards in the Hurricanes’ 24-21 loss to South Carolina in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
The 5-9, 206-pound junior is expected to announce he will enter the 2015 NFL Draft during a Sunday news conference, set for noon on Miami’s campus.
When Johnson’s mother, Cassandra Mitchell, was asked by the Palm Beach Post before the game if the bowl would be her son’s last college game, the Post said she nodded her head and quietly said, “Yes.”
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“You can talk to my mom if you want to, but my press conference is [Sunday]at noon,” Johnson told reporters following the game.
The Miami native recovered from a fractured ankle during his sophomore campaign to post 1,652 yards this season to pass Ottis Anderson atop the Hurricanes’ all-time rushing list — now 3,519 yards. His top performance this season was a 249-yard effort against Virginia Tech.
Johnson was Saturday’s leading rusher and was also Miami’s top receiver with five catches for 51 yards.
His final carry Saturday did not reflect his record-breaking career. With Miami trailing 17-14, Johnson fumbled with 5:24 left in the game at Miami’s 29-yard line. He also tweaked an ankle on the play.
Three plays later, South Carolina took advantage of Johnson’s fumble and sealed the victory with a 2-yard touchdown off a naked bootleg by quarterback Dylan Thompson.
“It’s frustrating to end it like that,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t really sure [if I fumbled] at the time.”
He said he “probably could have gone back” if the game went into overtime. Johnson was not on the field when Miami drove 72 yards in seven plays to cut the deficit back to three points with 2:16 remaining in the game.
“It’s not the way you want it to end,” Johnson said.
Said UM coach Al Golden: “Duke is a competitor. I would have loved to see all those [seniors] go out with a win.”
Standish Dobard, one of two Louisiana natives on the UM roster, got his first career start at tight end following Clive Walford’s knee injury. The sophomore from New Orleans hauled in his first and only pass of the game for 32 yards in the fourth quarter to set up Miami’s final touchdown.
Miami senior backup quarterback Ryan Williams, who was born in Shreveport, did not see action Saturday.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Hurricanes graduate assistant Kareem Brown stood on Independence Field before the game looking around and soaking in the memories. Brown’s first college game at UM came on the same field where the Canes played Louisiana Tech in the 2003 season opener and won 48-9.
“It brings back a lot of memories, the butterflies I had coming out of the locker room and how antsy I was anticipating my chance to get into the game,” Brown said. “Brock Berlin was our quarterback, and we put up a lot of points, so myself and fellow freshmen Baraka Atkins and Bryan Pata were able to play. Pata and I shared a sack that game.’’
Berlin, who is from Shreveport and still lives there, was at Saturday’s game.
▪ Duck Dynasty star Uncle Si was gathered with his family members before the game, their presence drawing quite a crowd.
When Uncle Si was asked what he thought of the matchup, he said, “I’m going for South Miami.”
How’d he figure that out?
“Easy,” he said. “I flipped a coin.”
When Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson — a former Louisiana Tech quarterback — was asked what he thought about the game, he said, “After playing football for a number of years, I decided to chase ducks instead of large, violent men chasing me.”