The deluge began midway through the first quarter, turned into a monsoon of sorts and morphed into an all-around mess for the University of Miami on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Duke (6-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) became bowl-eligible by defeating Miami 20-12 for the Blue Devils’ first win at UM in 42 years.
“It’s becoming too common to congratulate the opponent first,’’ UM coach Mark Richt said, “but I’ll do that. I’m asking our guys to have a bit of integrity, so I’m going to try to do the same at this point. Duke did a very good job. They deserve the right to go celebrate.
“Don’t have a lot of really good answers right this minute. Certainly I’m sure you all have a lot of questions.”
The Hurricanes (5-4, 2-3), who are almost certainly out of the race for the Coastal Division title, still haven’t qualified for a bowl game. They lost their third game in a row and their first regular-season home game after 13 straight wins at Hard Rock.
No anti-UM banner planes flew, but the boos from the homecoming crowd of 62,754 grew exponentially louder with each quarter.
The Canes are now 5-7 overall in their past 12 games and 2-7 against Power 5 teams in their past nine games.
With 39 points in its past three games, UM has had its worst three-game scoring stretch since 2007, when the Canes scored 28 total in the last three games.
After playing two drives in the first quarter as a substitute to starter Malik Rosier, backup N’Kosi Perry came in again with 12:36 left in the game and Miami down 17-12.
On his first play afterward, Perry completed a pass to DeeJay Dallas, who fumbled for the second time.
Perry played the final four drives and nearly led UM to a last-minute touchdown to Lawrence Cager, who was called for offensive pass interference with 10 seconds left.
Perry finished 5 of 16 for 35 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 7 yards on five carries.
“It hurts, especially for the seniors,’’ said Perry, when asked how upsetting it was to be out of contention for the Coastal Division. “We wanted to do it big. Now we’re fighting to the end. We’ve got to play with pride.”
Rosier was 8 of 12 for 76 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He ran for 32 yards on eight carries.
Richt was asked about the quarterback situation and if he were trying to find one that will get hot.
“Maybe so,’’ the coach replied. “I mean, obviously you’d love to have one quarterback who’s playing his tail off and there’s no question who the guy is. I think it would be in our best interest if one guy steps up and balls out and plays great ball. We’re still trying to find that answer.’’
Miami’s offense was carried by its two running backs. Travis Homer finished with 133 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Dallas had 124 yards and the 83-yard touchdown on 12 carries, but lost the two fumbles.
Dallas’ touchdown, which took all of 12 seconds, was the sixth longest rush from scrimmage in Miami history. He sent puddles skyward as he sprinted down the right sideline in torrential rain, skidding into the end zone like a Slip ‘N Slide gone wild.
The snap for the attempted extra point ricocheted off the hands of holder Jack Spicer, and UM trailed 7-6 with 13:14 left in the first half.
With 7:26 left in the half, Miami took its first lead since the win over FSU when Homer culminated a six-play, 82-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. The drive included a 43-yard Homer rush and 25-yard pass from Rosier to Cager.
UM failed again to get points after the touchdown, when Rosier’s two-point conversion attempt was stopped by Duke.
But after 142 minutes and 24 seconds of game time spanning losses at Virginia and Boston College, Miami, up 12-7, finally had a lead.
The UM defense held Duke to 290 yards, with 75 of them coming on its first play from scrimmage, a touchdown run by Deon Jackson. Jaquan Johnson had Miami’s only takeaway, an interception in the final quarter. And Gerald Willis had the Canes’ lone sack.
“A game like this, you just want to go back to practice and start working again,” Johnson said. “I’m going to push them. The other leaders on the team are going to push them. There’s no giving up. We have three games left. We have to give it our all every day.”
Said Willis: “Coach Diaz was talking to the defense: Every day, just keep fighting. Don’t break up as a team. We love each other.”
The Canes are on the road again next Saturday at Georgia Tech (5-4, 3-3). Miami has beaten the Yellow Jackets eight out of the past nine years, losing during that stretch at Atlanta in 2014.
How big of a challenge will it be to keep the team together?
“I don’t know if that will be a big challenge because we are a pretty united team,’’ Richt said, “even though the more adversity that hits, the harder it is to keep everybody together. I think these guys enjoy each other. I think they like each other. I think they care about each other. I think they’re frustrated at the results. It’s going to be hard to keep our spirits up on a day like tomorrow.”