University of Miami cornerback Corn Elder called it “a miracle,” and it certainly seemed like one.
With six seconds remaining — after No. 22 Duke had scored a touchdown to take its first lead of the game 27-24 — Miami used eight laterals on the ensuing kickoff, the last to Elder, to score the winning touchdown for a 30-27 victory.
The officials at first called a block in the back on Miami, then took several minutes to review video and give UM the victory.
ESPN reported that the 75-yard touchdown play took 46 seconds, meaning that the clock was at 00:00 for 40 seconds.
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UM players went berserk, jumping in a huge pile in the end zone in sheer ecstasy.
“That was just a miracle,” Elder said.
His coach was nearly speechless.
“Loss for words, right?” Miami interim coach Larry Scott said. “… Kind of like what can’t kill you can only make you stronger. … I remember I just kept saying to myself, ‘Just keep playing, just keep playing, just keep playing.’
“They just kept playing, just kept believing. That’s the stuff that leaves you at a loss for words because you really can’t explain it.”
The Blue Devils, however, wanted those explanations. While Mark Walton was tossing a lateral to Jaquan Johnson, Walton’s right knee appeared to touch the ground in at least one photograph posted after the game. But during the lengthy review, officials determined otherwise.
The Hurricanes vowed to play this one for former coach Al Golden, who was fired last Sunday.
They vowed to play this one for star cornerback Artie Burns’ mother, who died of a heart attack at age 44 two days later.
They vowed to play this for themselves, fighting to stay alive in the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“It feels good for me to come out and win with the loss of my mom this week,” said Burns, who was honored by his teammates wearing T-shirts with his mother’s photo. “The guys rallied around me and supported me. They were at the hospital. Even when I was down in the game, the guys said, ‘We’ve got you. Just keep fighting.’
“I just wanted to be around the guys and I knew my mom would want the same thing. … She was out there.”
And they did it all with redshirt freshman quarterback Malik Rosier making his first career start.
On the heels of an almost unfathomably sad week, the Canes played harder and more inspired Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium than they have all season.
The winning touchdown came after Duke’s 1-yard touchdown run with six seconds left was aided by three Miami pass interference calls — two of them called on Elder and the other on Burns.
The Canes, 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the ACC, are still in the hunt for the Coastal Division title.
Duke fell to 6-2 and 3-1.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, clearly miffed and direct in his post-game press conference, said he wanted the ACC officials to make a thorough review of the entire play.
“They didn’t tell me anything, is the problem,’’ Cutcliffe said. “I’m standing with an official who is not a part of the review huddle. They have people that are assigned to stand with you. [Referee Jerry Magallanes] made the announcement that you all heard, and they ran off the field. A penalty is not a reviewable play.
“They may hide behind the fact that you can pick up a flag if another official steps in. I didn’t hear that occurred at any point. I thought it was poorly handled.’’
Rosier, a dual-sport athlete who also plays outfield for the baseball team, played a dominating game, throwing for the most yards in a Miami career debut in this millennium, and more than Kenny Kelly’s 245 in 1999.
He completed 20 of 29 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception.
Rosier replaced nationally touted quarterback Brad Kaaya, who stayed home after sustaining a concussion during Clemson’s 58-0 defeat of Miami last weekend — UM’s worst loss in school history.
With 5:54 left, Rosier had completed 19 of 28 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns — a 33-yard touchdown to Herb Waters early in the second quarter to give UM a 7-0 lead and a 19-yard touchdown to Stacy Coley with 11:02 left to make it 21-12.
UM’s second touchdown was a second-quarter fumble recovery in the end zone by 6-8, 318-pound tackle Sunny Odogwu of Nigeria, who pounced on the ball that slipped out of the grasp of teammate Walter Tucker.
Defensively, UM weak-side linebacker Jermaine Grace finished with a game-high 17 tackles. Grace was so dominating that after the first half he already had a career-high 12 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
Down 14-0, Duke came back with 12 consecutive points from late in the second quarter until late in the third — including a team safety when Rosier was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Miami’s 37-yard field goal by Michael Badgley with 5:54 gave UM the 24-12 lead.
The Blue Devils responded with a 75-yard drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Sirk to Johnell Barnes to make it 24-19 with 3:09 left.
The Canes recovered the onside kick and eventually punted.
Duke took over at its own 20 with 1:50 left in the game and drove down the field, aided by two pass interference calls on Elder.
It all wasn’t wonderful for Miami, which had an all-time record 23 penalties for 194 yards.
The Canes came out on a gorgeous Halloween night, temperatures in the upper 50s, and played their hearts out from the start, even though the start wasn’t exactly promising.
UM won the toss and elected to receive, but Walton fumbled the opening kickoff, Duke’s Quay Mann recovered, and the Blue Devils took over at the UM 18-yard line.
That’s when the Hurricanes’ much maligned defense gave its first “We’re serious’’ message with a goal-line stand.
On the first play from scrimmage, Sirk completed a 15-yard pass to give Duke a first-and-goal from the 3. Shaq Powell then rushed for 1 to put the Blue Devils on the 2.
On second-and-goal from the 2, Grace tackled Powell for a 3-yard loss.
On third-and-5, Sirk completed a 4-yard pass to the UM 1.
And on fourth-and-goal, Ufomba Kamalu stopped Parker Boehme for no gain to halt what appeared to be a sure scoring opportunity.
"That was key,'' Scott said. "It was a bit of a spark for our football team, and it really meant to the guys that, 'OK, We're here to play.' They did a good job following up from there. I'm just proud of them.''
Miami returns home to Sun Life Stadium to face Virginia at 3 p.m. Saturday.