As Miami prepared this week to play Virginia at 3 p.m. Saturday, two players who made huge impacts at Duke relived moments they will never forget.
Sunny Odogwu, a 6-8, 318-pound offensive tackle from Nigeria, scored his first-ever touchdown on a fumble recovery at 8:18 of the second quarter.
“I always try to run where the ball is on every play,” Odogwu said Wednesday at UM’s last day of media availability. “After my block, I pushed my guy outside, so I saw lots of piles. Everyone was lying down.
“Then I turn around and I saw something brown roll out, and I’m like, ‘Oh, crap. That’s not someone’s leg. That’s the ball. So I’ve got to get it.’
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“I dove to the ball … and dragged it to me. I was just there to secure the ball, but then [guard] Kc McDermott started yelling in my ear, ‘Sunny, you scored a touchdown. It’s a touchdown!’ I was like, ‘Huh?!’
“The Duke guy, No. 48 [Deion Williams] was trying to put his hands [in there] to drag the ball. I was like, ‘Dude, there is no way you’re going to get the ball from me. There is no shot!’
“I stood up with the ball.’ When everyone was screaming, ‘Touchdown!’ I was like, ‘Now what do I do with the ball? I do not know what to do with the ball. You know, I’m going to do just [like Patriots tight end Rob] Gronkowski, spike the ball … ’
“[Center] Nick Linder was like, ‘Sunny don’t spike it! Penalty!’
“I was like, ‘Oh, OK. So what do I do with the ball now? Do I spin it? Do I throw it up?’
“I handed it to the ref, walked to the sideline and went on to the next play.”
When everyone was screaming, “Touchdown!” I was like, “What do I do with the ball? You know, I’m going to do just [like Patriots tight end Rob] Gronkowski, spike the ball … [Center] Nick Linder was like, ‘Sunny don’t spike it! Penalty!’
Jermaine Grace couldn’t stop crying.
Miami had just pulled off that crazy, eight-lateral touchdown for the victory and linebacker Grace’s tears poured out, fueled by conflicting emotions.
“I couldn’t stop,’’ said Grace, who had a career-high 17 tackles and was subsequently named the Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker of the week. “I was so emotional because I knew how much work we put in and how much I put in to get to that point. That’s one of the moments that will stick with me the rest of my life.”
At first, while the officials were conferring to decide whether the touchdown would be counted, it was an “angry cry,’’ Grace said.
Then, after officials ruled the play a touchdown, it was a “joyful cry,’’ he said.
“Just seeing that return and seeing we were able to win the game. I was still shocked. I was happy, and I just couldn’t believe we actually came through with it. Even though I had faith we could, it was just the moment. We made history.”