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Miami Wins A Wild One

Two scores in the final six seconds, with the last one by Miami for the win.

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Oct 31, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) and wide receiver Max McCaffrey (87) watch the monitor as officials try to decide the end of the game Miami Hurricanes touchdown in the closing seconds.
Oct 31, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) and wide receiver Max McCaffrey (87) watch the monitor as officials try to decide the end of the game Miami Hurricanes touchdown in the closing seconds.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t even know how to start.

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If you’re expecting a traditional play-by-play on Miami’s 30-27 win over Duke Saturday night, well it was more of a thesaurus type of game. Gut-wrenching. Soul-sucking. Kicked in the solar plexus. Snatching defeat from victory, time after time after one last, agonizing time.

Worst Duke loss ever? Short list, for sure.

Controversy doesn’t even begin to describe the end of the game. Bush v. Gore was easier to understand.

But here’s a brief synopsis. After an abysmal game, Duke played five plus of the best minutes in school history, scoring two touchdowns. Thomas Sirk punched it in from a yard out and added a two-point conversion to put Duke up 27-24, with six seconds left.

This was after Duke trailed 14-0, and 24-12, the latter score with 5:54 remaining.

Then came those final six seconds. Duke kicked to Miami and they did the lateral play, seven laterals, the ball on the ground twice, replays seemingly showing Artie Burns on the ground with the ball in his hands.

Then Corn Elder broke free down the left sideline. Replays seemed to show as many as three blocks-in-the-back, one of which was flagged. At least one Miami player ran off the bench, down the sideline, ignored by the officials.

Elder scored but a flag around the 26 indicated the play was coming back.

After a review that I was told lasted eight minutes but seemed more like Odysseus coming back from Troy, the officials announced the score counted and the game was over.

What happened? Darned if I know and I’m not the only one. David Cutcliffe said he never got an explanation from anyone and he was as upset as I ever seen him publicly and this is a man who does not show anger in public.

Was the flag picked up? It lay on the field the entire review. Was the penalty actually reviewable? Did the replay booth not bother with Burns’s knee?

I guess we’ll get more clarity later on and the ACC is certainly going to hear an earful from Cutcliffe. But I don’t see how there’s an approach to overturn the outcome.

"They didn’t tell me anything is the problem," Cutcliffe said. "I’m standing with an official who is not part of the review huddle. [Jerry Magallanes] made the announcement that you all heard and they ran off the field. A penalty is not a reviewable play. . . . I thought it was poorly handled. The lack of communication was really disappointing. I have to go into the locker room and I have no explanation. . . . I think, personally, you’ll see in review, if you will, that the guy was down, with the ball in his hand."

DeVon Edwards used the word "shock" and that about summed it up. The players all said the right things about next play and next play is a big one, against the surging arch-rivals from Chapel Hill.

And if you do the math, Duke still controls its destiny in the Coastal and destiny might owe Duke one.

Frankly, for most of the game, Duke didn’t deserve to be in shouting distance of winning. The special teams contributed mightily to the Duke deficit. Ross Martin missed a chip shot from 38 yards, Will Monday shanked an 11-yard punt, Ryan Smith fumbled a punt--he recovered--and Duke came up short on a fake punt.

The fake punt wasn’t the only roll of the dice that came up empty. Miami fumbled the opening kickoff and Duke recovered at their 15. A pass to Max McCaffrey set Duke up first and goal at the three. Duke went mano -a-mano and Miami’s manos won, stopping Parker Boehme inside the one on fourth down.

Cutcliffe said the odds were on his side and he’d do it everytime.

Then there was the Miami play from the Duke one, when Walter Tucker fumbled into the end zone. The ball bounded tantalizing open, available to the first person to see it from the scrum.

That turned out to be 320-pound Miami lineman Sunny Odogwu.

Or there was McCaffrey fumbling deep in Miami territory after a 20-yard reception. He appeared to be on his back before the fumble but the replay guys saw it differently.

Trailing 14-0, Duke twice again drove deep into Miami territory but a dropped pass in the end zone and that missed field goal kept the drives to three total points.

Duke actually dominated the third quarter, Jela Duncan mangling the Miami secondary on a 24-yard score and adding a safety when Miami quarterback Malik Rosier was called or intentional grounding in the end zone.

Marquies Price forced the safety.

But Duke squandered some real opportunities. Freshman Jeremy McDuffie intercepted Rosier and returned it to the Miami 45. Duke took over at their 41 following the safety but nothing came of either opportunity.

The Hurricanes appeared to wrap it up when they scored a TD and a field goal for that 12-point lead.

But Thomas Sirk--who is growing up before our very eyes--led Duke on a 14-play, 3-minute drive for a score.

Miami recovered the onside kick but Duke used up its time-outs and got the ball back at their 20, with 2:40 left. Down the field again, short passes that barely stopped the clock with first downs, Miami pass-interference calls that stopped the clock, Sirk’s two scores and the game’s bizarre finale.

Mike Krzyzewski has made "next play" something of a Duke mantra and the next play is a big one, perhaps a season-defining one.

But it may take awhile on this one.


If you didn’t like the ending, you sure won’t like the final stat sheet. Duke had 34 first downs to Miami’s 21, outgained Miami 440 yards to 391 (after trailing 225 to 182 at the half), and won the turnover battle 2-1. Duke was penalized for 41 yards, Miami a jaw-dropping 194 yards on 23 flags.

But not the one picked up.