O.K., so let’s get something out of the way first: WHAT IN THE WORLD JUST HAPPENED? There are some endings that need to be seen to be believed, and some that can’t be believed even after they are seen. Saturday provided one of the latter, a finish that can’t be adequately processed after any number of replays.
Miami beat No. 22 Duke 30–27 after the Hurricanes scored on a 75-yard kick return touchdown that featured eight laterals on the final play of the game. It was glorious, and wonderful, and probably illegal in a handful of different ways.
This play will go down as one of the craziest sports things you’ll ever see, so let’s break down the video highlight moment by moment.
0:17: Elder makes a couple of jukes before flipping the ball underhanded, soft toss-style, to freshman Jaquan Johnson. It is at this time that the game clock expires, meaning this will officially be the last play of the game.
0:22: Johnson loops in front of the 20-yard line before dishing a shovel pass back to tailback Mark Walton. He cuts through a hole and gets to the 25-yard line.
0:26: Here’s where things start to get crazy. Walton is met by a Duke defender, but pitches the ball backward as he goes down, and gets it away just before his knee hits the turf, something that would have prevented any of the ensuing madness from happening. This moment is reviewed extensively by the officials. As it turns out, Walton's knee may have hit the ground, but let’s forget that for just a second.
0:31: The ball is picked up by Johnson, who tosses it to receiver Tyre Brady, who in turn throws it back to Elder. This is when the play enters I-can’t-believe-this-is-still-happening territory, although at this point there's seemingly a slim chance it will succeed.
0:37: Elder throws a lateral back to Crawford, who scampers around for a bit before turning in toward the middle of the field and sending the ball back to Elder. It is at this moment that Miami freshman Sheldrick Redwine (who has a top five name in college football) delivers what appears to be a very blatant block in the back to a Duke player. This is not the block in the back that would later be reviewed, because on first glance this play makes about as much sense as the ending to Inception. In fact, hit this button every time the ball is lateraled.
0:40: Elder begins to sprint down the left sideline. Things start to get pretty, pretty exciting. Miami’s David Njoku puts a punishing block on a Duke player, which may or may not be legal. Up is down and down is up and nothing makes sense by now.
0:43: Elder is still running, with a barricade of blockers in front of him.
0:46: Elder is still running, both hurdling and juking defenders as he goes.
0:49: Miami’s Johnson puts one final devastating—and wholly unnecessary—hit on a Duke player as Elder scampers free toward paydirt. This was the block that was flagged for being illegal, and then picked up, or something like that, probably.
0:53: Elder waltzes into the end zone. MADNESS.
It’s also worth pointing out that as Elder made his mad dash, Miami’s Rashawn Scott bolted on to the field, with his completely helmet off, and nobody noticed or cared in the slightest.
Officials then conferred and reviewed the play for approximately nine minutes—because you have to get these things right—and ruled that Walton’s knee was not down, and the block they originally flagged (but wasn’t as blatant as a previous block in the back) was clean. They announced this amid happiness and sadness and mostly mass confusion, in an attempt to make any person playing or watching feel every emotion simultaneously, since that’s what ACC football is all about.
So, in sum: Miami beat Duke 30–27, a week after it suffered the worst loss in program history and saw its coach get fired. The Hurricanes improved to 5–3, while the Blue Devils dropped to 6–2 and fell a game behind North Carolina in the ACC Coastal. The season will (probably) go on for both teams.