After wild kick return in 2015, Duke and Miami renew rivalry
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Miami went to Duke last year with its season on the absolute brink, a lineup besieged by injuries and what would have been considered at best a minimal chance of winning.
A miracle kickoff return at the end lifted the Hurricanes that night.
The teams meet again Saturday, and now it's Duke in need of a surprise.
Needing a win to have any chance of reaching a bowl game, Duke (4-7, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) visits Miami (7-4, 4-3) in the regular-season finale for both teams. Ordinarily it takes six wins for a team to get a bowl invitation, though 5-7 will likely be enough for a few lucky programs this year – and Duke, because of its Academic Progress Rate score, would be the first team from the sub-.500 group in line for an invite.
''They're well aware of what could or could not happen,'' said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose team comes into this matchup as a two-touchdown underdog. ''But the bottom line is we're going with the mentality of trying to win. … If we're fortunate enough to win, we will worry about that business after the fact.''
Miami looks like it's rolling again in this up-and-down season – one where the Hurricanes started 4-0, then went 0-4, and are 3-0 since. But even a struggling Duke team has the Hurricanes' attention, and coach Mark Richt said that's with good reason.
''Well, all I know is they beat two teams we couldn't beat,'' Richt said. ''They played Notre Dame and beat them; we didn't do that. They played North Carolina and beat them; we didn't do that. So, they've got my respect, I can tell you that.''
Richt wasn't there for the eight-lateral kickoff return touchdown that lifted Miami over Duke in that hotly debated finish last season, giving the Hurricanes a 30-27 win in a game where the team was dealing with the firing of coach Al Golden (the fallout from a 58-0 loss to Clemson the week before) and the death of star defensive back Artie Burns' mother. As if that wasn't enough, quarterback Brad Kaaya stayed home that week because of a concussion.
Cutcliffe, of course, was there – and he's insisting he and his team haven't thought about that final play.
''Last year's game will have no bearing,'' Cutcliffe said.
Here's some of the storylines going into Saturday:
CHASING RECORDS: Brad Kaaya comes into this week 275 yards away from matching Ken Dorsey's Miami school record of 9,565 career passing yards. Kaaya is also 146 yards shy of becoming the first Miami quarterback to have three different 3,000-yard seasons, and is 29 completions away from matching Jacory Harris' school record of 703 in his career.
RESIDUAL EFFECT: When Miami went to Duke last season, the Blue Devils were 6-1 and ranked in the AP Top 25. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but that kickoff return by Corn Elder (and some of his friends) seems to have sparked quite a downturn. Duke is 6-11 and hasn't spent any time in the national rankings since.
SENIOR DAY PART 3: Miami is already 2-0 on Senior Days this season, having prevailed at Virginia and N.C. State in the contests where those teams honored their departing upperclassmen before final home games. The Hurricanes will fete their 18 seniors on Saturday.
COMING CLOSE: Yes, Duke will finish this season with a losing record and were routed by Pitt last weekend 56-14. But a play here or there could have made 2016 look very different for the Blue Devils. In four of their losses this season, they had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.
THE END?: Bob Harris will call his 471st consecutive – and possibly last – Duke football game. Harris has been the voice of Duke football and men's basketball for 41 seasons, and is retiring when basketball season ends. He worked with nine Duke football coaches and will retire as the ACC's longest-tenured play-by-play announcer.
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