DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Miami kept its final chance alive for nearly a minute, flinging the ball all over the field. The officials reviewed the play for another nine minutes.
The controversy swirling around that madcap finish?
That’s going to last far, far longer.
Especially after the Atlantic Coast Conference determined that, effectively, it never should have counted.
In one of the zaniest endings in college football history, the desperate Hurricanes threw a combined eight laterals, flips and backwards passes before Corn Elder finally took the last one for the touchdown that capped a 30-27 win on Saturday night.
A day later, the ACC suspended the crew for two league games, saying the officials made a series of mistakes — from penalty flags that were never thrown to a runner not being ruled down well before the final touchdown was scored.
"What instant replay is in place for is to get it right," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Sunday. "And we did not get it right."
Commissioner John Swofford acknowledged that the play "was not handled appropriately" by the crew of on-field and replay officials and the communicator.
Here’s a look at some of the officiating decisions that combined to create the wild ending:
The league agreed with most of the photos and screen grabs that circulated online showing Miami’s Mark Walton, who appeared to have his right knee down at the Miami 26 on a tackle from Alonzo Saxton II before he flipped the ball to Jaquan Johnson. An official was in perfect position — standing on the sideline about 10 feet away, with a clear view of the play — but made no indication that he thought Walton was down, and the play continued. The league says the replay official should have overturned the ruling and ended the game.
SOME FLAGS WEREN’T THROWN
There were several instances in which a flag for an illegal block could have been thrown — and the ACC said one should have been called.
Just before Dallas Crawford threw the final backwards pass to Elder, Miami DB Sheldrick Redwine appeared to block Duke’s Philip Carter in the back at the Miami 16-yard line. The league says the ball should have been placed at the 8 and an untimed down should have been awarded.
In addition to that, David Njoku blasted Saxton and Charles Perry — who was part of the convoy escorting Elder downfield — lowered his shoulder and hit Quay Mann in the back near midfield. And a moment before Elder crossed the goal line, receiver Rashawn Scott left the sideline and ran onto the field to celebrate. The ACC says he should have been flagged for that, too — though that by itself wouldn’t have negated the TD.
ONE FLAG WAS PICKED UP
The ACC agreed with the decision to pick up the only flag on that final play, which came at the Duke 25. That’s where Walton blocked Duke’s Breon Borders near the end of Elder’s run. As part of referee Jerry Magallanes’ confusing explanation, it was announced that the hit in question came on the Duke player’s side, not his back, making the hit legal.
Magallanes’ attempt to clarify the situation only made it murkier. The timing of his announcements made it seem like the flagged illegal block was under review. That wasn’t the case, the ACC said.
Five minutes after his first announcement, he took the headset off and said "after replay review, there was never a knee down. Correction, the play is still under review." Then, 2 minutes after that, he told the crowd "there was never a knee down by any of the runners from Miami. However, the block in question was from the side, not the back. It’s a legal play. Touchdown. The game is over."
THE PREVIOUS 59:54
Well before the wild kick return that started with 6 seconds left, there were signs this game was getting out of control. The crew flagged Miami 23 times — both school and ACC records — for 194 yards. There were three pass interference flags on Duke’s preceding drive, including one that negated a game-sealing interception. And Miami wasn’t satisfied with the decision to allow Duke QB Thomas Sirk’s late go-ahead touchdown to stand.
Without that play, an ending the ACC says shouldn’t have counted never even exists.