Miller leads Miami past Duke
Published 9:35 pm Saturday, November 5, 2011
MIAMI — A month ago, Duke was flying high after playing in Miami, on a three-game winning streak that suggested the Blue Devils were poised to end a 16-year bowl drought.
This time around, the mood was decidedly different.
Duke yielded touchdowns on Miami’s first five possessions, quickly falling into a 21-point hole and eventually losing to the Hurricanes 49-14 on Saturday, the Blue Devils’ fourth straight loss and one that badly damaged those bowl hopes. Duke (3-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) has three games left, and needs to win them all for a postseason shot.
“If you are a competitor it is a good situation to be in,” said Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, who completed 19 of 25 passes for 181 yards, throwing for one score and running for another. “It is nose to the grindstone. Anybody that wants to compete and is looking forward for pressure situations, something is on the line every game. I know all the guys I’m playing with are up for the situation.”
Starting with the 1996 season, 100 different schools have won at least one bowl game.
Duke hasn’t even played in one during that span. The Blue Devils’ last postseason game was the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl, where they lost to Wisconsin.
“It’s tough,” wide receiver Donovan Varner said. “But we have to move on and win these last three.”
When Duke came to South Florida a month ago, it wound up beating Florida International. Duke coach David Cutcliffe put his team in the same hotel for this trip, hoping good feelings carried over into the matchup with Miami.
They did not.
Days after predicting this would be the week where he topped the 1,000-yard mark, Lamar Miller rushed for 147 yards — giving him 1,016 for the season — and two touchdowns for the Hurricanes (5-4, 3-3).
Miller is Miami’s first 1,000-yard back since Willis McGahee in 2002.
“Feels very good,” Miller said. “That was one of my goals this year. I’ve been working hard throughout the offseason and the offensive line has been doing a great job of giving me the opportunity to make big runs for the team.”
Jacory Harris passed for three first-half scores for Miami. Mike James rushed for two touchdowns, and Tommy Streeter, Phillip Dorsett and Chase Ford caught TD passes for the Hurricanes, who are now 7-0 against Duke since joining the ACC.
“I said all week long one word describes Miami — dangerous,” Cutcliffe said. “They’re a dangerous football team.”
And those dangers were on display quickly.
Miami needed only five plays to march 78 yards for the game’s first score, a 1-yard Harris pass to Ford — capping a drive that got done fasters than the officials’ review of the scoring play. And on the Hurricanes’ second drive, they broke out a slew of offensive surprises, like putting Stephen Morris in briefly at quarterback and running James out of the wildcat formation.
Three different players — Morris, James and then Harris — took snaps on three successive Miami plays on that drive, a march sealed by James’ 1-yard run on fourth down. A 2-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Dorsett early in the second quarter made it 21-0, and the Hurricanes were rolling.
“I thought we played all four quarters and in all three phases,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “Real pleased with the effort.”
Down the stretch, the only drama left was the Miller watch.
Only six yards from the plateau, he took off on a 22-yard touchdown run with 8:56 left. He also had a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Harris completed 14 of 20 passes for 202 yards for Miami, which rolled up 467 yards. Miami ran for 265 yards on just 39 carries, only one of which went for negative yardage.
“Everybody’s been working hard this whole week,” Harris said. “We’ve been putting in the work to get better.”
Renfree got Duke within 14 points twice, first after engineering a 13-play, 64-yard drive that ended with his 4-yard touchdown pass to Conner Vernon, then again in the third quarter when he went up the middle for a 6-yard score that cut Miami’s lead to 28-14.
Cutcliffe went for an onside kick after that score.
“I think it energized us as a team to know coach is going for the throat and he’s not letting up at all,” Renfree said.
If only it worked.
Miami snuffed out the trick kick, Miller scored six plays later and the lead was 21 points again. Duke lost its last realistic chance to get back into the game with 12:46 left, when Spence — already a three-time ACC player of the week winner at his position this season — got through the line and threw Anthony Boone for a loss on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 11.
“A lot of guys grew up this week,” Golden said.