Photo via YouTube/ACC Digital Network

There has long been an association between Halloween night and bizarre occurrences.

In the college football world, that was especially true for the fans at Wallace Wade Stadium on this day five years ago. It looked as though Duke had pulled out the victory, but on the game’s final play, Miami used eight laterals to score the winning touchdown in an unbelievable 30-27 victory for the Hurricanes.

Setting the Stage

Things seemed to be going from bad to worse for Miami as it played in Durham on Oct. 31, 2015. The Hurricanes were 4-3 and coming off their worst loss ever — a 58-0 beatdown at home to Clemson. To add insult to injury, head coach Al Golden had just been fired.

Duke was 6-1 and riding a 4-game winning streak. The Blue Devils were coming off an emotion 4-overtime victory over Virginia Tech. Ranked No. 22 in the country, Duke seemed destined for another thrilling victory.

The Moment

With less than three minutes to play, Duke was on the short end of a 24-12 score. With 2:40 to go, Thomas Sirk’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Johnell Barnes cut the lead to five.

After forcing a 3-and-out on the ensuing Miami possession, Sirk marched the Blue Devils 80 yards for the lead. With the help of a couple controversial pass interference penalties, Sirk capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with just six seconds remaining.

Sirk converted the 2-point conversion with his legs. The Blue Devils led 30-27 and Miami seemed destined to fall to 4-4.

The ensuing kickoff by Ross Martin was fielded by running back Dallas Crawford. Things initially went backwards as Crawford lateraled to Corn Elder, who then lateraled to Jaquan Johnson. Running back Mark Walton would catch the fourth lateral before it ended up in the hands of Johnson again then Tyre Brady then Elder again and then Crawford.

Finally, it went to Elder inside the 10-yard-line. Elder took the pitch and went the final 91 yards for the touchdown, but it appeared to be all for naught.

There was a flag on the play — apparently for an illegal block on Walton. Walton was also close to down on the fourth lateral. Following a replay review, it was determined that Walton was not down. The flag was also picked up as officials declared the block legal.

Somehow, Miami had won. The scoring play was as controversial as it was exhilarating. During an explanation following the replay, it was implied that the penalty was overturned by replay.

The ACC later clarified that the flag was not picked up due to replay, but rather by a consensus of the officials. Those officials would be suspended.

Leading Up

Up until Sirk’s late touchdown, Miami never trailed. The Hurricanes led 14-3 at halftime behind a touchdown pass from Malik Rosier to Herb Waters and a touchdown on a fumble recovered in the end zone by offensive lineman Sunny Odogwu.

Jela Duncan’s 24-yard touchdown run and a safety pulled Duke to within two after three quarters. Miami made it a 2-score game when Rosier hit Stacy Coley for a 19-yard touchdown early in the fourth. Michael Badgley’s 37-yard field goal pushed the lead to 12 with less than six minutes to go in the game.

In Hindsight

The contest seemed to send the schools in different directions. For Duke, it would begin a 4-game losing streak. The Blue Devils would finish 8-5 with hard-fought wins over Wake Forest and then Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl to end the year.

For the Hurricanes, the win sparked a 4-1 finish to the regular season. Miami would fall to Washington State in the Sun Bowl 20-14 to finish the year with a record of 8-5.

For all Miami’s accomplishments as a football program, the Halloween victory over Duke remains one of the most thrilling in program history. It happened on this day five years ago.


For The Win/USA Today

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.