Long before the eight lateral miracle in Durham happened, a freakishly less fortuitous miracle materialized improbably from the humid Miami sky. Like a dagger delivered from the tops of Mount Olympus, a Doug Flutie hail mary shook hands in the heavens and descended ominously to collectively send Miami Hurricane fans into hell.
November 23rd, 1984 is a day I vaguely remember. But I will wholeheartedly remember the tears that streamed down my very young face after Gerard Phelan emerged with pandemonium's prize. I was in shock. Even then, it was unfathomable.
Phelan was the recipient of then Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie’s heave ho from their own 36 yard line. The last pass was the transcending one that will always procure residency in the pantheon of college football’s greatest plays but it wasn’t the only pass.
Doug Flutie was Hades like and torched the Miami Hurricanes defense to the tune of 34-46, 472 yards passing and three touchdowns. The last pass was posterized in immortality but if the Hurricanes had a pulse in the secondary, it never would have even gotten the chance.
Remember Phelan? Yeah he caught the hail mary. You probably have seen the clip a dozen times for the sports media world will not let you forget it. But you probably forgot that he caught 10 other passes and amassed 226 yards including two touchdowns.
The “Hail Flutie” was as much self inflicted as it was exclamatory. The Hurricanes were victims of their own defensive ineptitude. To be honest, they deserved it that game. You don’t want to be negatively immortalized like that? Just have some semblance of a clue.
Hurricane head coach at the time Dennis Erickson even admitted that he didn’t spend practice time defending those types of plays. Erickson further went on to say that he probably should also keep his defensive staff in the coaches’ box until the end of the game.
Then again, shortly after the end of the game, UM defensive coordinator Bill Trout handed in his resignation. He would never set forth in a Miami coaching box ever again.
Would have, should have, could have. Those statements are typically the backdrop and constructors of calamity and seldom prohibit the tears from falling.
“Grandpa what just happened?” That was my question to one of my life’s rocks and nexuses. Surely he would find a way to rewrite history and tell me my new hometown favorite heroes didn’t just scarf down a bowl of kryptonite cereal. After all, these were the defending orange and green cape wearing national champions.
Except his eyes told me long before his words ever did that reality was reality. Bitter pill. I was devastated. First time I ever remember crying over a sporting event. It wouldn’t be the last.