Officiating decisions mar Miami's madcap return to beat Duke

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.

In one of the zaniest endings in college football history, the 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.

''That was just like the old `hot potato' game,'' interim Miami coach Larry Scott said.

It never would have stood without some questionable decisions by the officials on the field and in the replay booth.

One penalty flag was picked up. A few more could have been thrown, but weren't. And one player might have been down before he got rid of the ball.

''There were holds, there were all kinds of issues in that game that need to be addressed by the (Atlantic Coast) Conference. Not my job,'' Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. ''You may have questions pop in your mind. Call the ACC. They should have answers.''

Here's a look at some of the officiating decisions that combined to create the wild ending:


Most of the screen grabs circulating online were of 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.


There were several instances in which a flag for an illegal block could have been thrown. 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 15-yard line and David Njoku blasted Saxton. Then, 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 only flag on that final play fell at the Duke 25, and it came late. That's where Walton blocked Duke's Breon Borders near the end of Elder's run. But the Miami player who was flagged was never identified. 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, with the timing of his announcements making it seem like the flagged illegal block was being reviewed. In addition to not identifying the penalized Miami player and never specifying exactly what about the play was being reviewed, he made a vague reference to awarding an ''untimed down.''

Five minutes later, 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.''


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.


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