Defenders didn't believe Doug Flutie of Boston College could throw a football 65 yards into a rainy headwind today, but he did, and it gave the University of Miami at 47-45 defeat.
His last-play pass to roommate Gerard Phelan provided a fitting ending to one of the season's most exciting football games.
Miami had gone ahead, 45-41, with 28 seconds left, and Flutie had only six seconds left when he took the last snap of the already memorable game at Miami's 48-yard-line. By the time he scrambled away from pursuers and got the pass off, he was on his 37 and the clock was down to one second. He threw the ball just over the goal line.
Phelan, tumbling into the end zone amid three Miami players, caught it after it passed between the arms of defenders Darrell Fullington and Tolbert Bain.
"I would have been one sad kid if I let that one slip away," Phelan said. "I just held that thing against my shoulder pad like it was my first-born."
After the touchdown provided the fifth and final lead change of the fourth quarter, exuberant teammates piled atop Phelan.
"I thought it fell incomplete," Flutie said. "I couldn't believe it. I saw the referee's arms go up in the air, and I couldn't believe it.
He and Phelan "think about those kinds of finishes," Flutie said, "but we don't talk about them to each other. As soon as we got near midfield, I felt we had a 50-50 chance. I threw it toward Gerard because he goes to the ball better than anyone else we have. He makes the big plays, and he came up with it.
"When I saw him afterwards I didn't say anything. I just hugged him."
It was Phelan's 11th catch of the game and increased his yardage to 226.
"With 28 seconds left, I said we've got at least four plays," Flutie said of the four-play, 80-yard series. "Let's get the ball out near midfield and put one up into the end zone.
"I told them, I just wanted to get near midfield, because I feel if I get there, then I have a 50-50 chance of scoring. I honestly believe when we ran that play we had a legitimate chance. I'm not saying that I anticipated it happening, but I'm saying we had a chance and that's all I can ask for. But I was afraid I was going to throw it out of the end zone.
Most schools call the desperation play by other names; at Boston College, it's called "Flood Tip." It is designed to put three receivers in one area, but today only two got there.
"It's designed to come down to Phelan, and he's supposed to tip it to someone else," BC Coach Jack Bicknell said. "But if it hits you in the chest, you catch it.
"I had a lousy seat," said Bicknell, who didn't see the catch. "I couldn't believe it until I saw our kids going nuts. That had to be exciting football.
"I think they lost track of Flutie's arm and how far he can throw it down there."
"I didn't think there was any way in the world they could throw one behind us and we wouldn't knock it down," Coach Jimmy Johnson of Miami said.
"I didn't really know he (Phelan) was behind us until he caught the ball," Fullington said. "I took my eye away from him for just a second to see where Flutie was, and it was too late. I looked back, and the ball was in the air. The receiver was past me. I jumped as hard as I could, but . . . "
"I was looking for the ball to land at the five- or 10-yard line," Bain said. "I never thought it would go that far. I was coming from (Phelan's) left side. I dove, but I couldn't get there. I was praying the ball would hit the ground."
Reggie Sutton, who was supposed to be the third man deep, was late because "somebody threw me off at the line. Somebody bumped into me."
"They talk about Flutie being a Heisman trophy candidate," Miami middle guard Willie Lee Broughton said. "He's got my vote."
Both teams played the whole game like two-minute drills, totaling 1,273 yards. Boston College's cheerleaders, as is their custom, matched their team's point total with push-ups after every score. Flutie started the game by completing 11 straight passes and Miami's passer, Bernie Kosar, matched that later on. Their total yardage, 919, broke the NCAA record for two players passing at least 250 yards in the same game, set Oct. 24, 1981, by Arizona State's Steve Cottrell (311 yards) and Stanford's John Elway (270).
The second half was played in a driving rain, but it didn't bother the 6-foot-5 Kosar or the 5-9 Flutie. Flutie completed 34 of 46 passes for 472 yards and three touchdowns. Kosar was 25 of 38 for 447 yards and two touchdowns.
With 10,303 yards, Flutie became the first major-college quarterback to pass more than 10,000 yards in his career. He already was the major-college career total offense leader with 10,537 yards entering the Miami game.
Boston College, which is headed for the Cotton Bowl, is 8-2 with one regular-season game, against Division I-AA Holy Cross, remaining. Miami finished its regular season 8-4. In the Hurricanes' last game, two weeks ago, the University of Maryland made the greatest comeback in major-college football history, overcoming a 31-0 halftime deficit to win by 42-40.
Flutie's pass -- the one fans will remember -- came only 28 seconds after freshman Melvin Bratton had scored his fourth touchdown of the day to give the Hurricanes a seemingly safe 45-41 lead.
The loss is not expected to keep Miami from the Fiesta Bowl against UCLA, despite postgame rumors that the Fiesta would invite Notre Dame if it beats USC Saturday.