The date: November 23, 1984
The matchup: No. 10 Boston College (7-2) at No. 12 Miami (8-3). It almost feels like a cop-out picking this one, doesn’t it?
The stakes: There are no conference title implications here, but the winner still has a chance at a top-five season.
The back story: Miami is your defending national champ but is coming off of a historic loss to Maryland; meanwhile, BC hasn’t finished in the top 10 since 1942 and appeared to be a national title contender before tight losses at both WVU and Penn State derailed that dream.
Both teams have ridiculous star power. For Miami, that mostly means quarterback Bernie Kosar throwing to soon-to-be All Americans Eddie Brown and Willie Smith and handing to Alonzo Highsmith. For BC, that means Doug Flutie doing Doug Flutie things.
Flutie would go on to wrap up a legendary career by throwing for 3,600 yards and winning the Heisman. But on November 23, he's merely a Heisman candidate. He probably needs one more impressive game to totally separate himself from Ohio State 1,700-yard rusher Keith Byars.
The game: We remember this game for one play, but the first 150 or so plays were also pretty spectacular. From 50 Best*:
Now 7-2 and 10th in the country, BC finally made its fateful trip to Miami. The Eagles had played in four games decided by a touchdown or less, and the defense was slipping. Meanwhile, two weeks earlier, Miami had blown a 31-0 halftime lead against Maryland, losing 42-40. It was destiny for this game to get crazy.
It was back and forth from the start on a rainy night at the Orange Bowl. BC went up 14-0, but Miami struck back with two scores. Flutie scored on a nine-yard run, and Miami responded. Flutie hit Phelan for a 10-yard score before halftime, and Miami responded again after half. Miami took a 38-34 lead on a 52-yard run by Melvin Bratton, and a one-yard plunge by Strachan put BC back on top.
With just under four minutes left, Miami got the ball back and pulled off what should have been a perfect, game-clinching drive. The Hurricanes went 79 yards and ate up all but 28 seconds from the clock. Bratton scored on a one-yard run to give Miami a 45-41 lead.
But Flutie had half a minute and two timeouts. He found Stradford for a 19-yard gain, then hit Gieselman for 13 more. A pass to Peter Caspariello fell incomplete with six seconds left. And then came the play you know. FLUTIE DID IT! and whatnot.
The short version:
The entire game:
Nearly every major offensive star came up big. Flutie completed 34 of 46 passes for 472 yards and three scores. Phelan caught 11 balls for 226 yards and two of the three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Miami's Bernie Kosar caught 25 of 38 passes for 447 yards, two scores, and two picks. All-American-to-be Eddie Brown caught 10 for 220. Bratton rushed 16 times for 134 yards.
This incredible game indeed separated Flutie from Byars in the Heisman voting, and BC would indeed finish in the top 5 after wrapping up the season with wins over Holy Cross and Houston. There would always be a twinge of regret here -- losses by a combined eight points doomed what could have otherwise been a national title bid (here's your reminder that BYU won the title that year). Still, the incredible feelings outweighed the regrets.
For Miami, this was a hell of a what-if season in its own right. Jimmy Johnson's first Canes squad had already lost by just a touchdown at Michigan and by two to Maryland in a historic comeback, and they would go on to lose by two to UCLA in the Fiesta Bowl. But they would rebound. They went 10-2 in 1985 and had a chance to win the national title before getting thumped by Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl; in 1986 they also came up a game short, and in 1987 they finally closed the deal and won a ring.