7:30 PM ET, November 23, 2006
7:30 PM ET, November 23, 2006
MIAMI (AP) -- Larry Coker walked slowly off the field at the Orange Bowl, stopping for a few hugs and handshakes along the way.
And if it was his last time coaching on Miami's home sideline, at least he left a winner.
Kirby Freeman threw for 181 yards and a touchdown, Javarris James' 2-yard run in the third quarter put Miami ahead to stay, and the Hurricanes' defense stifled No. 18 Boston College in rallying for a 17-14 win Thursday night.
"It certainly wasn't a flawless performance," Coker said, "but we played extremely hard."
The Hurricanes (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a four-game losing streak and became bowl-eligible. Soon, they'll know if they'll actually get an invitation to the postseason -- and if the embattled Coker will be coaching. A decision on his future at Miami could be announced as early as Friday, and speculation has been widespread for weeks that his six-year tenure leading the Hurricanes is about to end.
But Coker insisted afterward that he believes his time at Miami isn't over, saying "we're going to be here." He didn't say when he expected to meet with university president Donna Shalala to discuss his future.
"I don't plan on sitting down with them," Coker said, grinning. "They won't be able to find me. I'm leaving as soon as we get done here. I'm going out the back door."
DeJuan Tribble had three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown for Boston College (9-3, 5-3) -- which saw its hopes of winning the ACC championship end. The Eagles' loss means the winner of Saturday's Maryland-Wake Forest game will meet Georgia Tech on Dec. 2 in the league's title game.
Andre Callender had a 5-yard touchdown run for the Eagles, who were denied their first 10-win regular season in 66 years. Callender had 10 carries for 32 yards -- while the rest of Boston College's runners managed minus-8 yards on 15 carries. The Eagles finished with only 193 total yards.
"It's the best defense we've seen all year," Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said. "For anyone who thought they weren't going to play, well, they showed up."
It was Boston College's 15th straight loss in the series, its last win coming exactly 22 years earlier -- when Doug Flutie's miracle pass was caught by Gerard Phelan as time expired and the Eagles escaped the Orange Bowl with a 47-45 win.
Flutie was back at the stadium Thursday for the first time, part of the broadcast crew.
And the Eagles could have used another one of his storybook finishes. But Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan was intercepted by Glenn Sharpe with 2:19 left, and Miami held on.
"It felt real good," Sharpe said. "I told my teammates after I caught it that I just wanted to lay on the field and cry, after all we've been through."
Miami rallied from a 14-3 deficit and beat a ranked foe for the first time in six tries this year.
It was Miami's first home game since defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his apartment complex earlier this month. The Hurricanes introduced their seniors before the game, announcing Pata's name last -- as his white No. 95 jersey was hoisted by two relatives on the field and some teammates pointed to a banner displaying a photo of Pata in the west end zone.
Boston College paid tribute, too, wearing Pata's number on the back of their gold helmets.
"This group wanted to win this football game tonight ... and part of that was for Bryan," Coker said.
Boston College took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on Callender's TD run, and the Hurricanes marched 64 yards on 10 plays on the ensuing drive. Facing fourth-and-1 from the Boston College 12 -- and in chip-shot range for kicker Jon Peattie -- Coker kept his offense on the field.
Most of the crowd -- 23,308, the smallest in Miami's 44 home games since Dec. 4, 1999 -- cheered the decision. They booed the result, when Freeman's screen pass to James fell incomplete.
More trouble awaited Freeman later in the half, when Tribble intercepted him on consecutive attempts in Miami territory. The Hurricanes escaped the first unscathed, stopping Boston College in four plays, but Tribble ran the second back 22 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 Eagles lead with 1:36 left before halftime.
But Miami rallied, getting a rarity for them this season -- a big play -- as the spark. Freeman found Ryan Moore with a 49-yard pass, the longest of Moore's career, to set up a 7-yard scoring toss to Lance Leggett with 10 seconds left that pulled Miami to 14-10. And UM's defense slammed the door from there.
"We came in here to win the game," BC linebacker Brian Toal said. "We didn't get the job done. To be so close to getting the ACC championship we dreamed of, it's tough."
After the game, the Hurricanes grabbed the Pata banner, knelt around it at midfield in prayer, then carried it off. Coker lingered behind, hugging his seniors and posing with them for photos in a happy scene.
Following a season in which Miami endured the death of a senior standout, the fallout over a sideline-clearing brawl and a litany of injuries, something finally went his way.
"The future is very bright at the University of Miami," Coker said. "We've been a little down. We won't be down long here, and you can print that."
It was over when... Miami defender Glenn Sharpe intercepted Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan with 2:19 remaining, ending any chance for an Eagles rally.
Gameball goes to... Canes D. Miami stuffed BC at every turn and limited the Eagles to 24 rushing yards and just 193 total yards.
Stat of the game... 15: It was Boston College's 15th straight loss in the series, its last win coming exactly 22 years earlier.