CHESTNUT HILL - Duke Johnson, a true freshman back, put his team on his back, rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Miami Hurricanes past the Boston College Eagles, 41-32, in the season and ACC opener on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
"I thought we played sloppy, made some mistakes that hurt us on offense," said BC fourth-year coach Frank Spaziani. "We certainly moved the ball and did some real nice things. I think we played hard to the end, had a couple fumbles and the turnover that gave them a score and two long runs which we can't have happen on defense. [We have to] play better defense, but there are some good signs there, so we have to build on it and go forward."
Boston College (0-1, 0-1 ACC) opened the game with a pair of touchdowns to build a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, which was quickly erased by a methodical Miami (1-0, 1-0 ACC) attack. The lone touchdown of the second quarter, scored by Miami, gave the Canes a hand up after the Eagles kicked two field goals in the frame, leading to a 21-20 halftime lead. The Hurricanes broke the game open in the final half, outscoring the Eagles, 20-3.
Johnson paced the 'Canes offensive attack. Stephen Morris completed 28-of-45 passes for 207 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Miami. Allen Hurns grabbed eight passes for 81 yards and Mike James aided Johnson in the backfield, rushing for 54 yards.
"We just wanted to go out there and put pressure on their defense and take advantage of whatever they gave us," said Hurns, a junior wide receiver. "We had more unity, we dropped down 14-0 and everyone was still pushing each other and with each other. The receivers had drops but the offensive line kept saying 'we are with you guys.'"
Chase Rettig, the Eagles' junior starting quarterback, and the Boston College offense were very effective in spurts, and he finished with 441 yards through the air, two touchdowns and an interception. Alex Amidon was his favorite target of the day, grabbing 10 passes for 149 yards. Andre Williams rushed for 49 yards and Tahj Kimble recorded 50 rushing yards.
"I thought we moved the ball well," Spaziani said. "I think we did some nice things."
Williams' four-yard touchdown run capped off the first Eagles' drive (seven plays, 75 yards, 2:34) with 12:26 left in the opening quarter, and a 15-yard pass from Rettig to Jake Sinkovec accounted for BC's second touchdown at the 7:54 mark. Miami went on a lengthy 83-yard drive, completed by a one-yard scoring rush from Eduardo Clements, to cut the lead in half. Denzel Perryman intercepted Rettig on the ensuing BC drive and returned the ball 41 yards as the first quarter expired to tie the game.
After a Nate Freese 26-yard field goal just over four minutes into the second, Johnson rushed for his first lengthy touchdown of the game, scoring on a 54-yard rush to push Miami on top for the first time, 21-17, with 9:02 before halftime. Freese's 37-yard field goal with 3:32 remaining brought BC within one point at halftime.
Freese would again split the uprights to start the second half, this time from 30 yards out nearly five minutes in, but the Canes would answer with four straight scores, two touchdowns and two field goals. Jake Wieclaw made a 22-yard field goal with 5:06 left and Johnson rushed for a 56 yard touchdown with 1:18 left before the fourth. Wieclaw tacked on another field goal, 24 yards at 13:35 in the fourth quarter, and Morris completed his lone touchdown pass of the game, an 18 yard hookup with Malcolm Lewis with ten minutes remaining.
Rettig would connect with Tahj Kimble for a 17-yard touchdown with 6:48 left, bringing the Eagles within 11 points (41-30) on an 84 yard drive. A couple of Miami penalties gave Boston College a prime chance to cut into the lead. On fourth down and one at the Miami one yard line, Rettig leaped towards the end zone, but upon further review, the referees ruled that he was just short, officially ending any hope of a Boston College comeback.
"That was a winnable game," Spaziani said. "Not taking anything away from Miami. No one made a play. It didn't look like it. We did fight and stop them a couple of times, but not when we needed to. You can't give up big plays."
Boston College hosts the University of Maine in the second game of the year next Saturday.