This is part of a series on Canes football games that have been lost to history. Information on the series including other articles is available here.
The year is 2013. President Barack Obama was in the first year of his second term. The week of October 26th, 2013 saw Lorde’s Royals maintain the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. And Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Jesus was #1 on the New York Times Nonfiction best seller list. Gas was $3.29 a gallon. The big news story was the bungled rollout of the Obamacare web site.
Miami entered the game ranked 7th in the country, at 6-0. They had escaped against a terrible North Carolina team in the previous game, and kept their improbable undefeated season alive.
Wake Forest came in at 4-3 and was riding a 2-game win streak. They had lost earlier in the year to Louisiana Monroe.
Miami had an extra 2 days to prepare since they played North Carolina on the previous Thursday.
There were 2 main story lines coming into the game, one backward looking, the other forward looking.
This was the week where the Canes finally put the Nevin Shapiro scandal behind them, with a slap on the wrist in terms of scholarship losses. This turned out to be bad thing for Head Coach Al Golden, as focus now shifted to the play on the field and he lost the built-in “cloud” excuse. This was a real banner that flew overhead during the game:
On the field, no one was sure if Miami was any good, but the suspicion was they were not. Out of their 6 wins, 2 had been nail-biters against terrible teams (Florida and North Carolina).
The Canes came out flat and Wake Forest opened the game with a 16-play, 79 yard drive that ate up more than half the 1st quarter. The Canes were lucky to not be down by more as Wake Forest missed a FG after another long drive. The Canes got on the board with a FG, but the Demon Deacons extended the lead to 11. The Canes finally got some offense going late in the 1st half, scoring a TD after racking up 55 yards in 2 plays to cut the lead to 14-10.
The 3rd quarter saw the Canes waste 2 drive, one with a missed FG, and one with a turnover on downs. This is all very ho-hum…
…but then it exploded in the last 6 minutes. The Canes decided that if they were going to lose, it was going to be with the ball in Randy “Duke” Johnson, Jr.’s hands. The Canes went on an 8 play, 51-yard drive without attempting a pass. Johnson scored what looked to be the winning TD with 5:31 left. After all, Wake Forest had done nothing offensively since early in the 2nd quarter.
But let me tell you something about Mark D’Onofrio…just when you think you’re in the clear, you’re not. Wake Forest went 75 yards in a little over a minute and a half, punctuated by a 44 yard TD pass where the Canes missed several tackles.
Would Wake Forest beat a Top 10 team for the first time since 1946? No. The Canes still had plenty of time left (given the speed with which the defense blew the lead), and, more importantly, they still had the Duke.
The Canes once again leaned on Duke Johnson, absurdly only attempting 2 passes in a 10 play, 73 yard drive. Duke once again delivered, including having to score the winning TD twice after the officials ruled he was out at the 1-yard line when he had clearly scored.
This time the lead held up, and Antonio Crawford sealed the game with an interception.
Why is it Memorable?
For 2 reasons: Duke Johnson and Al Golden.
Duke Johnson is one of the better RBs to ever come through Miami. But he was burdened with playing at a time where the team was not good. On more than one occasion, Duke bailed out this program and saved Al Golden’s job. Often, his performances were so good that they removed a level of suspense from the game. In this game, however, with the Canes completely stuck in the mud, the team collectively decided to ride Duke, and he carried them to victory, twice. Johnson finished the game with 30 carries for 168 yards and 2 TDs, but a whopping 13 of those 30 carries came on the last 2 drives. The Canes were on their way to a horrendous loss, but Duke wasn’t having it.
For Al Golden, this was the peak for him. His record with the Wake Forest win at Miami was 20-11. Little did we know he was more than halfway done with his Miami career, being fired in shame 26 games later having posted a 12-14 record the rest of his career. Despite the late season collapse that followed this win, this was Golden’s best team at Miami.
It turns out, both these teams were not good. Wake Forest would not win another game, finishing 4-8. The Canes would go to FSU for a Top 10 battle the next week, get blown out, and never really recover, finishing the season 9-4, losing 4 out of their last 6.