DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Miami came to Duke embarrassed after getting
caught up in one of the worst on-field fights in college football
history. The last thing the beleaguered Hurricanes needed was
another reason for shame -- a loss to the lowly Blue Devils.
Yet Miami needed a last-second interception at the goal line by
backup safety Willie Cooper to dodge Duke's upset bid and beat the
Blue Devils 20-15 Saturday in its first game since last week's
nasty brawl with Florida International.
"There's a stigma attached to losing" to any opponent, Cooper
said. "We came here to win championships. We face Duke like we
face anybody else, with the eagerness and the want to win. Losing
to anybody would be a downside to us."
Kyle Wright had two touchdown passes to Sam Shields for the
Hurricanes (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who nearly blew an
18-point lead and were without 13 players suspended for taking part
in last week's fight.
"It's still a win, but we have to get a lot better in terms of
not breaking down mentally and not making stupid mistakes," Wright
said. "Just things that we could have prevented -- I don't think it
had anything to do with what happened last week."
Winless Duke (0-7, 0-5) had 380 total yards to Miami's 329 and
nearly pulled off the huge upset after rallying from a 20-2 deficit
with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter -- an 11-yard touchdown
pass from Thad Lewis to Raphael Chestnut, and a 7-yard TD run by
"We're knocking on the door for a third (touchdown). That's how
you want to finish games," Duke coach Ted Roof. "I was proud of
the way they fought back."
Duke had two chances in the final 5 minutes to win it. The first
attempt failed when Lewis' fourth-down pass to Jomar Wright was
juggled near the 20 and dropped with 3:39 remaining.
The Blue Devils got it back with 1:35 to play and used two long
Lewis-to-Jomar Wright passes and a pass interference penalty on
Miami to move to the Hurricanes 6 with 3 seconds remaining.
Lewis threw toward the left side of the end zone for Eron Riley.
Cooper waited patiently at first and then pounced to pick off the
pass and return it to the Duke 15, where he fell down to seal the
Hurricanes' fourth straight victory.
"I tried the left side of the field, the safety came into the
zone and I thought I could squeeze it in there," Lewis said. "The
only other play I had was, maybe, to run it."
Cooper said he had a feeling Lewis would try a short, quick
"They don't have a big deep, deep threat -- they like a lot of
option routes," Cooper said. "So I just sat on it, read the
quarterback's eyes and came up with the pick on the slant."
A few moments of confusion ensued after Cooper slipped to the
turf and the ball popped out. Chestnut picked it up and ran into
the end zone, but the officials ruled that Cooper was down and the
game was over. Roof said replays convinced him that Cooper was
Lewis finished 21-of-40 for 284 yards and a touchdown, but he
was intercepted four times -- a Miami-record three by Kenny Phillips
-- in Duke's 15th consecutive loss. Jomar Wright had 10 catches for
a career-high 176 yards.
Kyle Wright was 24-of-41 for 299 yards and TDs covering 18 and
26 yards to Shields. Lance Leggett finished with six catches for
Jon Peattie had field goals of 21 and 50 yards for Miami, which
was in control for most of the first half.
"We expected to come out and have a big game. It looked like we
were well on our way in the first half ... Up 17-0 (at halftime),
things were going our way," Wright said. "We were going to come
out, pick up where we left off, but it just didn't happen."
Duke scored on a safety on Miami's opening series of the third
quarter when a fourth-down snap sailed over punter Darren Daly's
head and he kicked the ball through the back of the end zone.
Duke, which has one of the worst total defenses in the ACC, held
Miami to 30 yards rushing on 26 carries.
And the Hurricanes, the most-penalized team in the conference,
were flagged 12 times for 120 yards.
"We definitely had the refs against us. I think that was pretty
evident," Kyle Wright said.
Twelve of the suspended players are expected back for Miami's
game next week against Georgia Tech. The other player, sophomore
Anthony Reddick, was suspended indefinitely for using his helmet as
a weapon during the fight.