Dallas Crawford remembers there wasn’t much time for discussion. Duke had just raced down the field in 10 plays and 80 yards to go up three with six seconds left.
So Miami needed a backup plan. Fast.
No speeches. Not now.
“It wasn’t discussed,” he said, the part where someone says something unforgettable and is later immortalized on some statue on campus.
Then the play was called, the one they worked on every Thursday under former coach Al Golden, and within moments the players were out on the field.
“We basically said, ‘We’re not going to lose,’” Crawford said.
Talk about pressure.
Crawford, a South Fort Myers graduate and University of Miami redshirt senior, hadn’t been on kickoff return all game. No, forget that, he hadn’t done it all season.
But this was the plan. Crawford, Lee County’s all-time leading passer, was on the field for his arm. In a crunch, he was supposed to lateral the ball across the field.
“The first start of the play,” Crawford says, “is I run up and throw it to the Corn (Elder).”
“That’s the end of the play.”
“After that didn’t work, it was backyard football.”
And, really, the rest is (tainted) history. How do you describe that moment, if only to say there was magic involved in the Hurricanes’ 30-27 win over the Blue Devils Saturday?
You’ve seen the play. 49 seconds. Eight laterals. It starts with Crawford, forwards on, then Mark Walton’s knee appears to hit the ground. The ball finds eventually finds Crawford again, he wiggles a couple of yards and fires a bullet to Corn Elder.
Eighty-one yards later — courtesy of two vicious (illegal?) blocks — Miami ends up in the end zone.
It was a remarkable play of perseverance. Crawford made two critical passes during the stretch, including the last lateral which led to the touchdown.
“Myself personally, I wasn’t thinking at all,” he said. “I was trying to get the ball and trying to get it to the open person. You don’t have time to think. Everything is moving so fast. You just react to it.”
What happened next is even weirder. The ACC announced on Sunday it had suspended the officiating crew, the replay man and the communicator for two games because of its erroneous officiating.
They didn’t overturn the win, though. Miami still has the W, and Duke still has the L.
“That has nothing to do with us,” Crawford said, “So that’s it. Whoever is in charge of that deals with that. We’re moving on to Virginia.”
Let’s talk about Crawford for a second. He’s led a journeyed career, from Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2011 as a cornerback, to receiver, to team leader in rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, to receiver again, then back to cornerback and safety.
He started at safety on Saturday. Five years ago, he left South Fort Myers as the leading passer in Lee County history.
This man, a sociology major, is all about the team. He’s done everything. He’s been the glue. He’s never thought about leaving Miami.
“”I feel like it’s my job to see it through,” Crawford told the Sun-Sentinel in August. “I’m not the guy to give up because something gets tough. I feel like once we come out on the other side of this and we get back to where we’re winning, I’ll feel good.
The Hurricanes were fighting emotion the entire week. Their head coach, Al Golden, the guy who had prepared Miami for its miracle, had been fired after the team lost to Clemson 58-0 on Oct. 25.
Crawford’s teammate, Artie Burns, was dealing with tragedy after his mother passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack days earlier.
Could you expect the resilience?
“I’m honored to be a part of this team right now,” he said. “I’m honored to be part of that play. I was just honored the coaches decided to put me on the field.”
Sometimes you’re put in moments because you’ve earned them.
Crawford had never experienced a play like in his lifetime, from Pop Warner to high school to college.
The one that came closest, he said, was a game against Bradenton Southeast, in the Region 3A-3 Finals in 2010. There was a fake punt. But even then …
“Nothing that can compare to what happened on Saturday,” he said.
He was ready for it anyway. And now, because he stuck it out, because he stayed true to Miami, he’s going to have this all for himself.
Immortalize it however you want.