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Flutie's 'Hail Mary' shocks Hurricanes

Doug Flutie throws his 48-yard TD pass with no time remaining that gives Boston College a 47-45 victory at the Orange Bowl.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 1999


You never know until you try.

Doug Flutie tried. Forty-eight yards and six seconds later, he became a legend.

The 5-foot-9 Boston College quarterback already was considered a lock for the Heisman Trophy when, on Nov. 23, 1984, he led the Eagles against Miami in the Orange Bowl. But the Hurricanes led the Eagles 45-41 in the nationally televised game, having gone ahead with 28 seconds remaining on the fourth of Melvin Bratton's rushing touchdowns and Greg Cox's extra point.

"I thought we'd won it," said Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar, who had 447 yards passing to Flutie's 472.

Still, those 28 seconds remained when Boston College got the ball at its 20-yard line. Two passes and 22 seconds later, the ball was a couple of yards beyond midfield. The only hope was a Hail Mary pass.

Mary was listening.

Flutie dropped back, scrambled around for a couple of seconds ("I like to scramble a bit just to give the receivers time to get downfield.") and launched the ball. Gerard Phelan and two other receivers sprinted down the right side of the field toward the end zone, three defenders covering them.

"You just throw it up and hope your man comes down with it," Eagles coach Jack Bicknell said. "Of course, you don't expect it to happen."

The three receivers and three defenders were bunched together as they arrived at the goal line. They were at the very edge, it seemed, of Flutie's range. But Phelan drifted back a couple of yards away from them as the ball sailed toward the pack.

Defensive backs Darrell Fullington and Reggie Sutton leaped to deflect the ball -- which sailed over their fingertips and into Phelan's arms.

He fell 5 yards into the end zone as he caught it.

"I thought for a minute it might be tipped," he said, "but since it was the last play I had to stay in the end zone. Then it came down over their heads and hit me right in the corner of the shoulder pads. I would have died if it had slipped away. I held onto it like it was my first newborn."

Suddenly it was Boston College 47, Miami 45. The Eagles didn't kick the extra point. There was no need to. Time had expired.

Flutie never saw the catch. "I didn't know what had happened until I saw the ref's arms go up," he said.

Bicknell, too, couldn't see it. "Then I saw our kids going berserk."

Phelan's teammates were pummeling him in the end zone. "I thought I was dead," he said, "but I was thinking to myself, "What a way to go!' "


-- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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