More than 30 years later, Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary on Nov. 23, 1984, still ranks as not only the greatest play in Boston College football history, but as one of the top plays in all of college football history.
It is also judged the greatest moment in BC sports history, no small feat for a school with five NCAA championships in men’s hockey and an NCAA-record 25 appearances in the Frozen Four.
But Flutie’s 48-yard pass to Gerard Phelan on the game’s final play capped an epic performance in Miami’s Orange Bowl, dubbed the “Miracle in Miami.”
“That play has lived with me almost every day since it happened,” Phelan told the Boston College Chronicle in 2004. “It’s remarkable. Rarely a day goes by when someone does not bring it up. It’s a great thing to be associated with, because whenever anybody talks about it they are always smiling. I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
In the highest rated college football game of the year, Flutie and Miami’s Bernie Kosar combined for 919 yards and five touchdowns on 59-of-84 passing.
No. 10 BC led 14-0 in the first quarter but 12th-ranked Miami rallied to tie before the Eagles took a 28-21 halftime lead. Entering the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 31.
Then with 28 seconds remaining in the game, Miami’s Melvin Bratton punched it in from the 1-yard line to give the Hurricanes a 45-41 lead.
But Flutie moved the Eagles to Miami’s 48 on three quick plays with six second left.
Flutie called it the “55 Flood Tip” play, which the receivers were going to run straight routes into the end zone. Then they were to tip the football to another receiver.
Flutie scrambled to his right, averting a sack and from his own 37 launched a pass that traveled 64 yards against 30 mph winds. Phelan ran behind Miami’s defensive backs and the ball came straight down over the mass of players into Phelan’s arms for a 47–45 victory.
For Miami it was the second stunner in two weeks. Just 13 days earlier, Maryland rallied from a 31-0 halftime deficit to beat the Hurricanes 42-40 in the greatest comeback in college football history.
Flutie, meanwhile, went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1984. Against Miami, he passed for 472 yards to become the first college quarterback to surpass 10,000 yards in his career. He finished his college career as the NCAA’s all-time passing yardage leader with 10,579 yards.
“Without the Hail Mary pass I think I could have been very easily forgotten,” Flutie told the NFL Network in 2004.
“We would have gone to the same bowl game, the Heisman voting was already in, and the direction [of his career], everything would have been the same, except that pass put this label on me as ‘It’s never over ’til it’s over’ guy.”
On the cover: Doug Flutie celebrates his game-winning touchdown pass to Gerard Phelan against Miami (Fla.) in 1984. (Courtesy BC Athletics)
Above: YouTube video courtesy BC Athletics via CBS
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Ball State and Belmont
• Tuesday: Bemidji State and Boston College
• Wednesday: Boston University and Bowling Green
• Thursday: Brown and Bucknell
• Friday: Buffalo and Cal State Bakersfield