MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Brad Kaaya was getting tired of throwing short passes. So he called an audible to go deep, and that’s when the Miami Hurricanes responded.
And if this was Kaaya’s Miami farewell, it was stellar.
Kaaya became Miami’s all-time career passing leader, throwing for 396 yards and a career-high-tying four touchdowns as the Hurricanes beat Duke 40-21 on Saturday. Kaaya now has 9,686 yards in three seasons — 121 more than Ken Dorsey, who piled up 9,565 from 1999 through 2002.
Kaaya completed 22 of 35 passes and broke the mark with a 42-yard pass to Stacy Coley in the third quarter. Miami (8-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) started breaking the game open when Kaaya decided to take a shot on a deep ball to tight end David Njoku, that audible turning into a 76-yard touchdown and the first of two long ones for Njoku in the game.
“I said `Screw it,’ and told David we were going to go,” Kaaya said. “It was beautiful.”
Coley made nine catches for 118 yards and a touchdown for Miami and Mark Walton also caught a TD pass for the Hurricanes, who have won four straight.
“Just a great victory, a great way to finish,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “I like when we finish without a whole lot of drama at the end. We did that tonight.”
Daniel Jones completed 34 of 50 passes for 316 yards for Duke (4-8, 1-7), which will miss a bowl game for the first time in five seasons.
“We had some great moments this year,” Duke center Austin Davis said. “But we also had to overcome a lot of adversity as a team. We lost three captains and a lot of seniors went down. It was tough. We’re going to look back at this year as overcoming adversity and learning from it.”
The teams combined for five scores in the game’s first five possessions, and Miami’s lead was only 16-14 at the half. But Kaaya struck twice in the third quarter, hitting Njoku for the long score and then connecting with Coley to make it 33-14 not long after the record-breaking completion.
Now the question becomes if this was Kaaya’s home finale.
Going pro will be a serious option, and with good reason. This was the 11th 300-yard game of Kaaya’s college career, the fourth four-TD game he’s had as a Hurricane and he’s now the only quarterback in Miami history with three seasons of at least 3,000 yards.
“It might have crossed my mind a little bit, that it could be,” Kaaya said, when asked if he considered the possibility that this was his last home game as a Hurricane. “But I’ve still got some things to look at, to factor in, to talk over and hash out with Coach Richt, my parents and some mentors of mine.”
Duke: Coach David Cutcliffe was emotional after the game, talking about his senior class. “I’m looking at our seniors and the body of work that they’ve done. The pain in their eyes, knowing that it’s come to an end, you can’t get past that,” Cutcliffe said. Jones completed his first 10 passes, getting 119 yards and two touchdowns out of them. But the Blue Devils, after getting 14 points out their first two possessions, then sputtered to a halt. … T.J. Rahming caught 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown for Duke.
Miami: This was the first time this season Miami had two 100-yard receivers. … Miami hadn’t finished a regular season with four or more consecutive wins since 2002, when it was 12-0 going into the Fiesta Bowl. The Hurricanes will try to win a bowl game for the first time since 2006.
Miami honored its 14 departing seniors in a pregame ceremony, as well as four underclassmen — one being reserve offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who recovered from heatstroke and returned to the field last season. Knighton will try to play elsewhere in 2017.
Kaaya could be the first Miami quarterback to get taken in the first round in 30 years. Miami has had only two QBs go that early — Jim Kelly (No. 14 overall) in 1983, and Vinny Testaverde (No. 1 overall) in 1987.
Duke: Season complete.
Miami: Awaiting bowl invitation on Dec. 4, possibly to the TaxSlayer or Pinstripe.
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