By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami’s Corn Elder watched the replay of his game-winning kickoff return repeatedly Sunday morning, his teammates passing around the clip on their phones and tablets while flying home after one of the wildest endings in college football history.
He knew people are outraged about the play. He also didn’t care.
"At the end of the day, we got the win," Elder said. "So no matter what they say, we won. That’s all that matters."
The Hurricanes’ eight-lateral, game-winning kickoff return — the play they call Desperado — was one of two hotly debated touchdowns in the final six seconds of their matchup with Duke on Saturday night that set social media critics aflame.
Miami 30, Duke 27.
The score will be forgotten. The ending and ensuing controversy will not.
"It really doesn’t do anything to me," Miami interim coach Larry Scott said Sunday morning. "You try to take it in, you see it, you hear it, then you block it out. At the end of the day we believe they got the call right. They took all the time they needed to evaluate all the shots and views and angles they needed to review, and when they came back they couldn’t say, `No, it’s not a touchdown."’
Plenty of photos circulated on social media suggesting that running back Mark Walton’s knee was down while he still possessed the ball on one of the eight laterals. If so, the play should have been whistled dead and Duke would have won.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe called upon the Atlantic Coast Conference to fully review the play. Miami countered by saying the ACC should review the entire game after they were hit with more penalties than ever before.
"We knew we were going to get some of them calls and calls weren’t going to go our way," said Walton. "We live for that moment."
The Hurricanes returned to campus at 2:21 a.m. Sunday, their police-escorted caravan met by a couple dozen friends and family. Some people carried signs, some people carried sleeping children. Players grabbed their bags and scattered into the night, most still in utter disbelief after a week that was simply wild.
Al Golden was fired as head coach last Sunday, a day after a 58-0 loss to Clemson that was the worst defeat in Miami history. Star quarterback Brad Kaaya didn’t make the Duke trip, left home with a concussion. Cornerback Artie Burns’ mother died unexpectedly. Reserve defensive tackle Michael Wyche was arrested, accused of committing battery against his girlfriend.
And the double-digit-underdog `Canes won anyway, in most improbable fashion.
"We’re all still behind each other, 100 percent," Walton said. "It showed on the field. We didn’t give up. Other teams, with 6 seconds left, they’d probably say `We’ve got an L on our record.’ Not us."
Miami was flagged for 23 penalties, the second-most in major college football history. Duke was flagged for five. An 18-penalty disparity between opponents had been seen only once in the last 20 seasons.
Had it gone the other way, Miami could have screamed in anger over those flags and insisted Duke shouldn’t have been credited with what looked like the game-winning touchdown with 6 seconds remaining. Officials ruled Thomas Sirk carried the ball into the end zone; video replays were far from conclusive and Miami absolutely believed Juwon Young kept him from the goal line.
"They didn’t get in," Scott said, quickly adding "sometimes, it kind of works out."
The Hurricanes’ series of laterals on the ensuing return left them retreating almost all the way back to their own end zone, desperate to keep the game alive. Once Elder got the ball after the eighth and final lateral, he had a wall of blockers, Miami had hope, and everyone seemed to be screaming as the former Miami basketball player headed up the sideline.
"Stay inbounds," Scott yelled.
"Go! Let’s go!" Walton shouted as he threw blocks for Elder.
Soon, he was gone. And after a 9-minute review, Miami won.
Were there some questionable blocks on the play? Absolutely. Did Miami’s Rashawn Scott run onto the field from the sideline, sans helmet, in what should have been a penalty? Yes, though that wouldn’t have negated the touchdown.
Does Miami care about those questions? Not one bit.
"It’s been a crazy week," said Elder, who was flagged twice for pass interference on Duke’s final drive. "It started off rough but it feels good to be able to win, and today, finally, be happy."
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