On the first touchdown run of his college career, Duke Johnson broke a handful of tackles on a 54-yard romp to the end zone.
The second one went even longer and the Miami freshman was untouched all the way, helping the Hurricanes to a 41-23 win over Boston College on Saturday.
"Duke's play obviously boosted the momentum," receiver Phillip Dorsett said after watching Johnson run for 135 yards and two long touchdowns to help the Hurricanes come back to beat BC. "Without him, we don't know what's going to happen.:
Johnson scored from 54 and 56 yards out after the Eagles opened a 14-0 lead, and Stephen Morris threw for 207 yards and a touchdown in the season opener for both teams. The Atlantic Coast Conference schools also played each other in the 2011 finale, when BC beat the Hurricanes in Miami for the first time since Doug Flutie's famous desperation heave in 1984.
Chase Rettig completed 32 of 51 passes for two touchdowns and a career-high 441 yards — the most since for a BC quarterback since Flutie. He led the Eagles to scores on their first two drives, but Miami tied it on Denzel Perryman's 41-yard interception return to end the first quarter.
Johnson's second score made it 31-23. The Eagles fumbled the ball away on consecutive drives to start the fourth quarter to set up a field goal and touchdown that gave Miami a 41-23 lead.
"We played sloppy, made some mistakes that hurt us on offense," BC coach Frank Spaziani said. "But, defensively, we've got to play better. Nobody made plays."
Johnson carried the ball just seven times in his debut. He also caught three passes for 10 yards and returned three kickoffs for 69 more — a total of 214 all-purpose yards.
"I had freshman jitters," said Johnson, who compared his running style to former Hurricanes back Clinton Portis. "I was excited, nervous. I was just ready to play football. When older guys tell you, `This is what you worked for. You've played,' that's what relaxed me."
BC cut the deficit to 41-30 on Rettig's 17-yard touchdown pass to Tahj Kimble, then got inside the 1 yard-line on a third-down pass to Spiffy Evans with less than 3 minutes left. With the clock running, Rettig lined up and tried to sneak it in but was stopped for no gain; the play was reviewed and upheld.
Miami took an intentional safety with 4 seconds left rather than punt from deep in its own end zone.
"I couldn't be prouder of a group, down 14-0 in the ACC in a terrible environment, rattled a little bit, dropping balls and things like that," Hurricanes coach Al Golden said. "Just to hang in there — whew. That was a good job just to hang in there."
The 32 points was the most for BC against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since it beat Weber State in 2010, and the 542 total yards were its most since playing North Carolina State in '08. Alex Amidon had 10 catches for 149 yards, and Kimble had eight for 130 and a touchdown to go with 10 rushes for 50 yards.
"We left some plays out on the field. But we came out of it with some positives. The offense can really move the ball," Amidon said. "There were definitely a lot more points that could have been scored. But 32 points from this offense — I can't remember the last time we scored 32."
The Hurricanes improved to 24-5 all-time against BC, which had won two straight in the series, including the 24-17 victory last season that left Golden with the end to a tumultuous first season and a 6-6 record. The school did not go to a bowl because of a self-imposed ban in response to an improper benefits scandal.
Boston College went 4-8 last season, missing a bowl for the first time since 1998, and Spaziani's job is likely on the line unless the Eagles improve.
It looked good — at the start.
Rettig led BC on two quick touchdown drives to open the game, scoring on Andre Williams' 4-yard run on the first drive of the game and then a 15-yard pass to Jake Sinkovec. But Miami tied it before the quarter was over, scoring on Eduardo Clements' 1-yard run and then, on the final play of the first, Denzel Perryman's 41-yard interception return.
After Nate Freese kicked a 26-yard field goal to give BC the lead again, Johnson broke loose from 54 yards out and scored to make it 21-17. BC took the lead with two more field goals, but Miami's Jake Wieclaw answered with one and then Johnson broke another long one.