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November 23, 2006
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MIAMI -If this was Larry Coker's final game at Miami, at least the Hurricanes sent him off with a victory.
Kirby Freeman threw for 181 yards and a touchdown, Javarris James' 2-yard run in the third quarter put Miami ahead to stay, and the Hurricanes' defense stifled No. 18 Boston College in rallying for a 17-14 win Thursday night.
The Hurricanes (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a four-game losing streak and became bowl-eligible. Soon, they'll know if they'll actually get an invitation to the postseason - and if the embattled Coker will be coaching. A decision on his future at Miami could be announced as early as Friday, and speculation has been widespread for weeks that his six-year tenure leading the Hurricanes is about to end.
"I'm going to be here. I feel very strongly about that," Coker said right after the game.
Following a season in which Miami endured the death of a senior standout, the fallout over a sideline-clearing brawl and a litany of injuries, something finally went Coker's way.
DeJuan Tribble had three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown for Boston College (9-3, 5-3) - which saw its hopes of winning the ACC championship end. The Eagles' loss means the winner of Saturday's Maryland-Wake Forest game will meet Georgia Tech on Dec. 2 in the league's title game.
Andre Callender had a 5-yard touchdown run for the Eagles, who were denied their first 10-win regular season in 66 years.
It was Boston College's 15th straight loss in the series, its last win coming exactly 22 years earlier - when Doug Flutie's miracle pass was caught by Gerard Phelan as time expired and the Eagles escaped the Orange Bowl with a 47-45 win.
Flutie was back at the stadium Thursday for the first time, part of the broadcast crew.
Coker insisted he was happiest for his players - especially the seniors.
"This wasn't anything for me, this was for them. It's been a very emotional roller-coaster at times," Coker said. "We'll talk after the season and we'll get a state-of-the-program and then we'll go from there."
Miami rallied from a 14-3 deficit, held the Eagles to 25 yards rushing on 24 attempts and beat a ranked foe for the first time in six tries this year.
James had 20 carries for 45 yards, including the plunge that put Miami up 17-14 midway through the third quarter and gave the Hurricanes their first lead in nearly four full games - a span of 231 minutes, 53 seconds dating to the Georgia Tech game on Oct. 28.
The Hurricanes' offense sputtered from there - but it didn't matter.
Miami carried a nothing-to-lose attitude into the game - which, at times, worked to its detriment.
Boston College took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on Callender's 5-yard touchdown run, and the Hurricanes marched 64 yards on 10 plays on the ensuing drive. Facing fourth-and-1 from the Boston College 12 - and in chip-shot range for kicker Jon Peattie - Coker decided to keep his offense on the field.
Most of the crowd - 23,308, the smallest in Miami's 44 home games since Dec. 4, 1999 - cheered the decision. They booed the result, when Freeman's screen pass to James fell incomplete and Boston College took over on downs.
More trouble awaited Freeman later in the half, when Tribble intercepted him on consecutive attempts deep in Miami territory. The Hurricanes escaped the first unscathed, stopping Boston College in four plays, but Tribble ran the second back 22 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 Eagles lead with 1:36 left before halftime.
But Boston College's double-digit lead was short-lived. The Hurricanes connected on a rarity for them this season - a big play. Freeman found Ryan Moore with a 49-yard pass, the longest of Moore's career, to set up a 7-yard scoring toss to Lance Leggett with 10 seconds left that pulled Miami to 14-10.
It was Miami's first home game since defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his apartment complex earlier this month. The Hurricanes introduced their seniors before the game, announcing Pata's name last - as his white No. 95 jersey was hoisted by two relatives on the field and some teammates pointed to a banner displaying a photo of Pata in the west end zone.
Boston College paid tribute, too, wearing Pata's number on the back of their gold helmets.
After the game, the Hurricanes grabbed the Pata banner, knelt around it at midfield in prayer, then carried it off. Coker lingered behind, hugging his seniors and posing with them for photos. Then he walked off the field, stopping for a few handshakes along the way and slapping hands with a fan as he entered the tunnel.
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