CHESTNUT HILL — His hair mused and red in the cheeks, Al Golden had a positive look on his face as his jogged out of Alumni Stadium.
The Miami football coach had been the ringer Saturday afternoon. But the result, an ugly 41-32 season-opening beating of Boston College, may have ushered in a new era in Hurricanes football.
Just a few hours earlier, that result didn't exactly seem possible. Falling behind by two touchdowns in the opening seven minutes, Miami rallied behind a new hurry-up offense and the coronation of the next generation.
Freshman running back Duke Johnson's touchdown runs of 54 and 56 yards sparked the sudden reversal. The Hurricanes were out-gained 542-415, but also seized momentum on the Eagles' three turnovers.
"It's big, but is it perfect yet? No," Golden said. "Is it what we need? No. We're going to have to be better."
Early on, it was worse than that.
But Miami (1-0) wrestled the mojo from the hosts by scoring 41 of the next 50 points after falling behind 14-0 in the opening moments. Hurricanes receivers admitted a few cases of the jitters led to three early drops. One led to Stephen Morris' only interception on an otherwise stellar performance.
Completing 28-of-45 attempts for 207 yards, Morris commanded the new up-tempo offense installed just a week before kickoff. Throwing mostly short passes, Morris' long throw went to Allen Hurns for 21 yards on a third-and-16 play. One snap later, Johnson motored 56 yards for his second touchdown that seemed to break Boston College's spirit.
The Eagles still came back to score a late touchdown and threaten another, but Miami's defense held in the closing minutes to preserve the high-octane win.
But before it could hold off the Eagles, it had to equal them.
Hurns said the response to the two-touchdown deficit spoke to the difference between this team and the 2011 version.
"We had more unity," said Hurns, who had a career-high eight catches and 81 yards. "After we dropped down 14-0, everyone was still with each other and still pushing each other. Even with the receivers, we had drops, the o-line, the running backs, the quarterbacks got on us and told us we're still with you. We played more as a team."
Golden said he didn't have any special rah-rah speech for the team after falling behind.
"If that ain't in your team right now," Golden said. "You're in trouble."
UM settled down by speeding up. A 13-play drive capped by Eduardo Clements' 1-yard touchdown run took only 3:42. After quick passes, the Hurricanes sprinted back to the line instead of the huddle.
Two snaps after Clements' crossed the goal line, middle linebacker Denzel Perryman found it for the first time in his career. The sophomore stepped in front of a Chase Rettig screen pass and ran it 41 yards for the game-tying score.
Rettig said he never saw Perryman drift into the passing lane.
"That was huge, man," Morris said, cracking a quick smile. "It helps you so much when the defense scores and creates take-aways. It just relieves so much pressure off my shoulders."
Miami trailed only briefly after Johnson's first touchdown defied tackles and gravity. Almost stopped behind the line, Johnson ran through and past Boston College defenders while keeping his balance into the end zone.
"As soon as I got the ball, I was stumbling," he said of the second-quarter score. "Then Phillip [Dorsett] made a great block on the outside that freed me up."
The lead ballooned to 41-23 when another freshman — receiver Malcolm Lewis — scored on an 18-yard Morris pass.
There are bigger games on the horizon and coaches were quick to point out this was just the start. A trip to No. 22 Kansas State looms Saturday.
"I could sit there and say, we should have just stepped on their throat when we were up big number and we let them back a little bit," Golden said. "But that's kinda who we are right now."
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