At the time it seemed to be a throwaway game but looking back over a decade later, it showed the heart and attitude of a team that eventually became great.
When the Hurricanes trekked to Chestnut Hill in late October during the 1999 season, it was on the heels of a three-game losing streak. Miami opened the season with a 23-12 win over Ohio State in the Kickoff Classic, but faced heartbreak two weeks later when a comeback against No. 2 Penn State fell short.
The Canes took a late lead, got a bogus fourth-down spot and a play later gave up an 80-yard touchdown to the Nittany Lions, falling, 27-23.
The hangover hung on another week when Miami blew a big lead and fell to East Carolina. Two weeks after that, hanging tough with top-ranked Florida State worked for a half, but the Canes were outscored 10-0 in the second half and lost, 31-21 to the eventual national champs.
Miami was better than its 2-3 record, but still found itself in a 28-0 hole in the third quarter against Boston College – but suddenly came alive. Touchdown by touchdown. Possession by possession.
The Canes never quit and even when down 28-14 early in the fourth quarter, running back James Jackson was on the bench reminding teammates that this one wasn’t over.
Quarterback Kenny Kelly responded from a slow start and with a hurry-up offense, put some points on the board quickly.
The Canes forced a late fumble, where Jackson ran it in a play later and the comeback proved an exercise in tenacity for a young team. Kicker Andy Crosland nailed the game winner in the waning moments and the Canes outscored the Eagles, 31-0 for the 31-28 victory – on the heels of Butch Davis going for it on 4th and 17 and Kelly hitting wideout Reggie Wayne for the much-needed first down, setting up the game winner.
Miami finished the 1999 season with a 9-4 record. Outside of East Carolina, losses were to respectable teams – No. 2 Penn State, No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech, who wound up losing the the Seminoles on the national title game.
The Canes also won out, thumping Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple with true freshman Ken Dorsey under center. Dorsey and Kelly split duties in the Gator Bowl win over Georgia Tech, setting the stage for sophomore Dorsey to take over in 2000 when Kelly opted for professional baseball.
The grit showed this rebuilding season helped Miami achieve 11-1 in 2000, an undefeated campaign – and national title – in 2000 and a 12-1 run in 2002, falling in the championship game and ending a 34-game win-streak.
While Miami truly became great in 2000, there was definitely some greatness on October 23rd, 1999 when the Canes staged the ultimate comeback against the Eagles.