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Inside Miami's final, game-winning kickoff return

Corn Elder received the first Miami lateral. He also received the last.

In between?

"I'm just running around and trying to find an opening," said Elder, who scored the winning touchdown in Miami's wild 30-27 upset of No. 22 Duke.

On the final play of the game, Miami received the kickoff trailing 27-24 after Duke scored with six seconds left. Over the next 48 seconds, the Hurricanes would conceive one of the most improbable finishes, using eight laterals to score the winning touchdown with time expired.

Elder caught the first, sixth and final lateral. He received the final pitch from Dallas Crawford at the Miami 8-yard line. He saw much of the Duke team on the opposite side of the field, and he had a convoy of two Miami teammates in front of him who would lead him to the end zone.

"I saw it. I saw it coming," Elder told ESPN.com in a telephone conversation after the game. "Once I got it I saw the open lane and I knew something special was happening."

It's a situation Elder said the team talks about all the time, and offensive coordinator James Coley told Palm Beach Post writer Matt Porter the play is called "Desperado." But Elder said "we didn't ever run it in practice. It's one of those things that just happened."

0:06 -- Duke kicks off and Crawford receives it at the 26-yard line.

Crawford picks up a squib quick and almost immediately laterals the ball 10 yards back to a hard-charging Elder.

0:03 -- Elder receives the ball.

Elder ran out the remaining few seconds.

From there, interim coach Larry Scott said "it kind of turned into a kids' game, hot potato. That's how it worked out."

0:00 -- A few more laterals.

Elder gave the ball to Jaquan Johnson who then shuffled it to Mark Walton. Walton gave it back to Johnson, but his knee might have hit the ground before he pushed the ball off to Johnson.

The Blue Devils certainly seem to think so. Tight end Braxton Deaver posted a picture on his Twitter account of Walton's knee on the ground with the caption "Weird." The tweet has since been deleted.

"I'm gonna tell you like it is: I thought the guy was down and I think pictures will prove me right that he was down if you wanna review it when he lateraled the ball," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.

The referees let the play continue, and Johnson gave it to Tyre Brady who then put the ball back in Elder's hands near the Miami end zone. Elder saw Crawford along the Duke sideline but hesitated before lateraling the ball a seventh time.

"There was one time where Corn got ready to throw the ball and recognized the guy wasn't behind him and held and waited to throw it," Scott said.

Once Crawford was in a position to legally receive a lateral, Elder tossed it to him.

From there, Elder glided back toward the Miami sideline, and then Crawford threw a pass about 20 yards to Elder, who caught the ball at the 8.

On Duke's go-ahead drive, Elder committed a couple of costly defensive pass interference penalties. He felt he had let his teammates down.

"My teammates kept me up and said we still got six seconds left," Elder said. "It's never over until that last whistle. They asked me if I was ready and I went on from there."

On the back of a few blocks that were borderline legal, Elder ran for the end zone.

"My legs were giving out," he said. "I got to the 10-yard line and I wanted to fall."

0:00 -- Miami 30, Duke 27.

Elder crosses the goal line and is immediately mobbed by his teammates, including one who prematurely ran onto the field before Elder scored.

"I couldn't breathe," he said. "I was telling people to get off me."

0:00 -- Flag on the field.

In all of the madness, the Hurricanes missed the flag that was lying on the field. The referee announced there was an illegal block in the back. There would be an untimed down, he said, and there would be a replay review.

Up to that point, Miami had 23 penalties for 194 yards.

Artie Burns couldn't believe it when he heard what would be the 24th accepted penalty.

"I was pissed off because they were throwing flags left and right," Burns said. "I was pissed off."

0:00 -- The replay review.

The ensuing review would take more than nine minutes and come in two installments. After a few minutes of discussing with the replay official, the on-field referee said Walton's knee was not down. However, the play was still undergoing a review.

"I was just praying, hoping it would go our way," Burns said. "I knew they were reviewing it for so long so it had to go our way."

The referee came back a second time and reiterated Walton's knee did not touch and that there would be no penalty for an illegal block in the back. The touchdown stands, and Miami wins 30-27.

"What was explained at the end over the loudspeaker was that, in review, the block was on the side," Cutcliffe said. "I would like the whole play reviewed in detail. I thought there were other questionable blocks on the play."

Cutcliffe wasn't done, telling reporters maybe the ACC had answers.

"There were all kinds of issues that need to be addressed by the conference. It's not my job," he said. "... You may have questions pop into your mind. Call the ACC. They should have answers. I had no answers for our guys in the locker room that had spilled their guts on the field."

Postgame

Miami fired coach Al Golden on Sunday leading up to the game. A few days later, Burns' mother, Dana Smith, died. Elder was wearing a shirt memorializing Smith after the game.

"She was out there," Burns said.

Miami was also without its star quarterback, Brad Kaaya, who missed the first game of his career Saturday.

"It's great. It's been a rough week and this team has been through a lot," Elder said. "It was just something that was due for us. Everybody just stayed positive and kept fighting and went back to work this week."

In the locker room, Scott had something to ask his team.

"I'm going to ask you a question," he said. "How good does it feel?"

Elder said he searched on YouTube for the Stanford-Cal game with the band on the field, but he said "I've never been a part of something like this."

Said quarterback Malik Rosier Jr., who was watching on the sideline: "I don't think it's registered yet. It's like, wow, that's the play that beats them?"