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He threw it into forever

Yes, it was raining that day, you know. Windy, too. If you looked at the flags at the open end of the Orange Bowl, you would have thought that nobody could throw a football a very long way.

Hah. That's a laugh.

"The weather wasn't any problem at all," Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie said. "Not a factor."

The closed end of the stadium somehow shielded the wind from the passers and the rain was light and warm. Flutie didn't have a problem and neither did that Bernie Kosar from the University of Miami. Those two kids just went out there and let loose.

You can look up the numbers if you want, they must be kept in each school's record books, but just know that there were a lot of passes and a lot of completions. Every two minutes there was a play that would have been snipped out for your normal TV highlight show. Here the snips simply went to the floor. Forgotten.

This was one-on-one offensive football that was remarkable. Neither defense could stop the other team's quarterback. Flutie and Kosar resembled a couple of scat singers, each trying to outdo the other, their voices going higher and higher on a complicated scale, neither voice showing a sign of cracking. The game resembled . . . what? Tennis, perhaps. Each quarterback had to try to keep his serve, to score every time he had the ball.

"We just couldn't stop their guys," BC coach Jack Bicknell said. "They were too fast for us. We just could . . . not . . . keep . . . up. Couldn't."

"There was a way to stop Flutie," Miami assistant coach Bill Trout said, ''but you go to prison for killing somebody."

You could not keep your eyes off Flutie. Kosar was from the traditional mold, 6 feet 4, seemingly built from a computer printout of what a quarterback should be, throwing to all of those sprinters that BC could not handle. Flutie simply was magic.

What did the Fort Lauderdale paper call him? The Midget Moses? That was a good one. He was just this little 5-foot-9 guy - remember there were those doubts about whether he could play pro football? That's another laugh - making all the big guys look silly. He was all fury and action. He ran one time, dove into the end zone for a touchdown, and two big guys went right over his back. Looked as if they never touched him. He was - and this is from somebody who doesn't use words like this very often - amazing.

The part people sometimes forget about him is how strong his arm is. His obvious assets were his eyes and his head. He always seemed to be a page ahead of everyone else in the class. He also had a rocket arm.

"How far can you throw a ball?" he was asked.

"I know I can throw it 75 yards," Doug Flutie said. "Maybe farther. I haven't tested it lately."

He used to test it at BC's Alumni Stadium. He and a reserve quarterback named Dennis Scala used to have competitions, standing on the field and trying to throw a football over the press box at the top of the stadium. Scala graduated and the competitions stopped.

"I don't think Doug ever threw the ball over the press box," BC coach Bicknell said. "At least I never saw it. Don't get me wrong, though. Did he say he can do it? If he says he can do it, well . . . the kid can do anything. I'll believe it."

The kid can do anything. That was the final line of this game, wasn't it? He could do anything before this game - heck, he already had locked up the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the country - but this was the final reinforcement. He really could do anything.

The final 48-yard pass at the end of that final 80-yard drive in those final 28 seconds was an exclamation point to his career. How could he top this? "Just show the film at the Cotton Bowl and it has to be better than the Cotton Bowl game," BC assistant Pete Carmichael said. The ball traveled 65 yards in the air. On a line. From Flutie's right hand. Through the early evening, pictured against the orange slickers in the half-filled orange stadium. Over the heads of three Miami defenders. Into the hands of Gerard Phelan, Doug Flutie's roommate. In the end zone.

How do you top that single picture? No seconds left. Miami kids, disconsolate, simply lying on the ground. BC kids, jumping on a larger and larger pile on top of Gerard Phelan, safety Tony Thurman dancing on the tippity-top at the end. BC 47, Miami 45. The moment frozen on national television, one day after Thanksgiving. How do you ever top that?

People were crying. People were laughing. People were screaming. The entire range of human emotion could be seen within a 10-yard radius, no matter where you stood. A BC offensive lineman named Mark Bardwell simply sat in the locker room and shook for a half hour.

"This was a great, great game," Dick Flutie, Doug Flutie's father, said in the afterglow. "Even before that final play, this was a great, great game. But that final play, that made this a happening. There'll be a million people who will say they were here for this."

An hour and a half, maybe two hours later, Doug Flutie was back out on the Orange Bowl field. He was wearing a suit and he was with another BC kid in a suit and they were at the end zone where the catch was made. They were pointing at the spot on the ground where Gerard Phelan caught the ball.

Yes they were. Yes they were. That is part of the memory of this day that will not fade . . .

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