“Three wide receivers out to the right…Flutie flushed…throws it down…CAUGHT BY BOSTON COLLEGE, I DON’T BELIEVE IT! It’s a touchdown! The Eagles win it! (Unbelievable!) I don’t believe it! Phelan is at the bottom of that pile! Here comes the Boston College team! He threw it into the end zone! There was no time left on the clock! The ball went between two defensive backs of Miami! Jack Bicknell is the only person over there on the sidelines, he couldn’t get the headset off fast enough!’’ – Brent Musburger, CBS play-by-play announcer
Let’s throw it back to one of the greatest throws in sports history.
It was 30 years ago on Sunday, November 23, 2014 that Natick native Doug Flutie made an unforgettable 48-yard touchdown pass to Gerard Phelan to give the Eagles a thrilling 47-45 last-second win over the University of Miami before a crowd of 30,235 at the Orange Bowl on Nov. 23, 1984.
The 10th-ranked Boston College Eagles football team was in a back-and-forth battle with defending national champion and 12th-ranked Miami Hurricanes. The game featured a marquee matchup between the 5-foot-9-inch scrambler Flutie – thought by many to be too small to play quarterback — and 6-foot-5-inch sophomore Bernie Kosar, who was going head-to-head with Flutie in the Heisman Trophy.
In a game that featured 15 scoring drives – none less than 55 yards — and 1,282 yards of offense, the Eagles took a 28-21 lead into halftime when a tropical rain came pouring down on the field. Entering the fourth quarter, the game was tied 31-31.
Miami punched the ball from the one yard line on Melvin Bratton’s fourth touchdown to take a 45-41 lead with just 28 seconds left in the slugfest.
The Flutie-led Eagles would take over on their own 20 yard line, knowing that a last minute field goal would do them no good being down by four.
The Pass took place with :06 seconds remaining with ball on the Hurricane’s 48 yard line. Flutie called the Flood Tip play which called for his receivers to sprint straight downfield toward the end zone with two receivers around Phelan who was supposed to tip the ball to one of them.
Avoiding the pass rush by scrambling to his right, narrowly avoiding a sack, Flutie stepped forward to his own 37-yard line and hurled the ball 64 yards – against 30 mph winds — into the arms of Phelan, who ran behind the shocked Miami defenders, for the thrilling win.
‘’[Phelan] and I are roommates,’’ Flutie said after the game. ‘’And we talk all the time about plays like this. I honestly believe when we ran that play we had a legitimate chance. I’m not saying that I anticipated it happening, but I’m saying we had a chance and that’s all I ask for.’’
Flutie passed for three touchdowns in the game and would throw for 472 yards on the day to surpass 10,000 yards in his career — becoming the first collegian to pass the 10,000 yard passing mark. Flutie ended his college career as the NCAA’s all-time passing yardage leader with 10,579 yards.
“That play has lived with me almost every day since it happened,’’ Phelan told the Boston College Chronicle in 2004. “It’s remarkable. Rarely a day goes by when someone does not bring it up. It’s a great thing to be associated with,’’ he adds, “because whenever anybody talks about it they are always smiling. I’m lucky to be a part of it.’’
The team’s police escort after the Miami game is a cherished memory for Phelan: “I felt like one of the Beatles.’’
The Hail Flutie became one of the most iconic moments in the history of college football. And it led in part to saving a football program at Boston College that had just two bowl appearance since 1942 (1982 Tangerine Bowl and 1983 Liberty Bowl), jolting the recruiting process, firing up the alumni, and increasing overall admissions.
Kosar – who would finish 25-of-38 for 447 passing yards in the game – was stunned after the BC comeback.
‘’I’m in a state of shock,’’ he said. ‘’I didn’t think there was any way Boston College could come back. I didn’t think there was any way Maryland could come back.’’ Miami had blown a 31-0 halftime lead to Maryland just 13 days prior and lost the game 42-40 in the greatest comeback in college football history.
The game against Miami was originally scheduled for Sept. 29, but CBS became hooked on the idea of a marquee showdown between Flutie and Kosar. Miami was scheduled to play Rutgers on Sept. 29, but Rutgers would accept a reported $80,000 payment from CBS to move the game to the day after Thanksgiving for a national television audience.
Boston College would go on to defeat Houston in the Cotton Bowl and Flutie ended up winning the 1984 Heisman Trophy. Many people believe that it was “The Pass’’ that ultimately won the Heisman voters over. It’s not true, however—the voting was complete before the Miami game.
In November of 1985, Natick honored its hero after the 1984 Miami miracle with a street in Doug Flutie’s name near the Natick Mall called “Flutie Pass.’’
On Nov. 7, 2008, Boston College unveiled a life-sized statue commemorating the Hail Mary pass. Flutie said he was “a little bit in awe’’ after being honored.
In an interview with ESPN’s Brent Musburger on the 25th anniversary of the pass, Flutie said it’s a rare day when the Hail Mary is not brought up in conversation. “I know the average is well over once a day,’’ he told Musburger. “There may be a day that goes by where it doesn’t come up, but they’re few and far between.’’
Flutie was drafted out of BC by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1985 NFL Draft but did not sign with them at that time. He set his sights on the USFL, where he signed a six-year, $8.3 million contract to play for the New Jersey Generals. Flutie played one season with the Generals before the league folded in 1986. The Rams traded the rights to Flutie to the Chicago Bears in 1986. Late in the season, Flutie took over for an injured Jim McMahon and quarterbacked the defending champions into the 1986 playoffs.
After his brief stint with the Bears, Flutie was traded to the Patriots, where he played from 1987-89. His fans loved having him home, and he won more than he lost as quarterback, but the team never seemed enamored enough with him. He was released in 1989 and went on to play for the Canadian Football League where he quarterbacked the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders from 1992 to 1995. He won the league’s Most Outstanding Player Award in each of those seasons. Flutie played for the B.C. Lions for two seasons prior to joining Calgary.
Flutie joined the Toronto Argonauts in 1996, playing two seasons with the team. He broke the CFL’s single-season record by throwing for his 39th and 40th touchdown passes of the season against Montreal. He finished with a record 47 touchdown passes in his final season in the CFL. Flutie led the Toronto Argonauts to the Grey Cup in 1997. It was the third and final Grey Cup in his CFL career. Flutie was named the CFL’s most outstanding player in 1997. It was the sixth time he won the award.
Flutie’s return to the NFL in 1998 with the Buffalo Bills prompted the sale of his own cereal, Flutie Flakes, to raise money for the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism. After leaving the Bills following the 2000 season, Flutie joined the San Diego Chargers in 2001. After starting all 16 games in 2001, Flutie played sparingly for the Chargers from 2002 to 2004, handing the quarterbacking reigns over to Drew Brees.
Flutie came back home in 2005, signing with the Patriots as a backup to Tom Brady, wearing the same No. 2 jersey he had donned for the team years earlier. Against the Dolphins, Flutie converted the first successful drop kick extra point in the NFL since 1941. Flutie was with the Patriots in Denver for New England’s AFC playoff game against the Broncos in January of 2006, which would be the last game of his career as he retired from the NFL shortly after.
Flutie finished his NFL career with an impressive 23-9 record as a starter in home games and a remarkable 12-2 (including college) as a starter in Foxboro Stadium where he was 5-0 as the Patriots QB.
‘’The amazing thing with my career has been, since Day 1, I always felt like I gained strength from the fans being behind me,’’ Flutie said when announcing his retirement. ‘’I always felt like the critics were out there, and they were in big numbers, and the jury was always out. And I said to this day, ‘I’m going to announce my retirement’ and they’ll say, ‘See, I told you he couldn’t do it.’
‘’The fans were the ones that always had no doubt in my abilities and the things I would do on the field, and they enjoyed watching me play. I definitely always gained my strength from the fans.
‘’Walking out on the field, knowing they were anticipating something great happening, and that we would win, no matter what the situation… they didn’t give up faith, and you knew you had an opportunity. I kind of felt that obligation to them, that I’d have to pull a rabbit out of the hat or find a way to win.’’
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.