MIAMI — Al Golden remembers exactly where he was on the day after Thanksgiving in 1984.
Now the Miami coach, Golden was at home that afternoon 27 years ago, and one of his brothers had predicted the Boston College-Miami game that day would be one to remember. So they popped a tape into the VCR, pressed the record button, and settled in for a game that — just as Greg Golden knew — was worth watching over and over again.
55 Flood Tip. “Hail Flutie.” Boston College 47, Miami 45.
The Eagles and Hurricanes play again Friday, this game — the season finale for both teams — moved up one day from its originally scheduled date as a nod to that unbelievable matchup in 1984, when Doug Flutie and Gerard Phelan hooked up on the final play for what has become one of the most-replayed finishes in college football history.
“Our guys understand they’re in for a physical, rugged team that doesn’t beat itself,” Golden said. “We have to be ready.”
The history of that play has almost been an afterthought this week, overshadowed by plenty of current news surrounding both programs.
Boston College’s bowl hopes evaporated long ago, and the Eagles (3-8, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) will finish with a losing record for the first time since 1998. The only drama left for the Eagles is whether linebacker Luke Kuechly, a serious candidate for just about every major national award at his position, will decide to leave school early for the NFL.
Kuechly leads the nation in tackles and will break his own ACC mark for single-season stops with his second one Friday. He has an outside chance of becoming the NCAA’s all-time leader in that department if he has a huge game against the Hurricanes.
If he knows where he’s playing in 2012, he’s not yet saying.
“Right now, I’m going to just play (against Miami) and then see how it works out,” Kuechly told Boston College reporters this week. “Right now I don’t have any idea of what goes into the whole thing. I will make some calls. I don’t have a plan right now. I don’t have anything set, ‘On this date I will be doing this.'”
“What do we have to worry about other than going to class?” he added. “You’re with a bunch of guys your own age, some of them are my best friends on the team. Sometimes you hate it, sometimes you love it. Sometimes it gets rough and you say, ‘Why am I here?’ And then you go out and play with your friends and you think it’s great.”
The Hurricanes (6-5, 3-4) are not going to a bowl this season because the university decided to self-impose a postseason ban for 2011 in response to an ongoing NCAA investigation into the athletic department, announcing the decision on Sunday. So for linebacker Sean Spence, quarterback Jacory Harris, wide receiver Travis Benjamin, center Tyler Horn and other seniors, this game carries added significance.
“It went by so fast,” Spence said. “Kind of emotional.”
The Eagles will feel similar emotions.
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani isn’t looking to 2012 yet, saying that Friday’s game could serve as a key building block for his team going forward.
“This game here is the most important game in our future,” Spaziani said. “It’s very hard to say what you’ve done well … and still be 3-8. But we have kids that have come in and worked, and that’s the foundation of moving forward. And certainly experience — once again, we have young players. A lot of teams have young players, and we don’t make excuses. But they’re gaining experience.”
Miami’s five losses have come by a combined 26 points, every one of those games one where the Hurricanes had a chance to win at the end. For perspective, the Hurricanes lost to Florida State by 28 points alone last season — at home. Golden told players those five defeats came down to 15 plays, a reminder of how thin the line can be between winning and losing.
If the Hurricanes finish 7-5 — after a year where the program was rocked by allegations made by a former booster and the NCAA investigation that followed — it’s easy to see why Golden will take away at least some measure of satisfaction from his first season at Miami.
“The bond that I have with the seniors is not commensurate to the amount of time I’ve been with them,” Golden said. “It far exceeds that. The way that they have respected my family, our staff and embraced our culture … it’s not congruent. It really just speaks to how badly they wanted to get this thing going in the right direction, really fix it and really take responsibility for it. And they have.”
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