MIAMI — Boston College coach Frank Spaziani took two steps down the sideline, then realized he couldn’t keep up with Luke Kuechly.
Neither could anyone from Miami.
And in what may be his final college game, Kuechly made sure he and the Eagles went out winners.
Kuechly ran one of four interceptions thrown by Miami quarterback Jacory Harris back for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter — a 45-yard scamper that came just minutes before the Hurricanes announced that Al Golden agreed to an extension through the 2019 season — and the Eagles beat Miami 24-17 on Friday in the season finale for both clubs.
“Luke is the best player in college football,” said Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig, who threw a pair of touchdown passes to Chris Pantale, the second of those a 32-yarder early in the third quarter that put the Eagles (4-8, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) ahead for good. “It was just a great play. It’s something everyone expects him to do.”
Rolandan Finch ran for 96 yards for Boston College, while Rettig completed 13 of 17 passes for 196 yards. Opponents completed 66 percent of their passes against the Hurricanes this season, but that wasn’t what doomed Miami (6-6, 3-5).
Harris came into the year with five interceptions. His four on Friday matched a career-worst, and came at the worst possible time.
“Obviously, I’m terribly disappointed for our seniors,” Golden said. “It’s not like we’re not fighting. We’re fighting. We just made too many mistakes to win a game like that. Again, it starts with me. It flat-out starts with me.”
He’s got time to change it now. Golden said he will be in a recruit’s home at 2 p.m. Sunday, and hopes that the extension announcement ends any speculation that he’ll leave for Penn State — his alma mater — or anyplace else anytime soon.
“This is where I wanted to be,” Golden said. “This is a destination job.”
So now Miami knows its coach doesn’t plan on leaving.
For Boston College, the waiting game — for Kuechly’s decision — will continue a while longer.
Kuechly is widely considered to be a first-round lock if he decides to leave school early for the NFL draft, and he added to his impressive resume Friday. He was credited with only nine tackles, which would end a 33-game streak of at least 10 or more if that’s not changed when films are reviewed, but either way it was enough to allow him to break the Boston College all-time and ACC single-season records for stops.
Kuechly had 183 tackles last season when he set the ACC mark. He now has 191 this year and 532 in his career — eight more than previous Eagles record-holder Stephen Boyd.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about it,” Kuechly said of the looming NFL-or-college decision. “Right now I’m just so high from the win. I’ll sit down over the next few weeks and think it over.”
Kuechly’s score came with 14:48 remaining — he read Harris perfectly, jumping in front of the pass and sprinting down the right sideline to the end zone — to essentially wrap up the win for the Eagles.
“I decided I couldn’t run with him,” Spaziani said. “It was a great play by him. You need plays like that to beat teams like this. Someone had to step up and do it.”
Another potential early draft entry, Miami running back Lamar Miller ran for 114 yards, 79 of them coming on a touchdown run — the longest carry by a Hurricane since 2000. Miller said he has not decided if he’ll be back with the Hurricanes next season.
Miami’s day was tinged with emotion, with a few players tearing up on the pregame “Hurricane Walk” through the crowd. JoJo Nicholas, whose son died shortly after being prematurely born earlier this season, walked particularly slowly to soak the scene in, while receiver Tommy Streeter shook hands with two well-wishers and tousled one boy’s hair.
Linebacker Sean Spence and Harris were the last two seniors to be introduced in a pregame ceremony, and once the game started the tributes continued. Harris found classmate Travis Benjamin for a 60-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, and that drive ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to LaRon Byrd, another senior who got into the end zone for the first time this season.
The good feelings simply didn’t last long enough.
“Four years went by fast,” Spence said. “It wasn’t the best four years on the field, but the bond I built with the guys I came in with and the guys that came in (after), it’s going to be for life.”
Harris’ career ends with 70 touchdown passes and 48 interceptions. He was part of a highly touted recruiting class in 2008, a group that leaves Miami with no titles — but Harris said Friday that he’ll look back fondly on it all.
“Came out a champion,” Harris said. “That’s how I feel.”
Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds