Schnellenberger has had no qualms about placing the entire burden of Miami's season on the 6'3", 215-pound Kelly's broad shoulders. "He's the most productive college quarterback I've ever been around, and that includes Namath," said Schnellenberger, who was an assistant under Bear Bryant at Alabama in the Namath years, 1962-64. "How well we do is basically up to him." No less an authority than Earl Morrall, Miami's quarterback coach, thinks not only that Kelly will be an excellent signal-caller in the pros, but also that "coming out of a pro system like Miami's, he'll adjust to the NFL much more quickly than most guys." Adds Mira, most of whose school passing records Kelly has already broken, "He's got toughness. That you can't teach."
Toughness indeed. By halftime Florida's Jim Gainey had booted a 38-yard field goal to put the Gators ahead 10-7, and Kelly hit the air-conditioned Miami locker room steaming over a mere 56 yards passing on seven completions. His receivers had dropped at least four strikes, but the line had done colossal work in the heat. At game time the temperature on the field was 108°. In fact, Kelly had been indecisive, not in control. "I was letting our team down," he said.
After Miami stopped the Gators on their first third-quarter possession, Kelly, who ended up completing 18 of 30 passes for 170 yards, directed an elegant 86-yard touchdown drive that consumed nearly seven minutes. He mixed handoffs to Rush, Keith (brother of Archie) Griffin and Speedy Neal and completed five straight passes. The last throw, a 27-yarder to Rush, set up a one-yard plunge by Rush that gave the Hurricanes a 14-10 lead.
Miami's defense stopped Florida once more, and the Hurricanes mounted a drive that carried into the fourth quarter. Again Kelly was magnificent, completing four more passes in a row until Curry, with a lot of mistakes to atone for, tipped away a streaker for Belk that might have put the game away. When the Hurricane drive stalled at the Florida 15, Miami still had a chance to go up by seven, but Jeff Davis narrowly missed a 31-yard field-goal attempt. The Gators drove to the Miami 22, but were stopped there with 5:37 to go. "I wouldn't say we had a letdown then," said Peace. "It was more like a sigh, you know, like dang."
"When we didn't make that first down I was very disappointed," said Pell. "I began to think it might be the end. But when I saw the look in the eyes of our defense...well, I thought we might get another shot."
Miami surely didn't think so. Schnellenberger figured that, at worst, any kind of decent punt would put Florida into a desperate hole even though Peace, the third-best passer in Florida history behind Reaves and Steve Spurrier, was almost finished with an 18-for-24, 220-yard day. After the Hurricanes failed to pick up a first down, Greg LaBelle's punt carried only 35 yards, and the Gators took over on their own 39 with 4:02 left.
To this point the Miami defense had played a nearly perfect second half, and when Peace dropped back on the fourth play of the series, Middle Guard Tony Fitzpatrick had a solid hand around his ankle. But Peace shook him and found Dwayne Dixon streaking across the middle. Dixon made the catch, broke two tackles and went 27 yards to the Miami 18. It was time for another chapter to be added to Gator-Hurricane history.
With less than two minutes left, Offensive Coordinator Mike Shanahan called for a 32 naked pass right, a pass-run option for the quarterback. It was the same play Peace had scored on, but the Hurricanes had since shut it off several times. "I was kind of nervous about it," said Peace. "The tackle shot out and cut off my running lane. I looked to the tight end first and he was covered." Jones ran to where he was supposed to be—seven yards downfield toward the right sideline. But when he saw Peace looking elsewhere, he drifted back. In truth, he said, he had no idea where he was. Besides, he was playing without his contact lenses and everything was a little blurry. And, oh yes, he was suffering from the heat. And the pass was wobbly and high.
Jones was backpedaling and stumbling toward the right foam pylon that marks the goal line when he saw the shape of the ball coming. He jumped, and as he fell he threw his arms upward. He felt the flat part of the ball strike the palm of his right hand, so he reflexively pulled the arm in as he went down on his back, dragging both feet along the sideline. His teammates piled on top of him in a delirium of joy. "I looked up through the bodies and saw the referee put his hands up, and I thought, 'Oh, I must have scored a touchdown.' " Pell called the catch a "Willie Mays deluxe."
No one, except the officials, could figure how Jones scored, because he appeared to be down before his momentum carried him across the goal line. That's something the Hurricanes will mull over while they try to figure out how to win the national championship with no better than a 10-1 record—"Our goal hasn't changed," said Schnellenberger—and how to win the Florida game next year, if there is a Florida game next year.