UPDATE (12:51 a.m. ET): Miami's worst fear may be true. The Miami Herald is reporting that Duke Johnson's ankle is broken and he will miss the rest of the season.
Miami's undefeated start to the 2013 season came to an end in Tallahassee, but the loss to Florida State pales in comparison to the possibility of facing the rest of the Hurricanes' schedule without star running back Duke Johnson.
Late in the third quarter, Johnson was stopped short on a 4th and 2 just outside of the red zone with Miami trailing 35-14. As players threw themselves on the pile, Johnson fell awkwardly at the bottom and his right leg was injured as it bent underneath his body. The school officially reported the injury as a sprained ankle, and Johnson was taken away for further testing.
The failed fourth down try ended the Hurricanes' best offensive drive of the second half, and essentially erased the slimming chances of knocking off the reigning ACC champions. However, if Miami can bounce back from this loss they should get another chance at taking down Florida State in the ACC Championship Game in December.
Accomplishing that task could be much tougher without Duke Johnson. Everything about the offense seems to run better with Johnson in the backfield, carrying a heavy load that guarantees physical running and the possibility of a score on every touch.
The reports from Tallahassee were not hopeful for Johnson's immediate future, at a minimum. The AP's Tim Reynolds confirmed that Duke's right leg was placed in some kind of cast, though the specifics of the injury are still unknown. The photos aren't encouraging, either.
Miami must pick themselves up and return home to face a Virginia Tech team coming off back-to-back losses to Duke and Boston College. A win against the Hokies would provide some space in the ACC Coastal Division standings and leave the Blue Devils as their most likely road block from a program-first ACC title game appearance.
When Duke Johnson left the game against North Carolina, Dallas Crawford stepped in with a career-best 137 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. Crawford and fellow backup Eduardo Clements might need to step up again to keep Miami's in the driver's seat for a rematch against the Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game.