The Blue Devils moved to 8-1 on the season with another hard-fought ACC road victory on Saturday at Syracuse. The game marked Duke's 13th 4th-quarter victory in the David Cutcliffe era, and the 18th win for QB Anthony Boone as a starter, a Duke record.
Flushed from the pocket and facing 3rd and 4 early in the 4th quarter, Duke senior QB Anthony Boone threw the ball to the 1-yard line for his All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder, but it was Syracuse CB Brandon Reddish who came down with it. Surprisingly, it was that interception that sparked the Blue Devils on to victory. With the Orange pinned against their own end zone, the Duke defense held, forcing a punt back to Crowder with a short field in front of him. This time, Crowder secured the catch and took the return straight up the field for a 50-yard return touchdown, the 3rd of his stellar career. The score gave the Blue Devils a 17-10 lead, and they didn't look back.
It was a sloppy game for both teams, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Neither offense could find a rhythm, resulting in a busy day for the two punters, with Duke's Will Monday punting 7 times for an average of 45.3 yards, and Syracuse's Riley Dixon punting 9 times for an average of 46.1 yards. The two teams combined for 14 penalties, with the Blue Devils committing an uncharacteristic 6 penalties for 55 yards of their own.
Jim Knowles' defense, after giving up 48 points a week ago at Pittsburgh, returned to their bend-but-don't-break ways, giving up 224 total yards but just 10 points to Syracuse. They were particularly stingy on 3rd down, holding the Orange to just 4 of 16. CB Breon Borders hauled in 2 interceptions, DE Dezmond Johnson brought down two tackles for loss in the first half alone, and both DeVon Edwards and David Helton added a sack.
The Syracuse defense put together a solid effort of their own, containing Duke's stable of running backs and batting down several Anthony Boone passes at the line of scrimmage. The Blue Devil offense was held to 3.0 yards per carry on the day, and finished just 8 of 19 on 3rd down.
The Blue Devils appeared in control of the game early, taking a 3-0 lead on their first drive. After the Orange answered with a field goal of their own, DeVon Edwards brought back the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown that was ultimately negated by a Shaquille Powell holding penalty. Duke went 3-and-out on the next two drives before Boone led a 13 play, 91 yard drive capped off by a 22-yard Issac Blakeney touchdown to give the Blue Devils a 10-3 lead. The score held as the two teams headed into the locker room.
In the third quarter, the Orange quickly tied up the game on a 9 play, 67 yard drive that ended with a Mitch Kimble 8-yard scoring run. The two defenses settled back in, keeping the game tied at 10 as the 4th quarter began. From there on out, it was all Blue Devils, who scored 17 unanswered points to seal the victory.
Boone finished the day just 15 of 33 for 161 yards with 2 touchdowns. Issac Blakeney and Jamison Crowder led the Duke receivers with 94 yards and 58 yards, respectively. Shaquille Powell paced the Blue Devils on the ground, totaling 68 yards on 17 carries. Ross Martin remained perfect on the year, connecting on 3 extra points and field goals of 27 and 34 yards.
The win moves the Blue Devils to 4-1 in the ACC and in control of the Coastal Division race. Duke returns home to finish out the regular season with three straight crucial home games, starting next Saturday at 12:00PM against Virginia Tech. Tickets are still available at GoDuke.com.