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.
Duke at Syracuse
12:30 PM ET
Saturday, November 8
TV: RSN (Affiliates)
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 92 and XM Ch 193
Duke in 2014: 7-1 (3-1 ACC)
Syracuse in 2014: 3-6 (1-4 ACC)
PROBABLE: S Deondre Singleton
OUT: CB Alonzo Saxton II
OUT FOR SEASON: LB Kelby Brown, TE Braxton Deaver, DE Taariq Shabazz
A lot, including - DOUBTFUL: QB A.J. Long
Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils will make their first trip to the Carrier Dome this week as they face off with the Syracuse Orange. Saturday will be Senior Day for the Orange, who finish the year with road games at Pittsburgh and at Boston College. Scott Shafer's squad will need to win their final three to return to the postseason in 2014.
HOW DUKE CAN WIN
The Coastal Division leaders are favored on the road in the Carrier Dome this weekend, but by less than a touchdown. The Orange have played tough against some of the ACC's best, including Florida State and Clemson. As in any ACC game, the Blue Devils will need to play sound fundamental football by winning the turnover battle and controlling the line of scrimmage. The Duke offensive line has proven to be one of the top units in the country, effectively keeping opponents out of the Blue Devil backfield all season long. A balanced offensive attack will continue to move the chains, and Duke's speedy backfield should benefit from the quick turf to break a few runs.
Defensively, Duke needs to force Syracuse into long fields and obvious passing situations. The Orange have struggled to move the ball consistently through the air, and Duke's opportunistic secondary should be able to match-up with Syracuse's receiving corps. A depleted offensive line allowed 8 sacks a week ago to NC State, which should have Jim Knowles looking for ways to dial up pressure on an inexperienced Orange signal-caller. After an injury last week, A.J. Long is doubtful, leaving redshirt-freshmen Austin Wilson and Mitch Kimble next on the depth chart. A strong day from Will Monday will make for a long afternoon for the Orange offense.
HOW SYRACUSE CAN WIN
For Syracuse to accomplish the upset, their defense will have to find a way to ground the Blue Devils. The Orange have struggled mightily on offense this year, ranking near the bottom of the ACC in total offense and scoring offense. Defensively, they have been effective at stopping the run, and will need to continue that trend against a balanced Duke rushing attack. Senior LBs Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis must challenge Duke's veteran offensive front; Lynch ranks 3rd in the ACC in sacks entering Saturday's contest, while Davis is among the active career leaders in tackles for loss. Led by their two senior LBs, the Syracuse defense has proven to be stout against the run, holding opponents to just 3.3 yards per carry. A veteran secondary that starts all upperclassmen will have its hands full matching up with All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder, who is coming off his best game of the season at Pittsburgh.
Field position will be crucial for the Orange, who are not well-equipped to sustain long drives. A few critical takeaways or special teams plays will be needed to provide the Syracuse offense with a short field. The Blue Devils have proven to be quite vulnerable to the run, and a heavy dose of Prince-Tyson Gulley will be a challenge for Duke's front six. The senior already has two 100-yard rushing games on the season and will be looking to add a third on his Senior Day. Whichever young QB takes the snaps, they will have to play mistake-free football against the opportunistic Blue Devil secondary.
WHY DUKE WILL WIN
Boone and Crowder found their rhythm on the road in Pittsburgh last week. Under the friendly conditions of the dome, expect Boone to have another strong game against a Syracuse defense that has allowed 14 touchdowns through the air. The Blue Devils' senior QB will look to move to 18-1 in regular season games, leading another balanced Duke offensive attack. With an inexperienced QB starting for Syracuse, expect the Blue Devils to add to their ACC-leading turnover margin. The Orange have attempted the most field goals of any team in the ACC, which should play right into the hands of Duke's bend-but-don't-break defense. While the Orange will continue to settle for field goals, the Blue Devils will find their way into the end zone.
The Blue Devils again control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division race, but continue to take things one game at a time. After a narrow escape on the road in Pittsburgh, expect Duke to put together a strong second half to seal the win in Syracuse.
Duke 34, Syracuse 23
Duke tight end David Reeves talks of the Blue Devils win over Pitt and looks forward to the game with Syracuse.