Finding itself in a seven-point hole just 32 seconds into Saturday afternoon’s contest against Baylor at Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke bounced back to power its way to a 34-20 victory against the Bears. Senior running back Shaun Wilson led the way for the Blue Devil offense with 176 rushing yards and two long touchdown runs to help Duke overcome many missed opportunities and miscues. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

Pounce on Zach Smith: Duke’s defense punished Baylor’s newly minted sophomore starting quarterback for three interceptions—including junior linebacker Ben Humphreys’ 22-yard pick-six—to go along with three sacks and several hard hits. Smith faced constant pressure and completed just 12 of 34 passing attempts. He also fumbled twice, though one was recovered by his teammate Deonte Williams.

Attack the Bears’ secondary: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones put up his lowest yardage total of the season but did enough to manage the Blue Devils’ offense. Rather than attack Baylor’s defense through the air, Duke relied on its strong running back tandem of Wilson and Brittain Brown, who combined for 262 rushing yards and three explosive touchdowns.

Don’t sleep on Baylor: Despite being double-digit favorites to hand the Bears their third straight loss, the Blue Devils did not get ahead of themselves, despite some early hiccups. When sophomore wide receiver Denzel Mims gave Baylor the lead within the first minute of the game, Duke could tell it was in for a battle. Head coach David Cutcliffe’s team fought tooth and nail for three quarters before finally pulling away in the game’s final period en route to a 14-point victory.

Three key plays:

13:36 remaining, first quarter: Just 52 seconds after Smith’s touchdown pass gave Baylor an early 7-0 lead, Wilson rumbled down the field for a 50-yard touchdown to even the score and erase his own mistake, a fumble on his first carry which set up the Bears in Duke territory. Wilson’s score eliminated any momentum a scuffling Baylor squad may have been building from their takeaway.

14:21 remaining, second quarter: Though Wilson may have been the star of the game for the Blue Devils,  Brown, a redshirt freshman, made his presence felt with a rushing touchdown of his own. He broke several tackles on a 34-yard run before bursting into the endzone to give Duke a lead which it never relinquished.

11:31 remaining, fourth quarter: After Baylor cut Duke’s lead to just four points on a 79-yard touchdown reception by Chris Platt at the end of the third quarter, the Bears were able to force a punt and seemed to be regaining the momentum. Humphreys rewrote the script with a 22-yard pick-six of Smith that gave the Blue Devils a commanding double-digit lead. 

Three key stats:

Duke’s defense forces four turnovers: The Blue Devils picked off Smith three times and recovered a fumble following a strip sack. Duke scored ten points off of turnovers and successfully prevented the Bears from establishing any offensive rhythm. 

Joe Giles-Harris registers 12 total tackles: Sophomore linebacker Joe Giles-Harris anchored the Duke defense with 12 total tackles, bringing his season total to 26. He was also one of three Blue Devils to record an interception.

David Cutcliffe earns his 99th career win: Duke head coach David Cutcliffe earned his 99th career win on his birthday Saturday. Cutcliffe, who has coached the Blue Devils since 2008, has been given credit for turning the Blue Devil football program around and has high hopes for what the team achieve in the near future. Cutcliffe will look to add a 100th career win to his résumé next Saturday as Duke takes on its archrival, the North Carolina Tar Heels.

And the Duke game ball goes to…Shaun Wilson

The senior running back fumbled on the Blue Devils second play from scrimmage, but that mistake did not stop him from amassing 209 total yards and two eye-opening touchdowns. Wilson immediately made amends for his fumble with a 50-yard scoring run on the next drive. The score was his fifth touchdown run of 50 yards or more in his career—a program high water mark. But that wasn’t the last huge play Wilson broke off. Three minutes into the second half, Wilson broke free again for a 65-yard rushing touchdown that had Wallace Wade Stadium shaking. 

And the Baylor game ball goes to…Chris Platt

Junior wide receiver Chris Platt carried the load for the Bears’ offense with 148 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard strike to help Baylor pull within four at the end of the third quarter. Platt averaged 37.0 yards per reception and his huge plays kept Baylor in the game for the first 45 minutes of action.