In a game expected to be high-scoring and loaded with offense, Saturday’s first-half between Pittsburgh and Duke has been everything but.

The Panthers lead the Blue Devils 7-3 heading into the locker room after a first half in which both teams relied heavily on the run to move the ball.

Duke’s passing woes continued against a typically vulnerable Pittsburgh secondary, with quarterback Daniel Jones finishing with just 59 yards on 10 attempts. Jones tried to find tight end Daniel Helm in triple coverage in the red zone on the Blue Devils' lone trip, but the ball bounced off the redshirt junior’s hands and onto the turf. Duke attempted to convert on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line before a delay of game backed up the offense, and the Blue Devils were forced to kick a field goal.

That drive stands as Duke’s lone bright spot in the first half, a 13-play effort at the end of the first quarter that included just two passes.

The Panthers have struggled to gain ground through the air, with redshirt sophomore quarterback Ben DiNucci looking far from comfortable in the pocket. DiNucci has just 38 passing yards on 10 attempts.

Darrin Hall’s 79-yard touchdown dash jumpstarted the Pittsburgh offense early in the first quarter. Hall has seen the larger share of the workload in the first half instead of fellow junior Qadree Ollison, with Hall racking up 110 yards on nine carries. 

Pittsburgh had the chance to gain significant ground on the Blue Devils after cornerback Avonte Maddox forced a fumble on Duke’s first possession after the touchdown. But the Blue Devil defense held strong, forcing a three-and-out from the Panthers. 

Pittsburgh controlled the ball for most of the second quarter, with an 18-play possession eating up almost 10 minutes of game time. Although the Panthers moved the ball efficiently against the Blue Devil defense, a holding penalty late in the drive and an errant throw by DiNucci backed up the Panthers. Redshirt freshman kicker Alex Kessman was wide right on an attempt from 47 yards out.

Kessman missed another long kick on Pittsburgh's last possession of the half, and Duke's Austin Parker returned the favor with a miss as time expired in the second quarter.

Here are some observations from the first half:

  • The Panthers' passing game has been incredibly ineffective and they have been hurt by five penalties, but they did not commit a turnover in the half.
  • Duke enters halftime with only 143 total yards against a team that gives up more than 30 points per game.