Daniel Jones was better late against Pittsburgh, but it wasn't enough in Duke's fourth straight loss. ...

Extra point: Duke football vs. Pittsburgh

Duke's cratering offense continued to struggle Saturday against Pittsburgh, rushing for just 2.9 yards per carry and holding the ball for just 20:33 in a 24-17 loss, its fourth straight. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game: 

  • Lean on the running game. Despite facing a weak Pittsburgh rushing defense, ranked No. 87 in the country in rushing yards allowed,  Duke could never get anything going on the ground. The Blue Devils gained just 76 yards on 26 carries, forcing Daniel Jones to shoulder most of the load on offense. 
  • Bring the heat. Duke's front seven was strong in pressuring green starting quarterback Ben DiNucci, making nine tackles for loss and sacking the sophomore twice. It helped make Pittsburgh's offense one-dimensional, as DiNucci threw for just 149 yards—119 of which came on just four completions. However, the other dimension devastated the Blue Devils—they were torched for 336 rushing yards.  
  • Get Daniel Jones back in rhythm. After three straight down weeks, it looked like Jones was still stuck in a rut in the early going, throwing for just 59 yards in the first half. But the redshirt sophomore eventually heated up in the third quarter, throwing 58 and 39-yard touchdown passes to Shaun Wilson and T.J. Rahming, respectively to give Duke a 17-7 lead. But the Blue Devil offense punted, missed a field goal on their next two drives, before a late Jones interception sealed a win for Pittsburgh. Overall, Jones took some steps forward, but has still yet to regain his late season freshman form. 

Three key plays: 

7:23 remaining, first quarter: The Panthers didn't wait long to gash Duke's rush defense, using a 79-yard Darrin Hall touchdown run to open the scoring. Hall was untouched on a run up the middle, Pittsburgh's first play of the drive. It was a sign of things to come for the Blue Devils, which gave up 254 rushing yards and three scores on the day to Hall. 

0:10 remaining, third quarter: After Jones' 39-yard touchdown pass to Rahming, Duke had a relatively comfortable 17-7 lead late in the third. But all it took was one Hall carry to kill the Blue Devils' momentum, a 92-yard score on the first play of the drive on a motion run up the middle, untouched once again. From there, the Panthers never looked back, scoring 10 more unanswered points in the fourth quarter to leave with a road win. 

0:45 remaining, fourth quarter: For the third straight week, Duke had a chance to send the game to overtime with a touchdown. And for the third straight week, it came up short. Jones had brought Duke all the way to Pittsburgh's 22-yard line, but was picked off after tight end Daniel Helm tipped the ball up in the air for Jordan Whitehead to snag at the eight yard line, sealing the game. 

Three key stats: 

  • Pittsburgh holds the ball for 39:27. For the third straight week, Duke couldn't hold the ball for more than 25:13, given few opportunities to drive the ball with Pittsburgh's methodical and effective rushing offense. 
  • Blue Devils flagged for seven penalties. Entering Saturday, just four teams in the ACC were better than Duke in penalties. But the Blue Devils played undisciplined football Saturday, flagged seven times, including three offsides calls on special teams plays. 
  • Panthers average 18.6 yards per catch. Although DiNucci wasn't particularly accurate, completing just 44.4 percent of his passes, he was dangerous when he did, throwing for an explosive 18.6 yards per completion. 

And the Duke game ball goes to...Daniel Jones. 

No Blue Devil had a standout performance Saturday, so Jones earns the game ball for his late surge in production. Jones threw for 272 yards on 15-of-33 attempts for two touchdowns and the lone late interception. 

And the Pittsburgh game ball goes to... Darrin Hall 

The junior Panther running back made easy work of Duke's front seven, slicing it up for 254 yards on a whopping 10.6 yards per carry and three touchdowns—Hall and Pittsburgh's motion-heavy running attack confused the Blue Devil defense all day long. 

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