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Extra Point: Duke football at Syracuse

In their final road trip of the regular season, the No. 22 Blue Devils (8-1, 4-1 ACC) went to upstate New York and beat ACC foe Syracuse (3-7, 1-5 ACC) by a score of 27-10.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Pressure the quarterback: Syracuse sophomore quarterbacks Austin Wilson and Mitch Kimble shared time Saturday and were equally ineffective. They combined to throw for a paltry 105 yards—good for just 3.1 yards per attempt. Wilson added two interceptions on deep balls, both of which were picked off by Duke defensive back Breon Borders. Neither quarterback made much of the situation—the first and second string Syracuse quarterbacks were sidelined—as they could never find any rhythm on a day filled with punting and third down stops
  • Don’t turn the ball over: The Blue Devils turned the ball over once on an errant deep ball from redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Boone—just his fourth of the year. He was under pressure and let it fly toward the end zone where Syracuse’s Brandon Reddish stepped in front of Jamison Crowder and won the jump ball. Overall, Duke won the turnover battle 2-1 and played very conservatively on offense.
  • Air it out: Anthony Boone had his second lowest yardage output of the year—he threw for 161 yards and completed just 45 percent of his passes—but he made plays when it counted. Redshirt senior Isaac Blakeney came up big for the Blue Devils, reeling in three catches for 94 yards and both of Boone’s touchdowns. Lining up on the other side of the field, speedster Jamison Crowder kept the chains moving for Duke—even when it seemed like every other play was a punt—pulling in nine catches for 58 yards.

Three key plays:

  • The lone offensive highlight of a lackluster offensive first half came on Boone's 22-yard touchdown pass to Blakeney. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound receiver took a short pass, made his defender miss and raced down the left sideline for the first touchdown of the game. The score was Blakeney’s fourth receiving touchdown of the year and put Duke up 10-3 with five minutes left in the first half.
  • With the game tied at 10 and the Blue Devil offense stagnant, Crowder took a Riley Dixon punt 52 yards to the house and put up Duke for good with 12:45 left in the game. He took the kick in stride, laid several jukes on the Syracuse coverage unit and broke a couple of weak arm tackles on his way to giving the Blue Devils their go-ahead score.
  • Tacking on 17 points in a span of 5:33 in the fourth quarter, Boone found Blakeney once again, this time on a 54-yard over-the-shoulder bomb near the left sideline. At 6-foot-1, Syracuse cornerback Julian Whigham matches up favorably with most big receivers, but Blakeney was just too much. Whigham couldn’t make a play on the ball and was forced to watch from the ground as Duke went up 27-10 with 7:13 left in the game.

Three key stats:

  • 268 yards of combined offense in the first half: The game got off to a slow start as both teams struggled to find any sort of offensive groove. The Blue Devil running game never materialized and Boone was misfiring. Syracuse kept shuffling between two quarterbacks which led to fragmented drives. Blue Devil punter Will Monday and Syracuse punter Riley Dixon accounted for more yards than either team on the day, as the two combined for 732 yards on 16 punts.
  • 98 rushing yards for Duke: Duke posted its second worst rushing game of the season Saturday, compiling only 98 yards on the ground at 3.3 yards per carry. The other time the Blue Devils were held to less than 100 yards rushing—their loss to Miami. Fortunately for Duke, its lack of effectiveness running the ball was overshadowed by Blakeney and Crowder's big plays.
  • The Orange go 4-for-16 on third down: The Blue Devil defense picked up the slack for Boone and the offense early on. Borders came away with two picks, the defense notched two sacks and constant pressure and Syracuse drives were frequently stalled. It didn’t hurt that the Orange shuffled around their quarterbacks like a deck of cards and threw away any momentum they could have built, but the Duke defense had a solid outing Saturday.

And the Duke game ball goes to… Isaac Blakeney

The redshirt senior came up with just three catches, but he made them count. His first grab went 18 yards on a deep crossing route for a first down. Later in the drive, Boone found Blakeney again on a short out route that the receiver took to the house, demonstrating impressive speed for a guy his size. His final play of the game came on an acrobatic 54-yard touchdown catch, as he beat a Syracuse defender in prime position for a pick to secure Duke's 27-10 victory.

And the Syracuse game ball goes to… Riley Dixon

The senior punter had his number called nine times in the game, punting for 416 yards—with a long of 58—and dropped two kicks inside the Duke red zone. He has punted nine times in each of the last three games, as very little has gone right for the Syracuse offense as of late. He kept the Blue Devils from securing optimal field position every time the Orange offense was sent to the sidelines. Crowder returned one punt for the touchdown that put Duke up 17-10, but that was due more to the poor play by the coverage team than his punting.

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