PHILADELPHIA—Playing in their first road contest of the year, the Blue Devils looked to secure their first victory ever at historic Franklin Field and build off their inspiring come-from-behind win against then-No. 4 Denver last weekend.

This time around, top-ranked Duke was on the other end of a comeback, giving up four unanswered goals to Pennsylvania to fall 10-9 Saturday afternoon.

“Penn was terrific—they were clearly the better team. Second half, they played great. They executed great. They won a ton of faceoffs, they were physical, they were tough. And you’ve got to tip your hat,” Blue Devil head coach John Danowski said. “They deserved to win. They out-coached us. In all phases, they were great.”

With 43 seconds left, JT Giles-Harris forced a turnover to give Duke (4-1) one last chance to send the game to overtime. But a once-explosive Blue Devil offense looked as tentative and scrambled as it had all day and ultimately failed to get a shot off.

“We just lost our poise. The Penn kids wanted it more and the game was more important to them than it was to our guys,” Danowski said. “Even that last sequence, the last 15 seconds there, no one wanted to shoot the ball. A couple of guys had a good look at the goal and didn’t want to pull the trigger. That is something that is tough to coach.”

Duke took a 7-4 lead into halftime, outscoring the Quakers 5-2 in the second quarter. 

The second half, however, marked a drastic shift in the fluidity of the Blue Devil offense which averaged 17.5 goals per game heading into the contest—good for second in the nation. Pennsylvania (2-1) held the prolific offense scoreless in the third quarter, while tallying one of their own with a goal from Adam Goldner. Meanwhile, Duke had five turnovers in the period, and was bailed out by four saves by Danny Fowler.

After Sean Lulley scored for the Quakers to narrow the gap to one just 90 seconds into the fourth, the Blue Devils seemed to wake up, with Justin Guterding scoring his second goal of the game on a bouncer through the goalie’s legs and Nakeie Montgomery following up with his second goal of the contest just more than two minutes later to put the tally at 9-6 with just 9:53 left.

Kevin McGeary responded a little more than a minute later to keep the game within reach. With Pennsylvania continuing to win faceoffs and tallying another goal with just under 7:30 to play, it stayed in the game and ultimately found an equalizer with Simon Mathias’ goal at the three-minute mark. 

Seven seconds later, following another quick faceoff win, McGeary scored again to give the Quakers the lead for good. Penn won 15 faceoffs to Duke’s seven, winning the battle 6-2 in the critical final quarter.

“The faceoff is a huge momentum changer. Even though we got our butts kicked last week facing off, we were able to win—maybe that was lucky, an outlier,” Danowski said. “That is something that we are obviously going to try to get better at.”

The first half was all Duke—the Blue Devils tallied 22 shots, 14 of which were on goal, compared to the Quakers’ 11 and seven, respectively. Although Duke had numerous opportunities in the first quarter, five saves by Reed Junkin kept it at bay, and the teams entered the second quarter knotted at two. Four straight goals by the Blue Devils, including scores by Reilly Walsh and Joe Robertson, helped push Duke to the halftime lead.

“Offensively, we had good possessions. There were a couple plays we didn’t make in the first quarter, but that happens in games,” Danowski said. “Everybody was getting looks, but plays we made in the past, the balls weren’t going in. That happens in some games.”

Without the play of either keepers, the contest could have gone one-sided either way. Although Junkin was dominant for the Quakers in the first half with seven saves, Fowler had eight of his 11 saves in the second half to keep Duke in the game as the offense faltered.

“Danny is a senior goalie and he has a lot of experience. Penn had the ball so much. I don’t remember a game ever where we were out-ground-balled 30-16,” Danowski said. “They had the ball so long but defensively we played well for long stretches, but Penn just played better.”

The Blue Devils will have a week to rebound when they play Richmond at home next Sunday. The Spiders are coming off a close loss to No. 8 Notre Dame, which outscored them 5-1 in the fourth quarter to claim an 11-7 victory. 

“The hope is that we learn. As a coaching staff, we will watch the film on the bus as we go home,” Danowski said. “It will give us time to evaluate stuff—evaluate personnel, evaluate scheme and how we are doing things. Penn was just the better team today.”