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Five observations and more from Duke football's first half against Pittsburgh

<p>Quentin Harris had his worst half of the season Saturday.</p>

Quentin Harris had his worst half of the season Saturday.

After starting off the game looking poised, Duke’s offense began to fall apart after a series of turnovers. The Blue Devils trail 19-3 as they search for answers in the second half, chasing their second ACC win in a row. Here are some quick observations and stats from the first half of Duke’s ACC home opener.

Five observations:

1. It was a perfect night for football, but most of Duke’s student body was away on fall break. However, the Durham faithful showed out in force and filled up the stadium, drowning out the voices of the few Pittsburgh fans who made the trip down south.

2. After only giving up four turnovers through their first four games of the season, the Blue Devils gave up three in the first quarter alone, including one interception that Pittsburgh returned for a touchdown that put the Panthers up 7-3 at that point.

3. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe continues to show that he’s willing to play aggressive from the get-go. On the Blue Devils’ first drive of the game, he went for it on fourth-and-1 while in field goal range, with quarterback Quentin Harris running it up the middle for three yards. The drive faltered on the next set of downs and the Blue Devils kicked a field goal to go up 3-0.

4. Duke’s defense started the night off strong, forcing the Pittsburgh to punt on two straight drives. On the second drive, Pittsburgh had a third-and-1, but Duke’s Marquis Waters and Michael Carter took down Pittsburgh’s running back in the backfield to bring up fourth and four. The Blue Devils began to give up first downs in the second quarter but, just when it looked like Pittsburgh was going to build on their lead, Waters came up with a huge interception near the goal line. 

5. Quentin Harris seemed to be willing to sacrifice his body for the sake of the game, taking several big hits throughout the first half, including one that led to a fumble. Since the series of hits in the first quarter, Harris hasn’t looked as poised throwing the ball and Duke’s offense has begun to falter.

By the numbers:

  • Two interceptions in the first quarter: Pittsburgh’s Paris Ford picked off Harris twice in the first quarter, returning one of those for a touchdown. This marked the first two-interception game by a Panthers player since 2013.
  • No Panther sacks: Duke only gave up one sack through their first four games of the season but they were facing their toughest test yet against Pittsburgh’s defensive line. Duke’s offensive line held strong and continued their dominance against the pass rush. 
  • 1-for-7 on third down: Duke couldn’t seem to find any rhythm on third down, only converting one attempt in the first half.

A moment that mattered: 

Ater Harris fumbled in Duke territory, Duke’s defense forced the Panthers into a three-and-out, putting the Blue Devils offense back on the field. But on the first play of the drive, Harris turned the ball over again, this time on an interception that was returned to the house, putting Pittsburgh up 7-3, giving it a lead it wouldn’t let go of for the rest of the half.