With the rain coming down hard for the second week in a row, the Blue Devil defense has carried the team thus far in what seems like a grind-it-out game like last year against Miami. Looking to end the season with a win, Duke heads into halftime trailing 14-13 in the middle of a downpour. Here are five observations and more from the half.
1. Elements hurting Harris
Similar to last year's game in Florida, the rain is coming down hard at Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke's offense is certainly more aggressive throwing the ball down the field, but Blue Devil quarterback Quentin Harris is struggling to make those throws with a wet ball. He missed his first four deep throws before finally connecting with Aaron Young for a 27-yard gain. Harris' one perfect deep ball to Darrell Harding Jr. was dropped in the end zone on third down, leading to a missed A.J. Reed field goal.
2. Duke dominating field-position battle
For much of the first half, the ball predominately resided on Miami's end of the field. Thanks to poor punting and special teams coverage from the Hurricanes, two Blue Devil drives started in Miami territory. Duke's worst starting field position in the half? Its own 21-yard line after just a 21-yard Hurricanes punt. Punter Austin Parker helped out as well with two punts averaging 49 yards.
3. A battle of wits
In the regular-season finale, both David Cutcliffe and Manny Diaz went into their bag of tricks to try and gain some momentum in the low scoring half, and you can give the edge to the Miami head man thus far. With Duke driving deep into Hurricanes' territory in the first quarter, the Blue Devils attempted a reverse-wide receiver pass with Jake Bobo. However, despite spinning away from a Miami defender, the sophomore couldn't get a grip on the wet ball and underthrew his man.
Then it was Diaz's turn, who called up a fake punt on fourth-and-one from the Hurricanes' 38-yard line. Punter Lou Hedley got the snap and took off, gaining 21 yards on a drive that ended with Miami's first points.
4. Hurricanes' defensive line a little too eager
Give credit to the Hurricanes for sacking Harris twice on Duke's second drive, however, the redshirt-senior took advantage of their aggressiveness moving forward through the rest of the half. Harris used a hard snap count to draw Pat Bethel and Chigozie Nnoruka offsides, and Miami couldn't sack the Blue Devil signal caller the rest of the half.
5. Duke's secondary coming up big
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The Hurricanes have not had the best luck with quarterbacks this season, shuffling between N'Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams. The latter threw three interceptions last week against Florida International, and though he has no picks so far today, the Blue Devils' defensive backs have kept limited Williams to just 9-of-19 passing.
By the numbers:
- 2-for-3 from A.J. Reed: The Lou Groza Award semifinalist continued his strong start to the season, converting on kicks from 40 and 36 yards. His only miss came on Duke's second drive from 46 yards out.
- 14.0 yards per carry for Mateo Durant: With Deon Jackson struggling to open the game, Cutcliffe turned to Durant, who was key on the Blue Devils' third scoring drive. The sophomore broke off a long run of 42 yards en route to 56 rushing yards for the half.
- Three 3-and-outs for Miami: Duke's defense stepped up big to start the game, forcing the Hurricanes off the field efficiently on their first three drives.
A moment that mattered:
After a Miami touchdown put the Blue Devils down 7-3, the offense finally took advantage of great field position with a dazzling run from Harris. The Connecticut native faked a screen pass to Deon Jackson before weaving through the Hurricanes' front seven and breaking a tackle in the secondary for a 24-yard score. Though the offense finally finished a drive, the defense lost its momentum and Miami retook the lead late in the half.