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Extra point vs. Syracuse: Duke football hands the Orange their first conference win of the season

Quentin Harris completed just 19-of-36 passes for 157 yards and two interceptions in the stunning defeat.
Quentin Harris completed just 19-of-36 passes for 157 yards and two interceptions in the stunning defeat.

In its fourth-ever meeting with Syracuse, Duke suffered an embarrassing 49-6 loss, snapping its undefeated streak against the Orange. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:

Three key takeaways:

1. Offensive line injuries are a major concern 

Less than a week ago, starting center Jack Wohlabaugh was officially listed as out for the Blue Devils. He is currently recovering from surgery on his left ankle, and will most likely miss the rest of the season. Redshirt sophomore Will Taylor started in his place. Taylor, who tore a ligament in his right knee that caused nerve damage and “foot drop” two years ago, filled in for Wohlabaugh nicely. Unfortunately, that's the only good news for the Duke offensive line. 

In a scary moment just before the beginning of the second quarter, offensive tackle Casey Holman fell to the ground, unmoving. Medical staff from both teams and a stretcher were required to ensure the redshirt freshman’s safe exit from the field. Holman was later taken to a hospital via ambulance for further evaluation. The Blue Devils’ top priority is the safety and health of their players, but recent events have shown that injuries have caused substantial distress on their depth and rotations. The constant pressure applied by the Syracuse defense is indicative of just how tattered the Blue Devil offensive line is.

2. Whatever happens in the Duke locker room during halftime… isn’t working

When it comes to third quarters, Duke football is the anti-Golden State Warriors. The latter team became notorious in 2018 for beginning second halves with spectacular offensive performances. The former team became notorious for letting the other team begin second halves with spectacular offensive performances. 

The Blue Devils gave up 21 points in the third quarter, all of which were the result of Duke turnovers. Thus, a mere eight-point deficit expanded to an insurmountable 29 in a span of 15 minutes. This isn’t too much of a surprise—Duke gave up 21 and 24 points, respectively, against Alabama and Virginia in the third quarter. Both teams blew out the Blue Devils with little resistance, and the Orange followed suit. 

3. Duke may not play in a bowl game this year

Coming into the game, Blue Devil fans were hoping for a win. Their hope wasn’t entirely misplaced—Syracuse was coming off a 31-point loss to Boston College, and Vegas had Duke as nine-point favorites heading into the game. Now, the Blue Devils have to win against Wake Forest and Miami to secure bowl eligibility. Both opponents are looking like really tough matchups, and with the Blue Devils' 43-point loss to a struggling Orange team, they are looking weaker than ever. One mistake is all it will take to knock Duke out of postseason play. 

Three key stats:

1. Two Syracuse running backs with 115 yards on the ground

The key to the Orange’s success was a pair of running backs, both of whom gave a peachy performance. Jarveon Howard and Moe Neal spent the night picking the Duke defense apart, gashing up the middle for multiple gains north of 30 yards  and powering Syracuse’s momentum. Additionally, Howard and Neal were each able to punch the ball into the end zone for a touchdown apiece. In doing so, they were able to 'berry' the Blue Devils and drive the Syracuse crowd bananas. 

2. Three straight Duke turnovers to start the second half

Coming out of the locker room after halftime, the Blue Devils were surely feeling optimistic. After allowing two touchdowns in the Orange’s first two offensive drives, the Duke defense buckled down and shut out the Syracuse offense for the rest of the half. 

After a pick-six on Duke's first offensive drive of the second half, however, that optimism was replaced by frustration, which was quickly replaced by fear following another interception on the ensuing possession. When the Blue Devils lost a fumble on their third offensive drive of the second half, the little air that remained in Wallace Wade Stadium was quickly sucked out, as were many of the fans in attendance. 

3. Austin Parker’s 72-yard punt

The best play of the night for Duke was an amazing, career-long punt by Austin Parker late in the first half. The 72-yard kick is tied for 10th-longest in the program’s 100-plus year history. Parker now stands beside Will Monday (2013), Worth Lutz (1947) and Eric Tipton (1938) on the Duke punting leaderboards.

Looking forward:

Next Saturday, the Blue Devils will make the short trip to Wake Forest to take on the 7-3 Demon Deacons in a must-win game. With a loss, Duke’s chances of playing in a bowl game will rapidly approach a number very close to zero, and a large amount of pressure will subsequently be redirected to the basketball team. The game time has yet to be determined.

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