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Historic moments: Duke football upsets Notre Dame in South Bend

Daniel Jones had a breakout game in South Bend to help Duke secure the upset victory.
Daniel Jones had a breakout game in South Bend to help Duke secure the upset victory.

The Chronicle’s best wins bracket previously introduced some of Duke men’s basketball’s top moments throughout the years. This new series coincides with those moments, shedding light on some of Duke Athletics’ other highlights throughout the school’s storied history. We hope you enjoy this stroll down memory lane. First up: Duke football’s road upset of Notre Dame in 2016.

Nearly every factor tipped in favor of Notre Dame. Duke was a three touchdown underdog trotting into South Bend in September of 2016 with a pipe dream: knock off one of the most storied programs in college football.

Then Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer marched his squad down the field to hang up 14 points before the Blue Devils could even muster a field goal. Grim faces filled the Duke sideline as it looked like the team was on a fast track to dropping a third consecutive contest.

A Shaun Wilson 96-yard kick return touchdown proved to be the oil needed on their rusty cogs, as the Blue Devils scored 21 unanswered points en route to jumping out to a 21-14 lead. 

The game was knotted up at 28-28 at the halfway mark of the fourth quarter when Kizer lobbed a wobbly over the shoulder touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown. 80,000 Fighting Irish fans exhaled a sigh of relief before erupting in a joyous chant. 

Then freshman Daniel Jones, who was making his fourth collegiate start, was faced with the daunting task of silencing the entire stadium. On a perfectly executed read option, Jones hit a wide open Anthony Nash who blazed down the sideline for an untouched 64-yard touchdown. 

Thanks to a Duke interception, Jones had the ball back on a short field with just over five minutes remaining. He failed to hit paydirt in the endzone himself, leaving the game in the hands of kicker A.J. Reed.

Reed was yet to send a ball through the uprights, as he was 0-for-3 in field goal attempts as a collegiate kicker. The decibels jumped as Reed paced back and prepared to knock in this 18-yard chip shot. The ball toppled into the net, scooting Duke out to a 38-35 lead.

The Fighting Irish were out of fight and Duke skated out of South Bend with one of its greatest victories to date. The legend of Daniel Jones was in its infant stages and his 290 passing yards and three touchdown performance would come to be a more common occurrence in future games.

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