Over the last two seasons, Duke football weathered the storm amidst torrential rains to hand Miami a couple of losses. However, on a clear Saturday night in Durham this time around, it was the Hurricanes who provided the storm.
A disappointing season turned Senior Night sour for the Blue Devils, falling to No. 9 Miami 48-0 in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke was out gained 524 to 177 on the night and suffered its first shutout since a 27-0 loss to Georgia Tech in 2008, head coach David Cutcliffe’s first year at Duke.
Quarterback D’Eriq King led the charge for the Hurricanes, tallying 300 total yards and four scores, while Cam’Ron Harris added 96 big yards on the ground. Chase Brice looked to the short passing game all night for Duke’s offense, finishing 20-for-25 with 94 yards.
“Taking a drive of 15 plays against a defense like that is really hard, so we have to find a way to get some explosive plays,” Cutcliffe said.
Duke (2-8, 1-8 in the ACC) failed to get anything going with the ball. The Blue Devils' first drive ended at the Miami 35-yard-line thanks to a timely turnover, but they never advanced deeper into Hurricanes territory than that. Though they initially took care of the ball to begin the game, the Blue Devils turned it over five times, adding to their nation-leading season total.
“It’s hard to stop the bleeding sometimes," Cutcliffe noted. "You don’t know if it’s in their head. But every drill, every day, everything we do is about taking care of the ball. You couldn’t increase the emphasis more than we’ve had. Maybe you do too much emphasis and it gets in peoples’ heads.”
After opening up a comfortable 21-point first-half lead, the final two quarters proved to be even more of a cakewalk for Miami, scoring on its first five possessions after the break. An 89-yard touchdown from King to Mike Harley was certainly the final demoralizing hit to take any life out of Duke’s sideline in an empty Wallace Wade Stadium.
“There are times I think, when things don’t go well early, that it’s very easy to fall into that mental slump mode," Cutcliffe emphasized on the team's mentality. "The only way to get out of it is to fight your way out of it.”
Miami (8-1, 7-1) was playing in its first game since a Nov. 14 win against Virginia Tech, and that extended layoff showed early. Jaylan Knighton fumbled the Hurricanes’ first rushing attempt of the game while Chris Rumph II pounced on the loose ball to give Duke possession in enemy territory. In its next drive, King dropped a third down snap and had to recover quickly, forcing the offense to punt.
Defensive coordinator Ben Albert had his Blue Devil unit ready to play at the jump. But with the Blue Devil offense totaling just 13 yards through three drives, the defense began to crack. The Hurricanes converted on two huge third downs during their fourth drive of the game, finally opening the scoring with a 24-yard strike from King to Brevin Jordan, who racked up 75 yards on four catches on the night.
“Their coaches make good adjustments," senior defensive lineman Victor Dimukeje said on Miami's offensive adjustments. "We made a couple mistakes on the defensive side, and it’s part of the game. We just have to respond and get ready for the next game.”
A quick Duke punt was followed by an 80-yard Miami drive on just six plays to put the Hurricanes ahead 14-0, though the Blue Devils were primed to slash the two-score deficit just one drive later. Brice used a plethora of short passes to push the Duke offense inside the Hurricanes’ 40 yard line, but the drive was quickly ended on a fourth-and-one reverse to Eli Pancol, who was stopped for an 11-yard loss.
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Five plays later, King pushed through the Blue Devil defense for an 11-yard rushing touchdown. While Duke’s secondary shut down the redshirt senior’s deep passing attempts early on, Miami’s rushing attack totaled 149 yards on just under seven yards per carry in the first half.
To open up the third quarter, the Blue Devils looked like they might make things look respectable. Mataeo Durant was key in pushing the drive to the Hurricanes’ 38-yard-line, though Brice was clobbered in the backfield and coughed the ball up to the visitors.
“They’re very good up front, and we had some issues with that," wideout Jake Bobo said on Miami getting to the quarterback. "On TV that probably looks like an offensive line issue. That’s an entire offense issue. That just means at some points us as receivers, we’re not getting open fast enough so [Brice] has to hold the ball. We knew they were going to get after the quarterback because that’s a very talented defensive line.”
Reminiscent of Duke’s previous late-season home blowouts to Wake Forest and Syracuse, the Blue Devils seemed out of it emotionally as the game progressed, and Miami simply laid down crushing blow after crushing blow.
Duke’s 2020 campaign is scheduled to come to a close next Saturday with a trip to play a struggling Florida State squad. The Blue Devils have a chance to end the season on a high note by beating the Seminoles for the first time in program history.