There was exactly one thing that went right for the Blue Devils in 60 minutes of play against Miami Saturday night. It occurred at the 14:46 mark of the first quarter.
The Hurricanes received the ball, and after a D’Eriq King incompletion, handed it off to running back Jaylan Knighton on second down. Duke safety Da’Quan Johnson punched the ball out of Knighton's arms, sending players sprawling to the turf. Teammate Chris Rumph II recovered the fumble deep in Miami territory, presenting a golden opportunity for the Blue Devils to get on the board.
Needless to say, they squandered it.
This game was simply depressing for any Blue Devil fan to watch, a pitiful Senior Night to cap off a season to forget. The 48-0 loss sent Duke to 2-8 on the season, and marks the first time the Blue Devils have been shut out since 2008.
“This is not their memory or our memory of them. There are many many memories, and great [ones],” head coach David Cutcliffe said of his seniors. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on, and it starts up front and we’ll work back.”
Let’s start with the rushing game. Duke's running back tandem of Mataeo Durant and Deon Jackson totaled 62 yards on 3.3 yards per carry Saturday night, a rough showing from what has been one of the team's few bright spots this season. But this wasn’t anywhere near the biggest problem for the Blue Devils.
Next, turnovers. Duke fumbled the ball four times to go along with one interception, with nearly everyone getting in on the action. Perhaps the most disheartening of those turnovers was on the first drive of the second half, when quarterback Chase Brice fumbled away what looked to be the most promising drive of the game for Duke. Overall, the Blue Devils entered the week with six more giveaways than any other FBS team, and that ranking didn't improve Saturday.
“It’s a theme throughout the season, unfortunately—we turned the ball over five times, “ junior receiver Jake Bobo said. “We definitely shot ourselves in the foot.”
On the other hand, the punting game continued to shine, with Porter Wilson averaging 44.6 yards on seven kicks. But even special teams had its low points, with Damond Philyaw-Johnson contributing to the fumble total with a drop of his own. Even the sure-footed returner couldn’t bring the Blue Devils out of the hole.
The defense should be given credit for the first two drives of the game, forcing the aforementioned fumble and a quick punt on the next drive. But from there, Miami took control. King threw for 248 yards and three scores, exposing a defense that saw Michael Carter II go down multiple times during the game with a lingering injury. Running back Cam’Ron Harris added 96 yards on the ground to go along with two scores, a career night for him against the hapless Blue Devils.
“We’re playing another ACC game next week, and it won’t be any easier,” Cutcliffe said.
It would normally be expected that in a game with little production from the Blue Devil offense, defensive struggles could be attributed to simply tiring out. But Saturday wasn’t the case. The Hurricanes only had the ball in their hands for 27:38, running a hurry-up offense that shouldn’t have tired out a Duke team that has now played 10 games this year, though it certainly kept the Blue Devils on their heels.
And if this wasn’t enough to put Duke down against a top-10 team, the play calling in the passing game gave the Blue Devils little chance to explode back into the contest. Brice completed 20 of his 25 pass attempts on the night to eight different receivers. These completions went for just 94 total yards, however, with the long being 13 yards. Bubble screens and quick outs abounded, chewing up small time yardage and setting up third and longs.
With a little help from the Miami Hurricanes, Duke beat itself, a tropical depression sweeping its way through Durham en route to a night most of the Blue Devil faithful would rather forget.
“Being blanked on the scoreboard definitely hurts your pride,” Bobo said. “There’s not much you can say right now that’s going to make it feel a whole lot better—it’s embarrassing.”
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