Extra point: Successful ground game propels Duke football to bowl eligibility vs. Boston College

Quarterback Riley Leonard scored a 60-yard rushing touchdown against Boston College.
Quarterback Riley Leonard scored a 60-yard rushing touchdown against Boston College.

Duke clinched bowl eligibility with a win in a high-scoring affair against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., Friday night. The Blue Zone is here to provide three key takeaways, stats and a look ahead after the victory:

Three key takeaways

1. The Riley Leonard show

The Duke quarterback had another stellar performance Friday night, especially in his rushing attack. He put up 96 yards on the ground, including one play where he broke free from the Boston College defense and took the ball on a 60-yard run all the way to the end zone. On top of his rushing performance, Leonard also put up a respectable 158 passing yards in 24 attempts, with 16 completions. Most of the sophomore signal-caller’s utility has been in his ability to run with the ball and break away from defenses. He has moved away from the passing game, only putting up more than 200 yards in the air once since conference play began, but Leonard continues to prove that he is the offensive heart of this team.

2. Sharing the love

It was another big day for the Duke running backs. Even without Jaylen Coleman, the duo of Jaquez Moore and Jordan Waters put up impressive numbers on the ground. Both ran the ball for at least 50 yards, punishing the Boston College defense. This team is proving every week that it is capable of grinding out tough, physical wins by attacking opponents’ defensive lines and pounding the ball out on the ground.

3. Struggles in the secondary

The Eagles were playing with their backup quarterback, but the Blue Devil defense certainly did not make it look as such. It was a rough day for the Duke secondary, and that is a big reason why this game was so high-scoring. Six Boston College receivers produced 25 yards or more of offense, including a monster game from freshman Joseph Griffin Jr. Griffin put up 103 yards and scored two touchdowns, while star wideout Zay Flowers caught six passes for 65 yards and another pair of scores. If the Duke secondary starts allowing the sort of receiving numbers that it did Friday night more regularly, it will be difficult to win games down the stretch. 

Three key stats

1. Zero total turnovers

After the Miami game, where the Blue Devils forced an astounding eight turnovers, Friday's matchup was the exact opposite. No turnovers in 60 minutes of play is a rarity, but Duke proved it could win games the old-fashioned way Friday. Even when the defense can't force turnovers, the Blue Devils found a way to win by racking up points and forcing Boston College to punt often. Head coach Mike Elko's defense couldn't find a way to get the ball out, but ultimately it didn't need to. 

2. 27/45 pass completions

The Eagles played an extremely pass-heavy game Friday, racking up 330 yards of offense in the air. That being said, they were not especially efficient about it. Backup quarterback Emmett Moorehead earned a measly 53.6 quarterback rating, despite possessing an extremely talented receiving corps. Boston College struggled to activate its run game, and because of that it never managed to set up any sort of consistent offense. Instead, it relied on big pass plays, and when those failed, the Eagles more often than not ended up punting the ball away. 

3. 4/14 third down conversions

This stat is indicative of Boston College’s primary issue this game. It struggled to convert on its chances when they mattered, and ultimately it is why it could not pick up the points it needed to win this game. Duke gave the Eagles plenty of opportunities to come back with a subpar fourth-quarter performance, but without the ability to make use of the chances it had to put points on the board, Boston College could not get the job done. 

Looking Ahead

Virginia Tech, struggling at 2-7, comes to Durham next weekend, and the Blue Devils should expect a hard-fought game. The Hokies are coming off of a late loss against Georgia Tech, and will be aiming to bounce back with a win when they walk into Wallace Wade Stadium at noon Saturday. Duke, on the other hand, has already clinched bowl eligibility, but will aim to solidify its standing with a win. 


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