1. David Cutcliffe is angry. That’s the only way to sum up Cutcliffe’s eight minutes in front of the microphone, as he wasn’t too happy with the Blue Devils’ performance in the second half. Cutcliffe even seemed to imply that the team quit, and he wondered aloud who would respond this week with the team facing its biggest adversity of the season. The coach seemed particularly displeased with Eron Riley, who totaled at least four drops. Riley’s been struggling with a hand injury, but Cutcliffe said he was making those catches in practice. Further, Cutcliffe said his team was conditioned enough to play two more quarters, again implying that the late-game meltdown may have been more about a lack of effort than fatigue.This certainly wasn’t the same Cutcliffe who has cracked jokes in most of his postgame pressers.
2. The word from the Duke players was execution. The Blue Devils simply didn’t execute in the second half, with several drops and penalties killing drives.
3. In contrast, Duke did execute its gameplan to perfection in the first half, moving the ball on the ground and dominating time of possession. Those stats evened out in the second half, as Miami more or less manhandled the Blue Devils from midway in the third quarter on.
4. The big turning point was Matt Bosher’s 76-yard punt. Miami had consecutive three-and-outs inside its 20, and Bosher’s booming kick pinned the Blue Devils inside their 10-yard line. Duke’s offense couldn’t rebound, and the Hurricanes capitalized on good field position to take the lead. All day, the Miami offense looked skittish when backed up but unstoppable once they got around midfield.
Duke now goes on the road for its next two games at Vanderbilt and at Wake Forest. The Commodores dropped their second straight today, losing to Georgia after they had risen to No. 13 in the rankings. Expect an angry team looking to get back on track and qualify for its first bowl game in a quarter-century in Nashville Saturday.
FINAL: MIAMI 49 DUKE 31 — With 1:30 to play in the first half, Duke led 17-7 and had all the momentum. But Miami scored in the final seconds of the first half, overcame a bad interception by Jacory Harris on the second half’s first play, and cruised from about the middle of the third quarter on. Two things were apparent today: Miami’s team speed eventually overwhelmed Duke in the second half, particularly in the secondary; and the Blue Devils can’t make the kind of mistakes on offense (read: dropped passes) if they want to beat even a decent ACC program. Oh, and college football games take a LONG time.
We’re heading down for the postgame interviews now, and we’ll add some notes from the pressers later.
Miami 49-24, 4:19 remaining, 4th quarter — In case you’ve left Wally Wade–and judging by the stands right now, you have–the Hurricanes just scored again.In good news, it is not their fourth consecutive touchdown drive, as Harris threw his second interception of the game last possession. Duke followed with a four-and-out, complete with two more drops, and the Hurricanes drove down for their fifth second-half touchdown. It has been an ugly second half in Durham.
Some small relief for Duke fans: UNC blew a late lead, as Virginia drove down for a touchdown in the final minutes and then won in overtime, 16-13. And that’s the same Cavaliers team that lost 31-3 at Duke. Al Groh may not be done yet.
Miami 42-24, 10:59 remaining, 4th quarter — The fans are hitting the exits now, as another Duke three-and-out is followed by another touchdown drive by the Hurricanes, who have scored TDs on three consecutive drives. This was another fade right, this time to Laron Byrd, who tipped the pass to himself and caught it over Lee Butler. The Blue Devils’ secondary has been burned time after time the last few drives, and the defensive front isn’t getting enough pressure even with the help of a blitz. It’s been pitch-and-catch for Jacory Harris.
END THIRD QUARTER, MIAMI 35 DUKE 24 — A quarter that started out so promisingly for Duke ended pathetically. After intercepting Jacory Harris’ first pass of the quarter and turning it into seven, the Blue Devils have made mistake after mistake to allow the Hurricanes to score 21 unanswered points. Michael Tauiliili dropped a sure pick-six that would have made it 31-21 Duke. Eron Riley has dropped two more passes and committed a costly penalty, and Miami’s wide receivers have been wide open on the last two drives. Miami’s offense has been boom or bust in this game, looking fantastic on their five scoring drives and pretty horrendously on their other drives.
Duke needs a scoring drive to start the fourth to maintain a chance at winning this one.
Miami 35-24, 0:36 remaining, 3rd quarter —The Hurricanes have seized control after a 25-yard touchdown strike from Harris to Benjamin over Aye-Darko. Miami got a big punt return from Benjamin to set it up after Eron Riley had the worst drive of his Duke career. Riley dropped the first down pass, committed a 15-yard clipping penalty to negate a Tony Jackson run on second down, and dropped another pass on 2nd-and-20. Lewis was sacked on third down, and the field position again swung in Miami’s favor to set up the TD drive.
Miami 28-24, 2:52 remaining, 3rd quarter — The Duke defense breaks. With good field position, Miami capitalized with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Johnson. We had talked about field position earlier, and Miami’s Bosher had one of the biggest plays of the game with a 76-yard punt that, when combined with a five-yard penalty on Duke, moved the ball from the Hurricanes 11 to the Duke 8. The Hurricanes only needed to go 59 yards on the ensuing drive to take the lead.
Duke 24-21, 8:46 remaining, 3rd quarter — The game has really slowed down. Duke has had back-to-back drives where it picked up a first down on the first play only to stall, while Miami played conservative from inside the five and went three-and-out (the first play, Harris was nearly sacked in the end zone, only to throw the ball right to Michael Tauiliili, who dropped a sure pick-six. Let’s see how Harris does from the 13 on this drive.
Duke 24-21, 12:52 remaining, 3rd quarter — Well, that was easy for Miami. A 37-yard run by Graig Cooper, a 17-yard reverse option pass from Travis Benjamin back to Harris and a 15-yard QB sprint by Harris lead to a touchdown for the Hurricanes. Some nice play-calling on the reverse pass, but that was still too simple for Miami, as their advantage in team speed was obvious. Duke may need to keep scoring in this one.
Duke 24-14, 14:05 remaining, 3rd quarter — So much for the Hurricanes’ momentum. Jacory Harris threw a bad interception on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, as Adrian Aye-Darko was underneath the intended receiver and made the easy pick. Duke capitalized again, as Lewis found Raphael Chestnut in the back of the end zone for the score. It was an excellent play on both ends, as Lewis bought time on a rollout right and redirected his receivers before Chestnut plucked it out of the air for six. We’ll see if the Hurricanes pull Harris after his pick like they did with Marve in the first half. Biggest stat of the game right now is points off turnovers: Duke 14, Miami 0.
HALFTIME: DUKE 17 MIAMI 14 — It’s tough to say what the bigger surprise is: that Duke is up by three, or that the Blue Devils should be up more. The biggest play of the first half right now is Adrian Aye-Darko’s interception on a terrible pass and even worse decision by Robert Marve. The Hurricanes had moved the ball easily on their possession before and looked good offensively before Marve fluttered it downfield for the pick. But, with a 14-7 lead and time running down in the first half, Duke missed some chances to push the lead to 14 and to run some time off the clock. If Eron Riley doesn’t drop a 2nd-down pass, it’s possible the Blue Devils punch it in for six while not leaving enough time for Miami to respond. Instead, Duke settled for three, and the Hurricanes drove right downfield for a momentum-swinging touchdown–especially considering they get the ball to start the second half.
That being said, Duke has looked excellent on offense, especially in the running game. Clifford Harris, Jay Hollingsworth and Tony Jackson have all been effective on the ground against the Miami defense, particularly when they spread the field with three and four wide receivers and ran the ball against the Hurricanes’ nickel defense. Let’s see if they do more of that in the second half. The success of the running game (94 yards on 29 carries) has given Duke an enormous advantage in time of possession, as it’s held the ball for 20:38 compared to Miami’s 9:22.
Defensively, the Blue Devils need to get more pressure on the quarterback, whether it’s Marve or true freshman Jacory Harris. Both quarterbacks have looked good when they’ve had time, as the Duke secondary can’t stick with the Hurricanes’ quick receivers for very long. The Blue Devils need to force the issue and some Miami mistakes if they want to pull off the upset.
Duke 17-14, 0:11 remaining, 2nd quarter — Huge letdown for the Duke defense, allowing Jacory Harris and Miami to drive 68 yards in just 1:15 to pull within three. The Hurricanes surprisingly went for it on a 4th-and-2 at the Duke 27 with 35 ticks left, but Harris found Aldarius Johnson for the first down when Blue Devil cornerback Lee Butler went for the interception. Butler was burned two plays later by tight end Chris Zellner, who was wide open in the back right corner of the end zone for an easy touchdown.
Duke 17-7, 1:33 remaining, 2nd quarter — Duke got three with a 40-yard Nick Maggio field goal, but the Blue Devils missed some opportunities on that drive. Eron Riley dropped a 2nd-down pass on a quick slant, and a facemask penalty offset a Miami offsides, meaning Duke finished a yard shy of a first down.
P.S. Joe Surgan just laid out returner Travis Benjamin on the kickoff. Blue Devils really want a stop here to take a two-score lead into the half.
Duke 14-7, 4:23 remaining, 2nd quarter — So much for field position. After Jacory Harris led a three-and-out by the Hurricanes’ offense–with the Blue Devils providing their best pressure of the day and their first sack–Bosher shanked a 15-yard punt that wasn’t even long enough to get a first down. Duke takes over at the Miami 41 with all the momentum.
Duke 14-7, 6:48 remaining, 2nd quarter — Dick Enberg’s not announcing this game, but you could bet he’d be unleashing an “Oh, my!” right about now. Thaddeus Lewis capped a 77-yard drive with a beautiful fake handoff, naked bootleg run on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Duke went for it after an apparent Tielor Robinson touchdown was overturned on 3rd-and-goal from inside the 1. The Blue Devils took advantage of Robert Marve’s first mistake of the game, a duck he floated down the right sideline that was easily intercepted by Adrian Aye-Darko. Tony Jackson was key for Duke on the ensuing drive, with three carries for 33 yards–largely against the nickel defense from Miami. The Blue Devils have tripled up Miami’s time of possession, holding the ball for 17:37 compared to the Hurricanes’ 5:25.
7-7, 12:44 remaining, 2nd quarter — Hollingsworth started the drive, but Clifford Harris took over in Miami territory. Duke reached up its sleeve with a halfback pass from Harris to Eron Riley for 39 yards to the 5-yard line. Riley was wide open and Harris delivered a spiral. Only a slip prevented Riley from scoring the TD. After two runs into the line by Harris, Lewis found Harris on a designed swing pass, and the running back just reached the ball across the end line for the touchdown to tie the game. It’s the first touchdown reception of Harris’ career and the culmination of an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Duke is dominating time of possession so far.
Miami 7-0, end of 1st quarter — Duke is moving the ball into Miami territory on their third drive of the game. The Blue Devils have been fairly successful on the ground after struggling to run the ball the last three games. Jay Hollingsworth has four carries for 17 yards on this drive. On the defensive side, Duke hasn’t been able to pressure Robert Marve, and he’s been able to pick apart the Blue Devils’ secondary. The Hurricanes have just five yards rushing, but on only two carries. Definitely some different strategies early in this one.
Miami 7-0, 3:10 remaining, 1st quarter — Bosher’s punt was big in changing field position, as the Blue Devils went three-and-out inside their 10-yard line. Jones’ punt was good, but Miami still started in Duke territory. Robert Marve was excellent on the ensuing drive, running for a first down on a well-designed QB draw on third-and-10. Two plays later, he was forced out of the pocket but hooked up with Davon Johnson for a 17-yard touchdown. Johnson beat Jabari Marshall on the play.
Duke 0, Miami 0, 5:54 remaining, 1st quarter — Promising first drive for the Blue Devils flares out inside the Miami 40-yard line. Duke tried to pin Miami back inside the 10, but Kevin Jones’ punt took a big hop and bounced into the end zone for a touchback. The Hurricanes got a 21-yard pass on their first play from scrimmage, but an illegal procedure on the center set them back. Matt Bosher hit a great, high punt that was downed at the Duke 5.