Duke’s defense took over in the fourth quarter to seal a 34-20 win over Baylor, improving Duke’s mark to 3-0 and giving David Cutcliffe a birthday present.
It was a great game to watch if you love long scoring plays,
It also was a great game to watch if you’re a fan of penalties, dropped passes, turnovers, kicking gaffes and endless replays.
We even had my new favorite, an invalid fair catch signal.
Truth be told, it was not an aesthetic masterpiece. Baylor was called for four penalties in the game’s first 38 seconds.
And led 7-0.
T.J. Rahming dropped a 40-yard pass on the first play for scrimmage. But Baylor was called for roughing the passer.
Daniel Jones and Shaun Wilson had timing issues on a handoff on the next play and Baylor fell on the loose ball.
A complete pass, a false start, a long Baylor touchdown, a kickoff out of bounds, a defensive off sides.
It was that kind of afternoon.
“That can’t be who we are,” Cutcliffe said.
Oh, it was also hot, really hot, really, really hot.
It didn’t take Duke long to get the equalizer. Wilson busted a 50-yarder and it was 7-7, less than 90 seconds into the game.
It stayed that way until Brittain Brown rumbled 34 yards for a score—breaking numerous tackles along the way-early in the second period.
Duke spent the rest of the half shooting itself in the foot.
A Joe-Giles Harris interception gave Duke the ball on the Baylor 17. Three plays later and Austin Parker missed a 33-yard field goal.
Wide right, if you’re scoring at home.
Duke got it back and marched from their 22 to a first down on the Baylor three, the drive’s biggest gain a pass interference call.
Duke came up empty. A chop block nullified a Jones TD run, which he followed up with an interception in the end zone, with 21 seconds left in the half.
Duke outgained Baylor 234 to 130 in a first half that saw the visitors assessed 85 yards on 10 penalties.
And led only 14-7.
Cutcliffe gave Baylor lots of credit. “They did so many different things we hadn’t seen. I don’t know if I’ve seen so a team show so many fronts in one game . . . . lots of disguises. Hats off to their coaches.”
Austin Davis agreed that Duke didn’t do a good job with Baylor’s shifting defenses. Jones ended up being sacked five times, losing 41 yards in the process.
Cutcliffe also said that he thought Duke’s offensive line lost some one-on-one battles.
Duke stopped Baylor on 4th and 1 near midfield. Following the play, Duke was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Wilson got the ball on the first play and burst down the left sideline 65 yards and Duke had some breathing room, at 21-7.
For less than a minute. Zach Smith hit Chris Pratt for 73 yards and it was 21-14.
“”Nobody in this country is catching number 14 [Pratt],” Cutcliffe said.
Another Duke drive stalled when Jones was sacked on third down. Give Parker credit. He stepped up and drilled a 45-yard field goal.
That’s the longest Duke field goal since the Ross Martin era.
Cutcliffe said after the game that Parker has a bigtime leg but needs to stop being so hard on himself.
Duke spent most of the season talking about limiting “explosives,” i.e. big plays on defense.
Incredibly, Duke gave up its third explosive, a short pitch-and-catch that somehow turned into a 79-yard Smith-to-Pratt score.
Giles-Harris—possibly presaging a future coaching career-acknowledged the big plays after the game but said he would have to look at the film to see what went wrong.
Baylor missed the PAT and third quarter ended 24-20 Duke.
The defense went from allowing big plays to making big plays down th4e stretch.
The biggest game three minutes into the fourth, when Ben Humphries picked off Smith and trotted untouched into the end zone, the 22-yardf score a momentum changer, Davis says.
“It was a huge momentum shift. The attitude on the sideline just changed.”
“All credit to Coach [Jim] Knowles. He’s been on my butt all camp about undercutting the stick, so I did that today and took it to the house.”
Baylor never came close again. Michael Carter—he’s a freshman safety—forced a fumble, recovered by end Drew Joran, another freshman, setting up a 26-yard Parker field goal.
Duke got another fourth-down stop and the game ended at 34-20.
“A hard-fought game against a dangerous Baylor team,” Cutcliffe summed up.
Wilson ended with 176 yards on 18 carries. His 50 and 65-yard touchdown runs give him six TD runs of 50 or more yards, a new school record. Wilson had been tied with George Clark and Jay Wilkinson at four.
Brown added 86 yards on 18 carries.
Wilson had a team-high five catches for 32 yards, while Brown had a team-leading 71 receiving yards, on four catches.
Cutcliffe said the nine catches by his running backs was partly the game plan and partly Jones making some good check downs.
True freshmen Rakavius Chambers played a lot at guard and Cutcliffe said he had earned that time. He added that the wants to see that kind of progress from other young linemen.
Wilson returned three punts for minus 12 yards, losing yardage twice. He credited Baylor’s Drew Galitz (51.4 average) for kicking it over his head. A work in progress.
Giles-Harris had 12 tackles, 25.5 for a loss and an interception.
Despite the miss, Parker is 5-6 on field goals this season. Duke made three all of last season.
The seven touchdowns averaged 52 yards per play.
Baylor converted one of 12 on third down, none of three on fourth down.
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