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Passion, Defense Lead Duke To 20-12 Win At Miami

And the Blue Devils are now bowl eligible

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Duke v Miami
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 03: Deon Jackson #25 of the Duke Blue Devils quiets the crows after running for a touchdown in the first half against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Miami, Florida.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Now, that’s the way to end a losing streak. Duke stunned favored Miami 20-12 Saturday night, running its record to 6-3 and becoming bowl eligible for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.

Everything that went wrong last week for the Blue Devils, went right against the Hurricanes. Duke’s defense bent, allowing 300 rushing yards. But they didn’t break. Duke forced two turnovers—both fumbles, blocked a field goal and got an early stop on 4th-and two. It was the home team that made the mistakes, some crucial penalties among them.

And most importantly, Duke won the fourth quarter, won the second half, actually, holding Miami scoreless after intermission.

And Duke won in a rain that ranged from hard to you’ve-got-to-be-kidding me.

The Blue Devils got a big lift with the return of senior linebacker Ben Humphreys, a fiery leader and a pretty good football player.

And how about that start? Deon Jackson went 75 yards on the game’s first play from scrimmage, breaking containment at the line and outrunning a defense that doesn’t often get outrun.

That was a message delivered but Duke couldn’t build on it early. Duke took over in Miami territory twice in the first quarter and couldn’t do anything. The weather didn’t help and Miami’s vaunted pass defense is vaunted on merit. But Daniel Jones was under constant pressure and couldn’t hit much downfield. Duke couldn’t convert on third downs.

Miami surged back ahead in the second quarter, an 83-yard run by DeeJay Dallas and a six-yard run by Travis Homer, set up by his 43-yard run.

But Miami missed both extra points, a fumbled snap in the rain and a failed two-point conversion on a Joe-Giles Harris sack.

Still, Miami went into the locker room up 12-7, against a Duke offense that had been stymied after that opening play.

The trend lines were not positive.

Every football team talks about “finishing,” “playing 60 minutes,” that sort of thing.

But Duke hasn’t finished well lately, last week’s fourth-quarter defensive meltdown at Pittsburgh Exhibit A.

But Duke changed the narrative, big time.

Think about it. On the road, with the game on the line, Duke held Miami scoreless. Without a point.

And the defense had to be good. Duke forced and recovered a Miami fumble at the Hurricanes 12 but was forced to settle for a Colin Wareham field goal, making it 12-10.

The Duke defense kept giving the Duke offense a chance—the exact opposite of last week—and the offense finally came through.

The go-ahead drive was a sustained one, nine plays but hardly a routine drive. Jackson hit tight end Daniel Helm on a jump-pass for a first down at the Miami three and backup quarterback and designated short-yardage runner Quentin Harris flipped the script with another jump pass, two yards and a TD to Helm.

Score one for offensive coordinator Zac Roper.

And the jump-pass coach, whoever he might be.

Duke extended the lead to 20-12 with another Wareham field goal. Then the Blue Devils spent the final nine minutes holding off a desperate Miami offense.

And they did it without Joe Giles-Harris, who went down with an injury in the fourth quarter.

It did get hairy late. Miami drove to the Duke 13 before an offensive pass-interference call nullified a touchdown and pushed the ball back to the 28. Two subsequent passes in the end zone fell incomplete.

A topsy-turvy game in a topsy-turvy season. Duke has won the last four times it was an underdog—all on the road—and lost the last three times it was favored.

And it’s been like that across the ACC, a league where Syracuse and Boston College are nationally ranked and Florida State and Virginia Tech are not.

But we can wonder about that some other time. For now, Duke is 6-3, with a chance to play itself into a top-tier bowl game.

Job well done.

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