Duke jumped all over Charlotte Saturday night in Wallace Wade Stadium and despite a few mid-game wobbles never really let the 49ers back in the game. The final was 53-19.
Duke moves to 2-5 win the win.
Yes, there were some Blue Moon on Halloween moments. Duke blocked two punts, scored two points on a botched Charlotte two-point conversion attempt and took advantage of short fields so effectively that they managed to score 53 points despite having the ball for 17:33.
And Duke actually wasn’t perfect on offense, Chase Brice and Gunnar Holmberg combined for a modest 127 passing yards and Duke converted only 3-of-7 on third downs.
But they they pretty much unstoppable on first and second downs. Duke ran the ball at will, finished in the red zone and turned it over only once, a Holmberg interception that was as good as a punt, as the saying goes.
“I think this week we took advantage of trying to get better and playing faster and being more confident,” Brice said. “The goal is to continue to build off what we did tonight.”
“They know they have worked,” David Cutcliffe added. “They know where the emphasis has been. They see the result of the emphasis. And now you’ve got to build on it.”
Deon Jackson went 65 yards on the game’s second play and Duke was up 7-0 barely 30 seconds into the game.
“Both games we’ve won we’ve started quickly,” Cutcliffe noted. “Great run by Deon. Obviously it was well blocked. Two-play drives are a lot of fun. It also energizes you. What I didn’t want was to relax at all . . . and for the most part I thought we kept our edge.”
Freshman defensive back Isaiah Fisher-Smith blocked two punts, one in each half, twice giving Duke short fields, the first block leading to a short Mataeo Durant score and a 14-0 lead.
“We thought we had an opportunity to block some punts,” Cutcliffe said. “Anything to try gain a winning edge. I thought we had a real shot and thank goodness our players executed it.”
A Charlie Ham field goal made it 17-0.
Mataeo Durant joined the big-play party with a 60-yard run that set up his 10-yard touchdown and it was 24-0.
Charlotte stabilized and put together some long drives. The 49ers were 10-for-23 on third downs, three-of-four on fourth downs. But Duke always answered when they needed to. Charlotte was never able to put together consecutive scores and Duke’s tired defense made some big plays.
Especially Chris Rumph, who had three of Duke’s five sacks and generally made life miserable for Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds.
“We had a great two weeks of getting ready,” Rumph said. “We brought the intensity. We had a lot of guys who made plays. It wasn’t just me. I just tackled today. That’s the mentality of our defense, just finishing.”
Lots of guys got into the game late, always good for morale. Redshirt freshman running back Jordan Waters and Holmberg both had their first career touchdowns, the latter set up by Waters’ 70-yard, the third Duke run of at least 60 yards.
A suddenly vulnerable Tar Heels team looms next but Duke is going to take a day or so to enjoy this one.
“To go out there and win tonight, everybody is happy,” Brice said. “Just a joy in the locker room, a joy on everyone’s face.”