Duke’s 2020 football season is only two games old but we-left-some-points-on-the-field appears to be the team’s mantra. The Blue Devils dominated much of the middle portion of Saturday’s home opener against Boston College but once again couldn’t convert yardage into points; turnovers, missed kicks and penalties all culprits in promising drives that ended with nothing on the scoreboard.
And then the walls caved in. BC took over down the stretch and pulled away for a 26-6 win.
Maybe Duke gave it away, maybe Boston College took it. You say po-ta-toe, I say po-tah-toe.
But Duke had the ball inside the Boston College 25 five times without putting a point on the board. Duke turned it over five times, four in BC territory, once on first-and-goal-from the four, another lost fumble at the three. Charlie Ham missed his only PAT attempt and a 35-yard field goal, while a chop-block penalty pushed Duke out of field-goal range another occasion.
Here’s what David Cutcliffe said.
“You don’t start fast, then you have five turnovers . . . then you don’t come close to matching explosive plays, you have a couple of pretty bad penalties early and then we turned it over at the most inopportune times .. . . When you do that, you’re going to lose football games.”
Was there a theme to the mistakes?
“I think when you’re in a circumstance where momentum and energy, you own all of it when you’re playing in a game in 2020. The team has to own that, the coaching staff has to own that. One of the things that hit me throughout was not being able to generate explosive plays to match theirs. That’s in addition to the turnovers and the penalties. That’s how it all came together for Boston College.”
The visitors took an early 7-0 lead but Duke quickly matched it with a 49-yard Mataeo Durant run.
Well, sort of matched it. Ham missed the PAT, the first of a series of mistakes that cascaded out of control and doomed Duke to defeat.
Duke then moved to the BC 22 before an interception terminated the drive. Duke’s next possession reached the four before Deon Jackson lost a fumble. Then Duke reached the 23 before penalties pushed Duke out of field-goal range, although the way Ham was kicking I’m not sure it mattered.
It was 7-6 at the half.
Duke’s defense was outstanding much of the game, sacking Phil Jurkovec six times and keeping the Eagles out of the end zone for 35 minutes with the game on the line. Duke even forced a field goal after Damond Philyaw-Johnson was stripped of the ball at the Duke 12 early in the third quarter.
That kept it a manageable 10-6.
.Duke’s last gasp came when Ham missed that field goal, wide right after Duke reached the Boston College 17.
It was all downhill after that. Defensive end Victor Dimukeje denied that fatigue had anything to do with it but Boston College’s offense is a lot bigger and stronger than Duke’s defense and the Eagles had the ball for 36:18 to Duke’s 23:42.
Following that Ham miss, a couple of explosives set up a BC touchdown and following a Duke punt Jurkovec hit wide-open Zay Flowers for 61 yards and a score.
Despite a dropped pass or two—it was that kind of day—Brice marched Duke to the BC three before fumbling on a sack.
BC ground it out on a time-consuming drive that resulted in a field goal that ended the scoring.
That’s how you turn 351 yards of total offense into one score.
“We pushed the ball, we just didn’t finish,” Brice acknowledged, “turning the ball over in key situations where we need points. A lot of it was self-inflicted. When you’re getting close to scoring . . . and you turn it over, nobody likes to see that. But it’s something we can learn from. Be smart with the ball and be more protective of it.”
Those three Chase Brice turnovers?
“Late in the game I’m trying to make a play and I forced a ball I shouldn’t have forced and earlier I just didn’t really see the backer sitting there . . .. and down at the goal line . . . I’ve got to take a sack and not make it worse.”
Duke’s offensive coordinator says he needs to do a better job.
“I’ve got to look at myself, at what I’m calling, “Cutcliffe said. “Players expect some kind of response to put the offense back on track. To finish drives we’ve got to put our playmakers in position. I’ve got to get better. Plain and simple. I’ve got to put him [Brice] in better positions. The temptation he has to resist is to try to force plays. You can make plays but you can’t force plays. We’ve got to do a better job of having our receivers and quarterbacks on the same page.”
Cutcliffe added that Boston College “played a lot more zone than we expected” and Duke didn’t do a good job of adjusting.
So, Jeff Hafley is undefeated and Duke is looking for answers.
Dimukeje had 3.5 sacks. The Duke single-game record is four.
Duke linebacker Shaka Heyward led everyone with 10 tackles.
Mark Gilbert had an interception, the seventh of his career but his first since November 25, 2017, against Wake Forest.
Redshirt sophomore receiver Dennis Smith had the first three catches of his career, picking up 45 yards. Noah Gray and Jake Bobo led Duke with five receptions each.
Deon Jackson led Duke with 74 yards on 15 rushes. But one huge fumble.
Jurkovec clearly won the battle of transfer quarterbacks. The former Notre Dame signal caller was 17-for-23, for 300 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. Brice was 23-for-42, for 217 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble.
Going back to last season Duke has lost seven of its last eight games.
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- Blue Devils Fall in Home Opener to Boston College
- BOX SCORE (PDF)
- POSTGAME NOTES (PDF)
- POSTGAME QUOTES (PDF)
- COACH CUTCLIFFE POSTGAME INTERVIEW
- CHASE BRICE POSTGAME INTERVIEW
- VICTOR DIMUKEJE POSTGAME INTERVIEW
- PHOTO GALLERY
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