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Duke Falls To Miami In Season Finale

As a tough season concludes

NCAA Football: Miami at Duke
Nov 27, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils safety Jaylen Stinson (16) runs with the ball during the first half of the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Wallace Wade Stadium. at Wallace Wade Stadium. 
Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Miami thrashed Duke 47-10 Saturday afternoon in Duke’s season finale. The loss was Duke’s eighth straight, the longest losing streak since the Ted Roof days and completes David Cutcliffe’s first winless ACC season.

Duke ends at 3-9 overall, 0-8 in the ACC.

For those of you keeping score at home, Duke was outscored 383 to 119 during the losing streak, 304 to 85 over the six loses that followed the late-game collapse against Georgia Tech.

That’s just over 50 points per-game allowed over the final half-season.

Duke came out with some energy and enthusiasm and there were some highlights, including Jaylen Stinson’s 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, his second of the season. That gave Duke a 10-3 lead.

And Mataeo Durant rushed for 68 hard-earned yards to break Steve Jones’ 49-year-old Duke single-season rushing record of 1,236 yards. Durant ended with 1,241.

And Duke’s battered defense did force Miami to kick four field goals at the end of long drives. That’s better than four touchdowns. But worse than four punts. Miami didn’t spend much time punting, twice to be exact. And Duke didn’t force any turnovers and didn’t get any fourth-down stops and that’s another object lesson in how a team puts points on the board almost every time that get their hands on the ball.

Because Duke was simply over-matched, out-coached, out-executed, out-athleted, once again.

In addition to the familiar bugaboos of bad tackling, bad blocking, bad passing, red-zone woes, you know the list by now, Duke had some catastrophic penalties early in the game, when the outcome of the game—at least theoretically—was still in doubt.

The first was a hold on offensive tackle John Gelotte that nullified a 10-yard Mataeo Durant run on the game’s opening drive.

Duke still got three points on that drive but everyone knew they needed touchdowns, lots of them.

But the biggest culprits came on defense.

With Duke up 10-3 following Stinson’s score, Blue Devils linebacker Shaka Heyward was called for a face-mask penalty at the end of a play in which Miami had lost yardage.

On the next play Tyler Van Dyke hit Xavier Restrepo for 21 yards and the PAT tied the game at 10-10.

Miami’s next possession was aided on a horse-collar penalty called on Michael Reese at the end of another play in which Miami had lost yardage, a play that should have been over.

Miami put it in the end zone five plays later to take a 17-10 lead.

This was all in the first quarter.

It was still 17-10 when Jalen Alexander was called for pass interference in the end zone on 3rd and 9. That moved the ball to the Duke 2, from where Jaylan Kneighton scored on the next play.

It was 24-10 when another pass interference, this one on Da’Quan Johnson, set up Miami in Duke territory.

That drive ended with a field goal.

“Penalties are a discipline thing,” David Cutcliffe acknowledged. “I think your program has to be disciplined. I think it’s a part of what I talk about, winning is an all-the-time thing, it’s a part of it.”

While Duke’s defense was gifting Miami yards, Duke’s offense was stuck in neutral. Duke started Gunnar Holmberg at quarterback, briefly tried Riley Leonard, went back to Holmberg and didn’t get much from either. The duo combined for 21 completions in 35 attempts, which sounds good on the surface. But Duke netted only 157 yards on those completions, barely 7 yards per reception, around 4.5 yards per attempt, an inadequate response to a Miami offense that basically did what it wanted.

And it took Durant 22 rushes to get those 68 yards, tough yards against yet another ACC defense not impressed with Duke’s passing game and determined to stop Durant at every turn.

“We didn’t do a good job in the run game, we didn’t do a good job in the passing game,” Cutcliffe summed up, When both are failing—we had some moments, but moments don’t get it done; it’s consistency in scoring touchdowns and we did not get that done.”

Durant took the high road, thanking Duke for “giving me this opportunity to break this rushing record” and for turning “me into a better player and a better man.”

Cutcliffe was asked some pointed questions about his future and declined to answer any of them. He did make comments that suggested he was ready to get to work to fix the problems of this season but also said “right now, that’s not where my mind is and I’m really not going to go into thoughts or details in that regard. I’ve got a job to do that’s current right now and that’s where my focus is.”