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The Times Duke Football Beat Bobby Bowden’s Teams, Part III

Bobby Bowden was a legend at FSU but Duke got him twice when he was at West Virginia

Florida State Seminoles vs. Duke Blue Devils
Duke beat Bobby Bowden twice, but not at Florida State

Harp was gone after finishing 6-5 in 1970. Former Duke star Mike McGee replaced him and had a spectacular start. Duke won its first four games, including a stunning win at Stanford. McGee’s defense was much better than Harp’s usual defense—1970 West Virginia, notwithstanding. But Hart and Chesson were gone and Duke’s one-dimensional offense started showing cracks. Duke was 5-3 when they hosted West Virginia on November 6, the second part of the home-and-home.

West Virginia was 6-2 but was coming off a 35-7 mauling at the hands of Penn State.

As an aside, after suffering another injury Biddle had begun his coaching career as a graduate assistant at West Virginia. He would go on to a distinguished career at Colgate.

Duke had been shut out 21-0 by Georgia Tech the previous week and there was no reason to expect much better against Bowden’s bunch. But somehow Duke’s offense found its mojo against the Mountaineers defense.

But at a cost. Starting quarterback Dennis Satyshur completed his first two passes. But they would be the last passes he would throw at Duke. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Duke had been working senior defensive back Rich Searl as the emergency quarterback and this was the emergency. Searl did attempt eight passes, completing three. But basically, all he had to do was hand off the ball and let his ground game do the rest.

Duke’s defense got the ball rolling when Bob Fitch picked off an errant Bernie Galiffa pass and returned it to the West Virginia 31.

Five plays later Steve Jones scored from in close. Dave Wright extended the lead to 10-0 with a 26-yard field goal.

Galiffa connected on an 89-yard bomb and it was 10-7. But the scoring strike was one of his few highlights. He ended up throwing five interceptions, three to Mike Davies.

A 14-play, 75-yard drive made it 17-7 with Jones again scoring on a short run. Davies’ first pick set up another score and Duke led 24-7 at the half.

Jones had 98 yards at intermission. He was banged up late in the half and was replaced by John Johnstone, who had a career game. Ernie Jackson, the 1971 ACC Player of the Year, was another Blue Devil playing both ways and he also augmented the running game.

Jackson scored Duke’s final touchdown late in the third quarter. West Virginia got a touchdown and two-point conversion late and the final score was 31-15.

Johnston had a career-best 123 yards on 24 carries. Jackson added 76 rushing yards, as Duke totaled 340 yards on the ground.

The win left Duke 6-3, with a chance for a bowl bid. But Searl, Jackson and lineman Ed Newman were playing offense and defense and this was 1971, not 1961. And Searl wasn’t an ACC quarterback. Duke lost its final two games, 23-7 to Wake Forest and 38-0 to North Carolina and finished 6-5.

Duke and West Virginia have played one more football game since Bowden left. West Virginia edged Duke 20-18 in 1985. By that time Don Nehlen and Steve Sloan were at the helms of the two schools and Bobby Bowden was well on his way to establishing a dynasty in Tallahassee. And probably not losing a moment’s sleep over 1970 and 1971. But it really did happen. Duke did beat Bobby Bowden. Twice. You can look it up.