Duke met Central Florida in the Military Bowl Wednesday and while we thought that it would be a much closer game than it was, the Blue Devils actually had a much easier day against the Knights than expected, winning 30-13.
Duke started off the scoring with a first quarter touchdown run by Jaylen Coleman. UCF countered late in the quarter with an Isaiah Bowser TD and the score was tied 7-7.
Duke put up 13 in the second quarter though, starting with a Todd Pelino field goal. Riley Leonard then got a one-yard run for Duke’s second touchdown and then Pelino hit a 48 yard field goal as the clock ran out in the half to put Duke up 20-7.
The Blue Devils put a lot of pressure on UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, sacking him six times. The Knights had a lot of trouble moving the ball in the third quarter. Pelino hit one more field goal to make it 23-7 and it seemed like an easy win for the Blue Devils.
Early in the fourth though UCF gave a good indication of what Gus Malzahn’s offense was capable of: the Knights drove downfield in 11 plays, confusing Duke’s defense and gobbling up yardage before Isaiah Bowser scored on a two-yard run. They opted for a two-point conversion which failed, leaving Duke up 23-13.
Duke kind of buckled a bit then but still had control of the game and sacked Plumlee with around 6:30 left and the air kind of went out of the Knights at that point.
Duke put tremendous pressure on UCF late and on 4th and 18 with about 5:50 left and still down by 10, they really had to go for it.
Duke sacked Plumlee again and that was just about the end for UCF.
Duke had a first down with 3:45 left in scoring position but the Knights were still game. However, UCF got called for a penalty with 3:12 left and it was an automatic first down for the Blue Devils. Leonard dove in to the end zone with 2:29 left and after the PAT by Pelino, Duke was up 30-13.
Give the Knights credit for still trying because they put together another late drive but Chandler Rivers intercepted in end zone with :46 left to put a bow on Duke’s first bowl game since 2018.
Duke thus finishes at 9-4 and with the core of the team expected to return, has a very bright future.
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