RALEIGH, NCDuke football is now in the mid-2020s and the story hasn’t changed. To say his offense is struggling to score would be an understatement.
NC State played against each other for the first time since 2013, using a dominant performance in the second half to drive to a 31-20 victory on Duke Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium. With multiple opportunities to extend a halftime lead to a whopping 13 points, the Blue Devils just couldn’t finish the drives as they didn’t score over the last two frames.
Quarterback Devin Leary started the offensive for NC State with 194 yards and a touchdown, although he left the game in the third quarter after an illegal goal throw from Lummie Young IV. Backup Bailey Hockman led the Wolfpack on a major touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter, with a 28-20 lead they didn’t want to give up.
As he drove into NC State territory with six minutes to play, Blue Devil signaler Chase Brice threw in his third interception of the game. The Wolfpack were able to tackle a field goal in the following series, making the game icy.
It’s not like we practiced badly, ”noted head coach David Cutcliffe. There is no quick fix [to the offense] just by responding. It’s just a tough part of the field, it’s a tough part of football. And we have to find a way to get better at it or we won’t win.
While the offense only resulted in one touchdown, the defense showed up again for the Blue Devils, forcing three turnovers. Faced with an NC State foul averaging more than 34 points per game, Duke was hearty for most of the game. Without much time to rest, however, the Wolfpack found a groove that could take them to their first win in the series since 2008.
We didn’t get the five or six sack game, but it [defensive backs] did a fantastic job taking advantage of the interception odds and getting the ball back to our attack, said defender Chris Rumph II.
Like their game against Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils started things off with some special team points. Isaiah Fisher-Smith got a hand on a kick attempt from Trenton Gill and real freshman linebacker Dorian Mausi completed the game with a scoop and scored.
Just over a minute later, Duke (1-5, 1-5 in the ACC) forced a fumble deep into Wolfpack territory with a chance to put tremendous pressure on his in-state foe, but Chase Brice missed an open Noah Gray in second place and threw a bad interception across the center of the field, once later to keep the game under control. Brice started off shaky, though he recovered to end the first half, but couldn’t finish anything late on the field. Brice finished the game with 24 of 40 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown.
Chase Brice played fiercely tonight and competed with everything he had, “Cutcliffe emphasized.” I told him after I was really proud of him. The last two intercepts are certainly all me. I have to put him in better positions. They have done a good job of mixing coverings. I just have to help him better.
After a hasty touchdown from Jordan Houston the hosts were only three down, NC State (4-1, 4-1) got a chance to grab the momentum but repeatedly shot itself in the foot with avoidable penalties. A run-up to the kicker call and another personal foul paved the way for an 89-yard Duke touchdown drive, which ended in a shifty, highlight-worthy score from Bobo. In total, the Wolfpack scored 106 penalties in the first half.
The Blue Devils couldn’t comfortably reach the locker room, however, as a Porter Wilson kick attempt was blocked with just 45 seconds to play in the second quarter, and Max Fisher returned the favor to Duke’s previous score by bringing in the loose ball for a touchdown . Thanks to some penalties and solid connections from Brice to Mataeo Durant, the Blue Devils were able to take to the field quickly and grab a quick field goal to advance to the break with a 20-14 lead.
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The Wolfpack started the second half with the ball, but the duke defense still had an eye for the pigskin. Derrick Tangelo completed a strip bag from Leary, and Drew Jordan was able to figure out the recovery. However, with a chance to extend the lead to 13, the Blue Devils were crammed on downs at the NC State 1-yard line and emerged empty-handed. For three-quarters, the average Duke ride started on its own 42 yard line compared to the Wolfpack starting at their own 30.
Within 20 [yard line] it gets so compact, “said Bobo.” So whether the recipients play, make disputed catches. Whether that’s the guys up front who can hold blocks for that split second to let [the running backs] squeeze through that opening and get into the end zone. That’s something we need to find out.
After a dominant rush performance against Syracuse last week, the Wolfpack seemed content to give up everything, except for Durant and Deon Jackson’s carriers, who topped 2,000 yards with his performance on Saturday. The compelling duo Blue Devil, who were each 160 meters at the top against the Orange, combined for only 1.6 meters per carry.
We can still win a lot of games, “Cutcliffe said.” We have to play better on third downs. We lost on both sides of the ball there. We did that very well in Syracuse. We’ve struggled with it offensively all year, and I have to see what we were doing.
While the Blue Devils continue to find their way into 2020, they’ll have the chance to rest and regroup with their farewell week coming up. Then it’s back to Wallace Wade on Halloween for the season’s only non-conference game against in-state Charlotte, where Duke can tune in for the back half of the season.
I don’t think there’s a wrong time for a goodbye day, “Rumph said.” This week is definitely time to take a deep breath, reset and figure out what we need to do better. Just keep chopping that tree, and that tree will come down soon enough.
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