by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke had had an open date to get ready for what may turn out to be its biggest game of the year.
Maryland (2-5, 1-2 ACC) is the visitor on a day when - let's hope - the rain has already fallen. The Blue Devils are 3-3, 1-1 in ACC play, and will very probably need to win this one to meet second-year coach David Cutcliffe's stated goal of an appearance in a bowl game.
To get there Duke, which hasn't made such a trip since 1994 - also the last year in which the Blue Devils beat Maryland in Durham - needs to finish at least 7-5. The seven is necessary because the win over N.C. Central, still in its transition phase from Division II to Division I's Championship Subdivision, won't count.
Representatives from the Chick-Fil-A (Atlanta) and Champs Sports (Orlando) Bowls are in the house.
It's the teams' first meeting since 2004 under the ACC's two-division alignment.
And the stadium seems to be a little over half full at kickoff in a game that's as ugly as the weather - but not on the scoreboard as Duke dodges a bullet to survive 17-13.
Duke gets some early momentum by stopping the Terps on fourth-and-short at the Blue Devils' 31, and then puts together a pretty nine-play, 69-yard march. Thaddeus Lewis hits Donovan Varner across the middle for a 24-yard touchdown, and Will Snyderwine's boot makes it 7-0 with 7:24 left in the first.
Maryland comes back moving the ball easily on offense until the ball gets inside the Duke 10, where the next three plays produce a total of two yards. Nick Ferrara's 25-yard field goal completes a 12-play, 75-yard drive at 1:37.
The rain starts again late in the first period.
Maryland gets a couple of breaks early in the second quarter. First, Duke's Brandon King loses a fumble at the Terps' 30. Then after the Terps punt, two plays later Lewis' streak of 130 straight passes without an interception comes to an end as Cameron Chism picks one at the Duke 31. Four plays later Ferrara nails a 40-yard field goal and it's 7-6 at 8:34.
Duke adds another three points with 3:31 left in the half, as Snyderwine's 35-yard field goal finishes an 11-play, 73-yard march.
The Blue Devils make it 17-6 with 5:35 left in the third on one of the most spectacular one-yard touchdown passes this one has ever seen. Everyone in the stadium seems to be following Jay Hollingsworth diving over the pile after he has ostensibly taken the handoff, but instead Lewis drops back and fires a pass over the pile to Danny Parker in the back of the end zone. Snyderwine adds the boot, at the end of the 12-play, 80-yard march whose highlight is Lewis' 44 -yard pass to Conner Vernon to the 1.
That seems to wake up the Terps' offense, as just 65 seconds later Vernon connects with Davin Meggett on a 67-yard touchdown pass that develops off a screen. Ferrara adds the kick and the margin is back down to four.
And Maryland gets a huge break midway through the fourth, as Duke drives from its own 12 to the Terps' 2 where Lewis fumbles and Travis Ivey recovers.
Duke finally creates its first turnover with 4:09 left, when Vincent Rey intercepts Turner at the Maryland 36.
The Blue Devils can't get much done, but get a huge break at the end when the Terps' Tony Logan muffs a punt and King atones for his earlier turnover by recovering at the Maryland 23 with 2:27 to go. Duke runs out the clock as the visitors have spent their timeouts.
They said it ...
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: "It's good for Duke to win ugly. Is that a change or what? ... Had we done the little things well, it could have been an extremely convincing win. You know what a coach dreams of? A win where you can get their attention on Sunday. "
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen: "I appreciate (my team's) effort, how hard they work day-in and day-out. I feel sorry that I can't get them a win, because I think it would really help them. I'm fighting every down with them. It just seems like no matter how hard we try, we just can't seem to break through."
King: "(My fumble) was unfortunate. The ball was wet. I've got to take better care of the ball. ... (On the punt) We knew they were going to come after it. I was one of the first guys down there, and the ball just bounced my way."
What does it all mean?
That Duke has its second straight ACC victory for the first time since that 1994 season.
Stars of the game
1. Lewis, who went 30-for-43 with two touchdowns and one interception.
2. Rey, with eight tackles and the big interception.
3. Varner, with eight catches for 120 yards and the touchdown.
Play of the game
Lewis' touchdown pass to Parker.
Maryland leads 30-19.
Duke: Won 2.
Maryland: Lost 3.
Duke at Virginia, Oct. 31, 3:30 p.m.
Maryland at N.C. State, Nov. 6, 1:30 p.m.