by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke is back home for a tough challenge against Miami, and the Blue Devils are desperately in need of an upset.
The Blue Devils have lost four straight games, and they should feel like three of those including a 21-16 loss at Maryland last week were potential victories that got away.
Miami is only 3-2, still smarting from a 45-17 home thumping by Florida State last week.
It’s the proverbial beautiful afternoon for football, sunny and mild with a light wind, and while Wallace Wade Stadium isn’t close to full there is a decent crowd in the house.
They don’t get what they want, as Duke’s offense turns into a seven-turnover nightmare in a 28-13 loss.
Duke needs an early break and gets one, as the Hurricanes’ Greg Cooper muffs the opening kickoff with the Blue Devils’ Jordon Byas recovering at the Miami 8. But all Duke can get out of it is a 25-yard Will Snyderwine field goal and it’s 3-0 with 14:07 left in the first.
Miami has trouble moving the ball in the first quarter, but goes ahead with 14:53 left in the half on a 14-yard pass from Jacory Harris to Leonard Hankerson to complete a seven-play, 55-yard drive. Matt Bosher’s conversion kick hits the left upright and bounces through to make it 7-3.
The Hurricanes get their biggest break of the half when Sean Renfree fumbles and Sean Spence recovers at the Duke 46. It takes three plays for them to go in, with Harris scoring from 13 yards out through a completely open middle of the field. This time Bosher’s kick is conventional and it’s 14-3 with 4:30 left in the half.
Miami takes control for good with 14:11 left in the third, as the Hurricanes’ 305-pound tackle Micanor Regis picks off a Renfree pass at the Duke 22 and takes it to the house. Bosher’s kick makes it 21-3.
Duke gets something back on its next possession, with Brandon Connette going in from a yard out to complete a 12-play, 75-yard drive. Snyderwine’s kick makes it 21-10 with 9:16 to play in the third.
But the Hurricanes answer with a long drive of their own, going 78 yards in 10 plays with Damien Berry plunging in from a yard out. Bosher’s try makes it 28-10 with 5:28 remaining in the third.
With Connette under center, Duke cuts it to 28-13 on a 43-yard Snyderwine field goal with 6:14 left. Conner Vernon recovers an ensuing onside kick, but Connette’s fumble at the Miami 13 ends any remaining suspense.
Harris completes 17 of 34 passes for 224 yards and the touchdown for Miami, with Hankerson hauling in six for 80 yards and the score. Berry carries 25 times for 111 yards and the touchdown.
Renfree completes 18 of 38 passes for 157 yards with five interceptions while Connette completes four of six for 30 yards. Austin Kelly is Duke’s top receiver with six catches for 60 yards, while Jay Hollingsworth picks up 69 yards on 10 carries.
They said it …
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “We did a lot of things that you had to do to win this game, an awful lot of them. We got off the field on third downs defensively. The statistics really offensively display nothing of what the game was from a defensive standpoint. (But) I don’t know if I’ve ever had seven turnovers, and that’s obviously a big concern. …
"I’ll share what I told them. Simply right now here’s what you do: We can’t practice much better or more intensely than we do, (but) you have to compete with the negative thoughts you’re having. I do, all of us do. That’s part of competing. That’s part of being a competitor. … All we can do is one play at a time, so it’s about what kind of competitor are you? To do it right at this level you’d better be a 24/7 guy.”
Miami coach Randy Shannon: “That was a good win for us today, especially the way we caused a lot of turnovers today which I think was huge for our success. This has always been a tough place to play. (Regis’ interception) was probably the play of the game, a turnover for a touchdown that I thought was really huge. It was great to see us score on defense because we haven’t scored on defense in a while.”
Renfree: “The biggest thing is turnovers and a lot of it has to do with me. I think our defense did a phenomenal job today and that was something positive. It's mostly beating ourselves in a lot of areas. There are so many different things (on the turnovers) - a lot of mental errors and mental mistakes. They're more self-inflicted than the defense doing anything.”
Duke safety Matt Daniels: “Coming into the game, I think this might have been the best prepared our defense has been this season. We had a bye week so we worked really hard, we had time to prepare and scheme up what they were doing. We really knew the plays before they even called them. We prepared really well, and I think that’s what helped us play so well today (defensively.)”
What does it all mean?
That Duke has lost five straight games, four of them winnable, and Cutcliffe has the task of working on his team’s mental status. Miami gets a nice win on the road and stays in the hunt for the Coastal Division title.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Regis’ interception return for the touchdown.
Miami leads 7-1.
Duke: Lost 5.
Miami: Won 1.
Duke at Virginia Tech, Oct. 23, noon
UNC at Miami, Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.