by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM It’s that proverbial perfect day for college football as Duke kicks off a very full day in the Triangle.
Today’s opponent is Boston College, which has also won two straight and needs to win two of its last three regular-season contests to go bowling.
Since Duke is in the ACC’s Coastal Division and BC in the Atlantic and they’re not permanent opponents, it’s a rare meeting. The Eagles have never been to Durham for a football game, and the teams haven’t met since 2005.
Unfortunately there’s a small crowd in the house, announced at 21,420.
They see an exciting game and a stirring Duke comeback attempt, but BC prevails 21-16 and there will be no bowl game for Duke this season.
Duke gets onto the board the second time it has the ball on a 29-yard field goal from steady Will Snyderwine with 9:34 left in the first. The play is set up by Sean Renfree’s 48-yard pass to Conner Vernon to the Eagle 2, but a sack and a penalty force the Blue Devils to settle for three.
BC takes the lead with 7:24 left in the half on Montel Harris’ 15-yard run up the middle to complete a four-play, 44-yard drive that gets an assist from a pass-interference call. Nate Freese’s kick makes it 7-3.
Duke cuts it to 7-6 at the half on Snyderwine’s 40-yard field goal with 40 seconds left to finish a 10-play, 31-yard march.
BC scores on its opening drive of the second half, going 73 yards in seven plays with the touchdown coming on a well-executed 38-yard pass from Chase Rettig to Bobby Swigert. Freese’s kick makes it 14-6 at the 12:00 mark.
And the Eagles increase the lead to 15 with 7:11 left in the third, with a four-yard scoring pass from Rettig to Ifeanyi Momah ending a five-play, 19-yard march set up by Luke Kuechly’s recovery of a Vernon fumble. Freese adds the boot.
But back comes Duke. Snyderwine adds a 33-yard field goal with 1:36 left in the third to make it 21-9 before lightning strikes. Austin Gamble picks up a Harris fumble caused by a big hit from Walt Canty and returns it a school-record 95 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. Snyderwine’s kick makes it 21-16 with 12:09 left in the game.
Duke drives to the BC 4 with 46 seconds to play, but Renfree’s pass on fourth-and-goal is tipped by Max Holloway and the Eagles run out the clock.
Harris carries 23 times for 109 yards and the touchdown for BC, while Rettig completes 12 of 24 passes for 230 yards including five for 92 and the touchdown to Swigert.
Renfree completes 35 of 49 for 285 yards for Duke, but can’t get the ball into the end zone. Vernon catches 12 for 134 yards.
Duke rushes for a total of four yards and doesn’t get an offensive touchdown.
They said it …
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “This game played about like I thought. We didn’t do the fundamental things. You’ve got to win tough ball games by taking care of the ball. You have to run the ball some, which we didn’t do any. Even when it’s tough you have to find a way to get hard-nosed and run the ball some, and take care of the ball. You have to avoid giving up big plays in this type of game, which we weren’t able to do. We gave them an easy one and you just can’t give them an easy one. It was a good football game and our team has improved a great deal, but we’re absolutely a work in progress.”
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani: “I cannot say enough about the players over on defense and the coaches on defense getting organized and holding them to three field goals. Once again, the key to everything starts with the rush. They were not able to rush the ball and it became a one-dimensional game. Even though we didn’t get interceptions we did get four fumbles and recovered two of them. That’s how we’re built and it paid off for us.”
Renfree: “You have to give credit to Boston College. They play hard and have a good plan. Nobody’s going to put his head down. We have two games left against two very good teams. We’re going to prepare as we have all season long.”
Campbell: “I think (my touchdown) was a great effort by the rest of the guys. Walt Canty was there to make the hit, and luckily Abraham Kromah didn’t recover the fumble. That left me open to get the ball to scoop and score. So I think it was a great team effort.”
What does it all mean?
That the Eagles are right on the cusp of a bowl bid, while Duke’s bowl game is going to have to be against archrival UNC for the Victory Bell in two weeks.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Campbell’s fumble return in the defeat.
BC leads 4-1.
Duke: Lost 1.
BC: Won 3.
Virginia at Boston College, Nov. 20, noon.
Duke at Georgia Tech, Nov. 20, 1:30 p.m.