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November 24, 2012

Duke ends regular season with loss to Miami

DURHAM, N.C. -- After winning its first four home games of the 2012 season, the Duke football team dropped its second straight in Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday, falling 52-45 to the University of Miami.

Duke made a valiant effort in the final 15 minutes of the game, outscoring the Hurricanes 21-7 to close within seven at 52-45. The Blue Devils were unable to complete the comeback, however, after a Ross Martin onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds at the Miami 48-yard-line the game was essentially over.

The Blue Devils had just one timeout left, leaving the Hurricanes in a position to simply run out the clock after the team's opening play of the drive.

"The second half we certainly made some plays offensively," head coach David Cutcliffe said. "There was some definitive progress, I'd say. I'm not very happy about any of it, but defensively there were flashes, but only flashes."

The story of the game was a lack of defense from both teams, as Miami amassed 646 total yards, while Duke posted 583 yards.

Duke quarterback Sean Renfree completed 36 of 59 passes for 432 yards and 4 touchdowns, while two Blue Devil receivers surpassed the 100-yard mark. Jamison Crowder, who caught a 99-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter from Renfree, finished the contest with 8 catches for 203 yards and 2 scores.

Vernon was strong as well, pulling in 11 passes for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns in his final game at Wallace Wade.

Duke also managed to move the ball on the ground, rushing for 151 yards. Jela Duncan led the way with 64 yards on just 6 carries for the Blue Devils. Duncan averaged 10.7 yards per carry in the game. Josh Snead totaled 52 yards on 13 carries.

Duke's defense failed to stop Miami running back Duke Johnson, who rushed for 176 yards and 3 touchdowns on 16 carries. Johnson averaged 11 yards per carry.

Miami quarterback Stephen Morris also had a strong day, throwing for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns on 15 of 25 passing. The Hurricanes averaged 24.9 yards per pass completion.

"Defensively we made way too many mistakes," Cutcliffe added. "When you play a game and a back averages 11 yards a carry and the receivers average 25 yards a reception and the total offense averages 10 yards a play, you don't have a chance to win. So, that's frustrating."

Duke had multiple chances to tie the game, but the team's defense was unable to capitalize on the bursts of momentum. In fact, Miami needed just one pass to end Duke's hopes of a complete comeback on two separate occasions. The final nail came when Morris connected with Herb Waters for a 65-yard scoring play with 7:37 left in the game, giving the Hurricanes a 52-38 advantage.

Duke did threaten the visitors once more in the contest, scoring on a Brandon Connette rush to pull within seven with 2:32 to go in the game but was unable to complete the comeback run.

The game was very much one of ups and downs for both teams.

"That's always tough," Crowder said of his team's ability to fight back only to give up a big play to end the momentum. "Just fighting and then getting back into the game and they score on a long run. It kind of crushes your confidence a little bit. At the same time it's a ballgame and you can't just go down and lay down. You have to go out there and keep playing."

At the start of the third quarter, Duke found itself trailing 31-10 following a Miami field goal by Jake Wieclaw. At that point it appeared as though the game was likely in the bag for the Hurricanes.

Duke, however, showed some life scoring touchdowns on its next two offensive possessions. The Devils' 14 unanswered points put them within 7-points at 31-24 with 5:17 to go in the third quarter.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, any momentum that was gained was quickly taken away. Miami, who had just taken a 3-and-out for only the second time in the game on the previous possession, needed just two plays and 31 seconds to march 60 yards downfield to increase the game back to 14 points.

It was then that the wheels began to fall off for the Blue Devils for a second time. Despite showing a consistent ability to move the football on its two previous drives, Duke sputtered into a 3-and-out and the Hurricanes took advantage yet again, scoring in just one play, a 72-yard pass from Morris to Mike James.

That score pushed the Hurricanes to a 45-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The early portions of the game told the same story.

"The first half I was extremely disappointed coming out and not playing well in any of the three phases," Cutcliffe noted. "Actually we didn't play well offensively. We only scored 10 points against a defense that's in my opinion fairly average.

"Defensively we played poorly and in the kicking game, particularly in the area of returns, we played poorly. So we kind of shot ourselves in the foot."

The Blue Devils fell behind 14-0 midway through the first quarter and in many ways looked to headed in a downward spiral. Following the sluggish start, Duke began to find its legs, scoring 10 unanswered points to close the gap to just four with 8:57 to go in the first half.

Duke's first touchdown of the game came on a Connette 4-yard rush, capping a 15 play, 81 yard drive. The Blue Devils ability to move the ball consistently on the drive, primarily through the air, sparked new life into the home team. However, any momentum gained by Duke was almost immediately sucked out.

The Hurricanes quick response on the ensuing possession put an end to any bounce the Blue Devils showed in their step. Miami put together a 9 play, 75-yard, 3:22 drive to push its lead back to 11 points at 21-11.

Soon after, things began to get worse. Duke, who began its next possession at its own 19-yard-line, pushed the ball to its own 46-yard-line. Unfortunately for Duke, a failed attempt at a fake punt put the team's back against the wall heading into the halftime break.

Miami scored quickly after the failed fake, giving themselves a comfortable lead in the contest.

Despite all the struggles Saturday and the late season disappointments, the Blue Devils do have something to look forward to rather than focusing on extra time off in the month of December. Duke, who is bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, will now find out what it is like to prepare for the postseason, giving the seniors a chance to end their careers with a victory.

"We're definitely focused on the bowl game and winning the bowl game," Ross Cockrell said. We have one game left to right the ship and get ready for the off-season."


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