Football

Duke tops Boston College 9-7 in defensive struggle

Boston College linebacker Matt Milano (28) signals “no good” as Duke place kicker Ross Martin (35) watches his kick go through the uprights for his third field goal.
Boston College linebacker Matt Milano (28) signals “no good” as Duke place kicker Ross Martin (35) watches his kick go through the uprights for his third field goal. cliddy@newsobserver.com

With two top-10 defenses, the expectation entering Saturday’s game at Wallace Wade Stadium was the offense would be at a premium.

That proved to be correct.

Despite scoring no touchdowns, Duke hung on for a 9-7 victory over Boston College. Kicker Ross Martin made field goals of 36, 38 and 53 yards. And that was enough against an Eagles team missing its starting quarterback and running back due to broken bones.

The offensive numbers weren’t pretty for the Blue Devils (4-1, 2-0 ACC), regardless of how they’re sliced and diced: 73 yards of total offense in the second half, 35 rushes for 33 yards for the game and a series that featured first-and-goal from the 1-yard line but resulted in no points top the list.

And despite its own offensive issues, Boston College had two good chances to win the game late in the fourth quarter. A 45-yard field goal attempt by Colton Lichtenberg with 3:35 was shanked badly left, to the point where the scorekeeper initially thought it was blocked (it wasn’t). Then after Duke’s offense lost three yards on the ensuing three-and-out drive—using just 15 seconds of clock—punter Will Monday shanked a 25-yard punt, setting the Eagles up at midfield with 3:13 left and no timeouts. Quarterback Jeff Smith completed his pass on fourth-and-2 to an open David Dudek, but the throw was off the mark and short of the sticks. Dudek fell as he caught it, with no defenders around him, as the Blue Devils had sent the house on a blitz.

Turning point

Trailing 6-0, Boston College appeared to take the lead midway through the second quarter. Quarterback Jeff Smith threw a 25-yard pass to Thadd Smith, who jumped and caught it in the front left corner of the end zone—but Smith bobbled the ball a bit as he landed on his back, Duke cornerback Alonzo Saxton II knocked it out of his hands and it was ruled incomplete. On the next play, the Eagles botched the field goal snap, coming away with zero points.

Three who mattered

Ross Martin: The only Duke player to score points, and the 53-yarder he made into the wind proved to be the game-winner

Dwayne Norman: Duke’s leading tackler with 11 total tackles (eight solo), two quarterback hurries, one tackle for loss and a pass break-up.

Jeremy Cash: On a day ruled by defense, Duke was fortunate to have the best defensive player. Cash had eight tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a pass break-up and quarterback hurry apiece

Three key numbers

228 Total offensive yards for Duke

305 Total offensive yards for BC

12 Duke’s longest rush of the day

Highlight reel

There was just one highlight reel-worthy offensive play, and it came from Boston College. Quarterback Troy Flutie found Thadd Smith deep downfield, beating Breon Borders on the catch. Borders fell around the 30 yard line, and Smith ran the rest of the way into the end zone for a 66-yard score.

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