DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils held off the Boston College Eagles on a soggy Brooks Field and earned a 9-7 win in front of a Homecoming crowd of 20,009 at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.
Powered by placekicker Ross Martin’s foot, Duke (4-1, 2-0) took the lead and never looked back.
Martin converted all three field goal attempts he had, with his longest of 53-yards coming late in the second quarter, and was the difference-maker in earning the win for the Blue Devils.
“It’s great that the nine points was enough to win the game,” Martin said.
“Gotta’ commend our defense for holding them to only seven; our offense for putting us in position to get enough to win the game. I just did what they asked me to do. “
Quarterback Thomas Sirk threw 18-of-36 for 195 yards in a tightly-contested matchup against the Eagles’ nationally top-ranked defense that came into the game allowing only 118 yards per game.
Boston College (3-2, 0-2) finished the game with more total offense (305 yards) than Duke (228 yards), but it was the Blue Devils defense that finished the job when it needed to, even while the offense struggled and failed to score a touchdown throughout the game.
“Our team played a fine football game,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said.
“Our guys play as a team and we go into every game believin’ that. We believe we’re best when we blend offense, defense, kicking. If one side is limping, the other side runs a little faster. That’s what you call team responsibility.”
Sirk at times was able to spread out an Eagles defense that provided little room to run the ball up the middle, allowing the Blue Devils to gain only 33 total yards rushing.
The yards that Duke did gain on offense positioned Martin close enough to finish drives by scoring points.
He opened the game with a succesful 36-yard field goal with 3:30 to play in the opening quarter.
Multiple double-digit yard completions to T.J. Rahming (5 catches, 75 yards) and Max McCaffrey (4 catches, 35 yards) during the second quarter allowed Sirk to out-think and outwork the Eagles defense long enough to get back into field goal range.
Martin’s second attempt, a 38-yarder, made it through the uprights and extended the Duke lead to 6-0 at the 10:18 mark.
Defensively, the Blue Devils continued to do what they’ve done to date – carry the team’s fate on its shoulders from start to finish.
On top of aggressive tackling and field containment led by linebacker Dwayne Norman (11 tackles, 1 TFL), and safeties DeVon Edwards (9 tackles) and Jeremy Cash (8 tackles, 1.5 TFL), Duke took advantage of Boston College’s misfortune and missteps.
Trailing by six, the Eagles thought they had scored on a reception by Thadd Smith (2 catches, 99 yards)
However, on-field officials signaled an incomplete pass.
Video review confirmed the ruling on the field and forced BC to bring its field goal unit onto the field.
A dropped snap by placeholder Bobby Swigert gave the Blue Devils the ball on their own 31-yard line.
From there, Sirk put up a 29-yard pass to Rahming who reached the Eagles’ 39-yard line, and eventually set up Martin’s longest score from just beyond the midfield line with 3:40 remaining.
Duke carried its 9-0 lead into halftime.
A recovery by Johnell Barnes off a fumbled Boston College punt return by Connor Strachan set Duke up at the Eagles’ 15-yard line in the third quarter.
However, the BC defense didn’t allow the Blue Devils to score and the Eagles got the ball back quickly.
A 33-yard pass from BC quarterback Troy Flutie (5-8, 129 yards, 1 TD) to Smith eventually moved the chains towards midfield.
The Duke defense then stepped up and forced a punt on the ensuing series.
“Our mentality for this game, and every game, is to go out and win every single play,” Duke defensive end Kyler Brown said.
While the Blue Devils denied the Eagles from scoring for almost three full quarters, Flutie and Smith tried again and successfully connected to complete a 66-yard reception for a score.
The play cut the Blue Devils lead to two points with 28 seconds remaining in the quarter.
To start the fourth, Sirk completed a pass to McCaffrey who moved Duke into the Eagles’ half of the field.
However, BC’s defense held the Blue Devils there and punter Will Monday was forced to make another of his eight total punts of the day, putting the Eagles on their own 14 yard-line with 13:32 to play.
Both teams traded unproductive possessions before Boston College placekicker Colton Lichtenberg was in a position to give the Eagles the lead.
As he followed through on a 45-yard field goal attempt, everyone in the stadium watched as it missed wide left and maintained Duke’s two-point advantage with 3:35 to play.
The Blue Devils offense couldn’t advance and was pinned on its own 25-yard line before punting the ball away again.
With Flutie scrambling to find an open receiver, Cash laid a bone-crushing tackle on the quarterback and sent him out of the game.
BC’s other quarterback, Jeff Smith (3-13, 12 yards), couldn’t penetrate the Blue Devils defense, and Duke got the ball back as a result.
Sirk worked the game clock and took a final knee as the Blue Devils escaped with the win, even while recording their lowest offensive output of the season.
“It’s a matter of workin’ it out, grinding it out, evaluating it,” Cutcliffe said.
“We’re a good team trying to become a better team.”
Highlights: ACC Digital Network – TheACC.com