The Blue Devils (7-1, 3-1 ACC) were able to squeak out a close one this weekend 51-48 in double overtime over the Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5, 2-3 ACC). Duke proved their ability to come through under pressure yet again as they won their seventh straight game decided by a touchdown or less. Given the potent offense of each team it was assumed whoever could stop the other would win, but neither decided to bring their defense to Heinz Field this Saturday. With the exception of slow third quarter this game was a shoot-out from the beginning. Both teams put up a total of 56 points in the first half and 99 when Duke scored the game-winner in the second overtime.
After constant back and forth throughout regulation Pittsburgh had a chance to win it at the end of regulation. Although, put simply Chris Blewitt blew it for the Panthers and helped the rapidly maturing Duke Blue Devils stay atop the Coastal Division. After driving deep into Duke territory with the clock winding down the Panthers were able to set up Blewitt with a 26-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left. David Cutcliffe being the football strategist that he is called two timeouts in hopes of icing the kicker and he did not disappoint, hooking it far left.
Even though Duke took home the victory the player that should receive the most attention is easily running back James Conner. Conner ran for a career high 263 yards on 38 carries culminating in three touchdowns. Similarly Duke quarterback, Anthony Boone, and wide receiver, Jamison Crowder, were the main proponents leading this Duke team to victory. Anthony Boone led the game in passing going for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 23/31 throwing the ball. Boone is now 17-3 starting at quarterback for Duke tying Jerry Barger for most wins by a quarterback in school history. Meanwhile, Crowder moved to second all-time in receptions in ACC history after passing Sammy Watkins on Saturday going for 165 yards on nine catches for two touchdowns.
Despite Duke’s high level of play on offense they still needed some luck to pull this one out. Also, as Duke heads down the home stretch of the season, hopefully winding them up in the ACC championship game, there are still some important questions that need to be answered to go along with several significant takeaways in focusing on this game. First off, Duke may have been ranked fourth in the FBS in points allowed going into this game, but looked nothing close to it in Pittsburgh this Saturday. If Duke is going to be “for real” this year as many Duke fans hope just by looking at the wins column to this point they will need to step up their ability to slow down the run(i.e. allowing fewer than 358 yards). It is apparent that Duke has the maturity on offense that they have lacked in the past that has stopped them from taking that next step. Duke reached the ACC Championship game last year just to be soundly defeated by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and company and it appears we will likely see a rematch again this year. Although if Duke is going to compete at that level they will not be able to solely rely on Anthony Boone and Duke’s well-rounded offense, but on a trustworthy defense as well. Nonetheless, in continuing to look at the big picture Duke maintained its position atop the Coastal Conference and moved up to #22 in the AP Top 25 rankings as head into their last four regular season games, all of which are very winnable.