Duke kicker Ross Martin kicked three field goals, including a 53-yarder, all in the first half as the Blue Devils jumped out a 9-0 lead and held off Boston College in the second half for a 9-7 victory on Saturday evening in Durham, North Carolina. With the loss, BC's now dropped two of their last three games (3-2, 0-2 ACC) while Duke improved to 4-1 with the win (2-0 ACC).
Duke opened up a 9-0 lead in the first half thanks to the three field goals by Martin. Late in the first quarter, he hit a 36-yard boot with 3:12 remaining after an eight-play drive stalled inside the BC red zone. Thomas Sirk hit T.J. Rahming for 26 yards to move over midfield early in the drive, advancing from his own 38 to the BC 36. Sirk connected two plays later with Jela Duncan for 18 yards, putting the ball at the BC 16. But the Eagle defense allowed nothing further, holding the Blue Devils to only three yards on the next three plays. A false start pushed it back to the 18 yard line, where Duke lined up and kicked the first points of the game.
BC failed to advance over midfield on the ensuing drive and gave the ball back to Duke at their own 14 yard line. Once again, Sirk moved the ball with precision efficiency, hitting passes of nine, six, 11, 14, and 19 yards to get the ball from inside his own red zone to the Boston College red zone as part of an elongated, 14-play drive spanning five minutes of clock time. Once inside the red area, however, Duke once again stalled and petered out, resulting in Martin kicking his second boot, a 38-yard attempt, to make it 6-0.
Still hanging in the game, Boston College put together a 34-yard drive that apparently culminated in a touchdown. After starting from his own 35 yard line, Jeff Smith spearheaded a four and a half minute drive over midfield. On the Duke 25 yard line and facing a third down, Smith finally floated a complete pass - or so it seemed. Thadd Smith reached up and pulled down a tremendous catch in traffic, but the refs concluded he lost control as he hit the ground. Further review resulted in an upheld call, forcing BC to go for three instead of having six. A bad snap resulted in a bobbled hold by Bobby Swigert, and instead of having a lead, the Eagles still trailed by a touchdown difference.
The Blue Devils tacked on a third field on their third straight drive after the BC missed the attempt, this time from 50-plus yards. Sirk found Rahming for 29 yards to move inside the Eagle 30, but a couple of failed plays later resulted in a 53-yard attempt that Martin had no trouble with, putting Duke up 9-0 into the half.
The Blue Devils opened up the second half by going three-and-out, but Sherman Alston muffed the punt return, giving Duke a first down at the BC 15. But the defense once again held serve, as Sirk drove to the one yard line but failed to punch it in on fourth down, averting a disaster as the Eagles took over on downs.
After BC punted twice to start their offensive half, Steve Addazio went back to Troy Flutie at quarterback, and it finally paid off. After two plays gained 14 yards, Thadd Smith broke off a slant route across the middle of the field and Flutie stepped into a deep ball with perfect protection. He hit Smith in stride, and the wideout waltzed into the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown catch, giving the Eagles points and bringing them back within two at 9-7.
But it was not to be for BC. The Eagles' final two drives set up potential scoring opportunities that they just simply couldn't convert. Flutie ran the offense from their own 24 yard line down to the Duke 27 with help from Marcus Outlow, but Lichtenberg shanked a 45 yard field goal to keep it a two-point game. Two drives later, the Eagles started at midfield, but after Tyler Rouse ran for seven yards down to the 43, Flutie scrambled for a single yard and was hit in the back, leaving him on the turf in pain. Jeff Smith came back in and threw his first pass away, then missed a wide open David Dudeck to finish off the BC day.
It was a tale of two halves for Boston College; the Eagles struggled to get the offense moving in the first half and entered halftime with zero complete passes and zero yards passing against the Blue Devil defense. After opening up the game 3/14 with 46 yards passing, including zero incompletions for zero yards in the first half, BC finished by going 5/7 for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown. Troy Flutie finished with a QBR of 86.9 just one week after his rating was under nine. He also connected on the 66-yard touchdown pass play to Thadd Smith.
After averaging just about 3.5 yards per carry through that same stretch where they struggled passing, BC finished with 164 yards on 41 attempts, good enough for a four yards per carry average. Jeff Smith led all rushers with 60 yards on 11 carries, while Tyler Rouse added 45 yards on 13 carries and Marcus Outlow rushed for 38 yards.
For Duke, the BC defense held their rushing attack to 33 yards on 35 carries - a less than one yard per carry average. Thomas Sirk completed 18/36 passing attempts for 195 yards. The Blue Devils did not have a touchdown.
Duke gets back at it next week when they head north to take on Army West Point at 12 PM, while BC hosts a mid-afternoon game with Wake Forest at 3 PM.