Brace yourselves folks. No. 22 Duke (8-1, 4-1 ACC) is closing in on a possible return trip to the ACC Championship Game. The Blue Devils took to the road for the final time this season and made sure to return with another win. This time the victim was Syracuse (3-7, 1-5 ACC) with a 27-10 victory. Duke and Syracuse were neck and neck for a while, but Duke pulled away for the win in the fourth quarter with a 17-0 edge on the scoreboard in the final quarter of play.
Jamison Crowder, normally one to make things happen in the passing game at wide receiver, made a game-changing play on special teams early in the fourth quarter. A 52-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter broke a 10-10 tie, and Duke’s defense never allowed Syracuse to get on the scoreboard. While the defense did its job to protect the lead, it was the Duke offense taking care of business padding it. Anthony Boone‘s 54-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Blakeney gave Duke a 27-10 advantage midway through the fourth quarter. It was the second time Boone had hooked up with Blakeney on the afternoon for a touchdown. The two had a 22-yard scoring connection in the second quarter.
This was hardly a perfect game for Duke though. Boone completed fewer than half of his 33 pass attempts and the Blue Devils converted eight of 19 third-down attempts for a first down. Duke’s running game averaged 3.0 yards per rushing attempt and it was kept out of the end zone. David Cutcliffe will have a few things he can work on with his team heading into the final stretch, which should help keep the team focused as well.
The win helps Duke stay ahead of Georgia Tech in the ACC Coastal Division. Duke won an earlier game against Georgia Tech, but can ensure they do not need to rely on tiebreakers if they can finish strong. Duke will get three final games all at home with a chance to protect the division lead. Winners of four straight now since losing at Miami, Duke will wrap up the regular season at home against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Winning two of three could likely be enough to grab the division crown, depending on what else happens around the division.
While Duke is flying high atop the ACC Coastal Division, Syracuse stumbled for the seventh time this season. With seven losses, Syracuse is now officially eliminated from postseason contention this season. Syracuse still has two more games to play. Both will come on the road, first against Pittsburgh in two weeks and then at Boston College to wrap up the season.