Braxton Deaver

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Controversial missed field goal gives Duke first bowl win since 1961

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It only makes sense that a football game between two storied basketball schools — played on a hallowed baseball ground — would come down to a three-pointer. A 36-yard Ross Martin field goal gave Duke a 44-41 lead at the top of the first overtime, and Griffin Oakes’ 38-yard miss in the bottom of the first handed the Blue Devils a win over Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.

Oakes’ miss, however, was not as cut-and-dry as the box score could portray.

The win, controversial as it was, gave Duke (8-5) its first bowl victory since a 7-6 triumph over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl. Indiana (6-7) snapped a seven-year postseason drought with Saturday’s appearance, but the Hooisers are in still in search of their first bowl win since 1991.

The teams got to overtime after a back-and-forth 60 minutes that saw both teams claim multiple leads but neither separated from the other by more than 10 points. Duke led 10-0 after one quarter thanks to an 85-yard Shaun Wilson run, then Indiana grabbed a 14-10 lead thanks to two quick scoring drives late in the second quarter. That lead lasted all of 25 seconds after Thomas Sirk darted 73 yards to put the Blue Devils back on top 17-14 with a minute left in the first half.

Oakes tied the game at 17-17 with a 45-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the first half.

Martin opened the third quarter with a 34-yard boot to put Duke back on top 20-17, and the edge see-sawed from there. Nate Sudfeld‘s three-yard pass to Nick Westbrook gave Indiana the advantage, and Sirk’s 10-yard strike to Braxton Deaver gave it back to Duke.

A 10-yard Alex Rodriguez run and another Oakes field goal gave Indiana a 34-27 lead with 11:12 to play in the fourth quarter, but Wilson immediately knotted the score again with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Sudfeld found Mitchell Paige alone in the end zone for a 25-yard score with 4:03 to play to again provide the Hooisers a touchdown advantage, but Duke once again responded when Sirk plunged in for a five-yard touchdown with 41 seconds remaining.

Given another chance to punch in a long-distance buzzer-beater, Oakes’ 56-yard field goal as time expired was no good.

Oakes’ next try and miss would hand the win over to Duke.

Each team raced up and down the field, reminiscent of a hardwood affair filled with fast breaks and turnovers. Sirk led the Blue Devils by completing 17-of-37 throws for 163 yards with a touchdown and two interception while also rushing 20 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Jela Duncan rushed 19 times for 103 yards, and Wilson added nine carries for 103 yards and a touchdown — plus his 98-yard kickoff return score.

Sirk was attended to by trainers after taking a hard hit on Duke’s second play of overtime, but he managed to finish the series.

For Indiana, Sudfeld hit 28-of-51 throws for 389 yards with three touchdowns and two picks, and Devine Redding accumulated 35 carries for 227 yards and one touchdown.

Seventeen separate players combined to catch the teams’ 45 completed passes.

Indiana out-gained Duke 667-536 while converting 10-of-20 third downs and holding a 33-23 first downs edge. Those yards were not enough, however, to pull out the win.