For the first time since the United States' bicentennial, Duke holds bragging rights over Miami on the gridiron.
Brandon Connette accounted for five total touchdowns and the Blue Devils finished the game with 20 unanswered points, as Duke handed the Hurricanes their third straight loss with a 48-30 victory at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Facing a Hurricanes defense that had struggled all season defending the run, David Cutcliffe's read-option attack had a field day. The Blue Devils rushed for 358 yards—more than double their season average—and continually busted Miami on the ground in the second half when the Hurricanes needed a stop.
Though relegated mostly to a backup role under center, Connette came up huge on Saturday. After the Hurricanes busted out to a 10-0 lead within the game's first six minutes, he was subbed in for the goal line package and scored from two yards out to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive with 6:22 remaining in the first.
Shuffling in and out of the lineup with Anthony Boone, it was clear the entire game that Connette was on the precipice of something special. He was able to hit a 22-yard touchdown pass to Shaquille Powell early in the second quarter and rushed for his second short-yardage touchdown with 2:01 remaining in the half, as the Blue Devils took a 21-20 lead into the break.
Two more second-half rushing scores followed in the dominating win, allowing Connette to break Duke's all-time record for career rushing touchdowns.
Still, Connette had only 37 rushing yards. Instead, it was the Blue Devils' stable of running backs who really accounted for the dominant performance. Josh Snead had 138 yards, Jela Duncan added 98 and Powell had 59 of his own, including a 33-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Those yards proved more critical than the final score indicates, as Stephen Morris and the Hurricanes offense had a stellar day of their own. Accounting for 565 total yards, Miami started out the game hot and even got some help from its special teams. Stacy Coley returned a Will Monday punt 79 yards in the first quarter to give the Hurricanes their 10-0 lead.
Morris, who spent much of the season playing a secondary role to star running back Duke Johnson, who is out for the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, went over the 300-yard mark for the second consecutive Saturday. He completed 30 of 49 passes for 379 yards, his highest total since a 40-9 victory over South Florida last November.
Sophomore receiver Herb Waters proved to be Morris' best partner, catching a career-high nine passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Waters caught a five-yard dump off to give Miami a 17-7 lead with 2:01 remaining in the first quarter, and then caught a 50-yard score in the third quarter on a short screen he broke down the field. That third-quarter score brought Miami within one point of Duke at 28-27 with 11:12 remaining.
Matt Goudis would give the Hurricanes their final lead of the game with a field goal from 31 yards out on their next drive, but the happy times quickly evaporated. Duke's subsequent drive was capped off by a 48-yard field goal from Ross Martin, which caromed off the left upright and barely went through to give the Blue Devils the lead again.
Seventeen fourth-quarter points later, and that kick looks like an omen for Duke's great fortune in retrospect.
The win gives the Blue Devils their first six-game winning streak since 1994 and control of their own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division. They are currently the only team with two losses, buoyed by their surprising victories over Virginia Tech and Miami. This is the first time since 1971 Duke has defeated two ranked opponents in the same season.
The Associated Press brings Connette's perspective on the team's success:
"It doesn't really matter to us who believes in us. We believe in what we're doing and we believe in the process and everything that's going on. As long as we believe in what we're doing, we're going to be a good football team."
The Hurricanes, who now hold a 9-2 lead in the all-time series, had won each of the past nine matchups with their ACC rival. Since joining the ACC full time in 2007, all but one of Miami's victories against the Blue Devils was by double digits.
Ranked seventh in the country in the initial BCS standings, Miami will almost certainly fall out just three weeks later. After giving up 30 points just once over their first seven contests, the Hurricanes have now given up 40 each of their past three games and have been outscored, 131-68.
Brandon Connette (QB, Duke): A
Connette, when he's on, has a flair for the entertaining. Though the junior signal-caller has essentially been pushed to the backburner throwing the ball, his rushing prowess vexes teams and will likely push Duke into the Top 25.
The counting stats weren't great—rarely will a 118 total yard performance receive such high marks—but Connette made the most out of his touches. He was responsible for five touchdowns, the Hurricanes defense froze at times when he was in and the coaching staff showed their hand by keeping him in for chunks of the fourth quarter.
This Duke run has been more about the sum of the parts than any one player. Still, Connette is the most consistently explosive player on this roster, and he came through with a huge outing in arguably the biggest game of his career.
Herb Waters (WR, Miami): A
Nine receptions is usually a three-game stretch for Waters. In fact, looking back at his game log, there are numerous triads in which he even failed to accomplish combined what he did in 60 minutes against the Blue Devils.
Waters had a ton of success underneath Saturday, catching balls at or close to the line of scrimmage and allowing the play to develop. Just a sophomore, it's an encouraging sign that he's already far enough advanced to understand the blocking schemes and patience needed to be a solid possession receiver. Waters was seen coming into college mostly as a raw, work-in-progress type talent, the Hurricanes could have something to look forward to next season in their receiving corps.
For now, Waters will just have to be satisfied his breakout performance came in a loss. Let's see whether he can keep it up.
Josh Snead (RB, Duke): A-
Talk about a perfect time to have a career-best outing. Snead's 56-yard run helped the Blue Devils set up a critical fourth-quarter touchdown, and he was one of three Duke skill-position players responsible for plays longer than 25 yards.
For much of the contest, the Duke running backs were indistinguishable from one another. There was a seven-yard gain here, a seven-yard gain there. All that changed were the numbers of the uniforms and the sizes of the players. Snead was easy to spot because of his diminutive stature, but didn't really stand out till the final frame.
Funny how a quarter can change so much.
Stephen Morris (QB, Miami): B
They've both come in losses, but Morris has been solid each of the past two weeks. After passing for more than 200 yards just twice in Miami's first eight games, Morris has gone for well over the 300-yard plateau for two straight Saturdays while limiting his turnover output.
It's a bit of a shame Morris is improving right as the Hurricanes defense is imploding. With three straight losses—none of which were all that impressive—Morris is looking more likely than ever to finish out his career in Miami playing in December.
That has to be frustrating for a kid who took so much criticism during the Hurricanes' 7-0 start. Now that he's good, his team is bad. Some things just aren't meant to work out.
The Hurricanes will attempt to stave off a fourth straight loss next Saturday when they host Virginia. Duke's impressive run through the ACC will in all likelihood continue next week when it travels to 4-6 Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have been outscored 72-3 over their past two losses.
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