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Indiana vs. Duke: Score and Reaction for 2015 Pinstripe Bowl

Daniel Kramer@dkramer_Featured Columnist

Dec 26, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) runs with the ball on his way to the end-zone for a touchdown against the Indiana Hoosiers during the second quarter in the 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils outlasted the Indiana Hoosiers in a 44-41 overtime thriller in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium Saturdayin a game that can only be described as the Barnburner in the Bronx. 

After Duke notched a field goal to take a three-point lead on the first drive of overtime, Indiana kicker Griffin Oakes missed a would-be game-tying field goal, sealing the Hoosiers' fate.

Oakes’ kick was so close that the ESPN telecasters thought it would be reviewed. Deadspin provided a replay of the game's final play:

Deadspin @Deadspin

VIDEO: Duke wins Pinstripe Bowl after officials call Indiana's would-be tying FG no good https://t.co/89eQTj0DqY https://t.co/hM10wbAw25

Dr. Saturday of Yahoo Sports elaborated on why it couldn’t be reviewed:

Dr. Saturday @YahooDrSaturday

That kick might have been good, but because it was above the upright it is not reviewable. Duke’s first bowl win since 1961.

After head coach David Cutcliffe resurrected the program, Saturday’s bowl game was the fourth straight for the Blue Devils, a program high.

But until Saturday, they had failed to end their bowl win drought dating back to the 1961 Cotton Bowl. 

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports put the result into perspective:

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

#Duke wins a bowl game for the first time in 54 years. David Cutcliffe was 7 the last time this school won one. Wow.

For a pair of programs that have long been linked to their play on the hardwood, Saturday’s high-scoring shootout seemed appropriate, as JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com highlighted:

But it wasn’t a total fairy tale, as Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk left the game two plays into overtime after suffering what appeared to be a knee injury, per Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com:

Andrea Adelson @aadelsonESPN

Thomas Sirk down holding his knee. Hope he's OK!

Sirk finished 17-of-37 with 163 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions and also churned out two scores on the ground along with 155 rushing yards on 20 carries, which set a new Duke benchmark, per ESPN Stats & Info:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Thomas Sirk has set a @Duke_FB record for most rushing yards in a bowl game

Sirk's struggles were well-chronicled throughout. At one point early in the fourth quarter, Laura Keeley of the News & Observer suggested the team should replace him with backup quarterback Parker Boehme:

Oakes missed two critical field-goal attempts late in the contest. In addition to his overtime miss, he failed to connect on a 56-yard attempt at the end of regulation.

On the previous drive, the Hoosiers couldn’t halt the Blue Devils at the goal line with 41 seconds remaining, allowing Duke to score and tie the game at 41-41. Duke converted on two third downs and one fourth down on the drive.

The Hoosiers pulled ahead 41-34 just prior as wide receiver Mitchell Paige bounced back from a costly fumble and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:03 remaining on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who found Paige wide-open after scrambling away from the pocket. 

Indiana was in the red zone and on the brink of making it a two-possession game late in the third quarter but fell short after Simmie Cobbs Jr. dropped an end-around pass from Paige.

As Hoosier State of Mind pointed out, the creative play call fell short because of a lack of execution:

HoosierStateofMind @HoosierStofMind

Summit Cobbs with another inexplicable drop, this time in the end zone

Indiana forced its first three-and-out with 6:19 remaining in the third but fumbled on the return, which led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Sirk to Braxton Deaver just three plays later. 

Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star highlighted how uncharacteristic the muff was, as Paige, a reliable returner, entered Saturday's game averaging 11.7 yards per return with two touchdowns:

Zach Osterman @ZachOsterman

Big, big mistake from one of IU's most sure-handed players. #iufb

Indiana responded two drives later with a seven-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a 10-yard run by Alex Rodriguez—but not the regular inhabitant of Yankee Stadium, which served as Saturday’s venue. 

Indiana outproduced Duke in total offense, 667-536, yet will have to wait another year to snap a bowl drought that extends to 24 years without a win.

Postgame Reaction

There was great debate in the social arena as to whether the kick was good or not—ironic, given a game that exceeded 1,000 yards of total offense came down to special teams.

Oakes released a statement on Twitter Sunday morning:

Griffin Oakes @Griffin_Oakes

https://t.co/jATGLYBFW9

Todd Fuhrman of Sportsline.com and Rich Eisen, using MLB umpire Rich Garcia as a metaphor, believed there was little dispute to what the call should have been:

Todd Fuhrman @ToddFuhrman

That kick was good...and this coming from a Duke backer

Rich Eisen @richeisen

Just saw the Indiana FG that was called no good. Worst call involving Yankee Stadium since Rich Garcia.

But Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson boldly believed otherwise and also said the miss wasn’t the reason the Hoosiers lost, per Osterman and Stephen Wiseman of the Durham Herald-Sun:

Stephen Wiseman @stevewisemanNC

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said it looked like FG went around post and was no good. Bottom line he said is u don't win relying on FGs

Zach Osterman @ZachOsterman

Not breaking form, Kevin Wilson says postgame that message to team that field goal miss wasn't what lost game for IU. #iufb

John Harwood of the New York Times added interesting insight on the impact Cutcliffe has made on the Duke program:

John Harwood @JohnJHarwood

fact that @Duke_FB won 8 games, beat Big 10 team in bowl & fans consider it meh season shows you how far Cutcliffe has brought this program.

Despite his struggles through the air, Sirk was named the game’s co-MVP with Shaun Wilson, per Duke Football:

Duke Football @DukeFOOTBALL

Congrats to our co-MVPs - @RapidaDeSeis_ & @tsirk_1. #GoDuke https://t.co/AG2oHoHqZN

For Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils, they’ll head into the offseason with another benchmark milestone on the heels of a successful 8-5 season. This program has clearly climbed out of the ACC cellar to become a threat within a Power Five conference.