The Duke football team had a possible victory in their grasp, but one big mistake turned it into a Louisville win on a rainy Friday night.
Duke (3-4, 0-3 ACC) went on the road against the No. 7 team in the nation, and entered the game as a 35-point underdog. Louisville (5-1, 3-1 ACC) was going to take their week of rest and revenge after the loss to Clemson and run the Blue Devils out of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Or that’s the picture painted by seemingly everyone prior to kickoff. But David Cutcliffe’s team had other plans, and almost pulled off a huge upset.
Almost…as that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
The Duke defense is to be commended. They clamped down on the nation’s leading Heisman Trophy candidate – Lamar Jackson – keeping him to just 181 yards passing, 144 yards rushing and one touchdown each way.
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Compared to how other teams have fared against Jackson this season, that’s a win.
Duke’s offense struggled, but played a clean, tough game. A game probably good enough to win most weeks, even having scored only 14 points late into the 4th quarter. Duke controlled the clock (37 minutes to 23) and kept the Louisville offense off the field.
With redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones going up against a defense as aggressive as the Cardinals, things could have been much worse.
There were no turnovers by the Blue Devils, and only three penalties…but one of those penalties was the one that turned Duke’s hopes for a win into a surefire loss.
With just two minutes left on the clock and a 17-14 Cardinals lead, the Blue Devils held Louisville to a field goal attempt – an attempt that went wide left and breathed new life into Duke’s chances to stun one of the best teams in the country.
Laundry on the field. Roughing the kicker by Breon Borders. And that was that.
These are the kind of games Duke needs to learn how to win. The kind where one mistake can make all the difference, and the Blue Devils need to force the other team to make that mistake. This team played well enough for 58 minutes, and then let it slip away with a mental mistake.
Duke fans have to be proud and frustrated all at once. A chance to win a road game against a top ten opponent (which hasn’t happened since 1971), stripped away by a mistake rather than by being beaten.
It’s a tough loss to swallow, and with no conference wins yet this season, the Blue Devils have to look to bounce back against Georgia Tech in two weeks. One of the two teams will get their first ACC win of the season.