Duke football shocks No. 9 Clemson on national television in stunning rout

Duke football head coach Mike Elko and quarterback Riley Leonard (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke football head coach Mike Elko and quarterback Riley Leonard (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The Duke football program pulled off a massive upset against No. 9 Clemson. 

Things are not supposed to unfold this way for the Duke football program.

It’s Labor Day Weekend. Primetime kickoff. A Top-10 team on the opposing side of the field. And the final score reflected a beatdown.

Except it wasn’t the Blue Devils who were beatdown. It was the Blue Devils who gave the beating.

Mike Elko and Duke put the college football world on notice Monday night with its 28-7 thrashing against No. 9 Clemson in front of a national television audience despite a sloppy performance.

Duke, holding a 6-0 lead and all the momentum, put the Tigers right back into the game with a muffed punt early in the second quarter that resulted in a touchdown while false start penalties on 3rd downs continued to halt drives.

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The Blue Devils looked to take a lead going into halftime but a fumble from Jaquez Moore on the Clemson 26-yard line ended the threat.

However, Riley Leonard would take things into his own hands on the opening drive of the second half with a 44-yard touchdown run on 3rd & 3 as the Blue Devils would never relinquish the lead.

Leonard, launching an early bid as a Heisman Trophy contender, was 17-for-33 while throwing for 175 yards and rushing for 98 yards with a touchdown.

Clemson would find its footing offensively after halftime until it got inside the red zone.

Duke’s defense forced Clemson into a blocked field goal from the 13-yard line, fumble at the 7-yard line, and fumble at the 1-yard line with the Tigers still within six points, 13-7, of the lead.

The Blue Devils finally cashed in the final fumble for a touchdown and created breathing room as the decibel levels in Wallace Wade Stadium rose when Duke capped off the night with a 36-yard touchdown run from Jordan Waters.

Duke football creates program history in upset victory

The victory marks the first time Duke has defeated a Top-10 opponent since 1989, which also came against the Clemson Tigers, and it was the program’s 2nd-largest margin of victory over a Top-10 team since 1942 when the Blue Devils defeated No. 9 Colgate by 34-points.

Clemson neither punted or scored in the second half and its seven points were the fewest in a game against an unranked opponent since Dabo Swinney took over as head coach.

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The Blue Devils seem likely to be included in the Associated Press Top-25 Poll on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since 2018 and have sent a message to the rest of the ACC that it is a legitimate contender to win the conference this season.

Duke continues its 3-game homestand to begin the season when it hosts Lafayette on Saturday, September 9 (6:00p.m. ET).

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