Sunday, October 1, 2023

Duke's Comeback Bid Foiled by Notre Dame in 21-14 Nail-Biter

DURHAM – In a heart-pounding college football clash that played to the final whistle, No. 17 Duke went head-to-head with No. 11 Notre Dame at a raucous Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham. The game lived up to its top-25 billing, culminating in a thrilling finish that left spectators breathless. Duke, initially trailing 10-0 at halftime and 13-0 in the second half, mounted a remarkable comeback. Their persistence paid off as they took a 14-13 lead late in the game, fueled by a third-quarter touchdown from Jordan Waters and a fourth-quarter strike from Riley Leonard to Jordan Moore with just over nine minutes remaining.

However, the Fighting Irish, displaying their championship mettle, clawed back and orchestrated a game-winning drive. The turning point came on a crucial fourth-and-16 play when Notre Dame's quarterback, Sam Hartman, scrambled for 17 yards, keeping their hopes alive. Two plays later, Audric Estime broke free for a game-winning 30-yard touchdown rush with a mere 31 seconds left on the clock, stunning the Blue Devils with a final score of 21-14.

For Duke, it was a tough loss, ending their impressive six-game winning streak that had stretched back to last season. The Blue Devils now stand at 4-1, while the Fighting Irish improved to 5-1. 

Quarterback Riley Leonard played a pivotal role, accounting for 134 passing yards and leading the ground attack with 88 rushing yards on 18 carries. Duke's ground game, dominant throughout the contest, outgained Notre Dame on the turf, accumulating 189 yards compared to the Irish's 159.

The game marked a historic moment with the largest home crowd at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium since November 11, 1989, as 40,768 fans filled the stands. Notably, Jordan Waters continued his scoring streak with a rushing touchdown in five consecutive games, a feat not achieved by a Blue Devil since Riley Leonard in 2022. Jordan Moore contributed significantly with four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown, bringing his receiving touchdown tally to eight.

On the defensive side, redshirt sophomore linebacker Tre Freeman recorded a career-high 13 tackles, including half a sack and a tackle for loss. Graduate safety Jeremiah Lewis also impressed with more than 10 tackles for the second time in his career. Notably, Duke's defense prevented Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman from finding the end zone through the air for the first time this season.

Despite the heart-wrenching loss, Duke head coach Mike Elko acknowledged the fantastic atmosphere created by the Duke community, especially on a day that began with ESPN College GameDay's first-ever visit to the campus. Elko commended the resilience and character of his team while expressing regret about missed opportunities and the critical fourth-and-16 play that swung the game in Notre Dame's favor.

With an open week ahead, Duke now looks forward to preparing for their next challenge against NC State at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, with the kickoff time yet to be announced. As they regroup and analyze their performance, the Blue Devils remain confident in their abilities and determined to bounce back stronger in the coming weeks.