Saturday, December 23, 2023

Duke Secures Birmingham Bowl Victory Over Troy with Stout Defense and Clutch Kicking

BIRMINGHAM, AL – In a hard-fought battle at Protective Stadium, the Duke Blue Devils emerged victorious against the Troy Trojans, claiming a 17-10 win in the Birmingham Bowl on December 23, 2023. The game showcased a mix of defensive prowess, offensive resilience, and standout special teams performances.

Early Domination and Defensive Brilliance

Duke wasted no time asserting control, with graduate running back Jaylen Coleman punching in a one-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter. The Blue Devils set the tone early, ultimately holding Troy to a meager three points until late in the fourth quarter.

The defensive unit proved to be the backbone of Duke's success. Sophomore cornerback Chandler Rivers shone with three critical pass breakups, etching his name into the bowl record books. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Tre Freeman led the team with nine tackles, capping off a season where he surpassed the 100-tackle mark.

A standout moment came from senior defensive tackle Aeneas Peebles, who notched four tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, and 1.0 sack, disrupting Troy's offensive rhythm. The Blue Devils collectively recorded 10 pass breakups, marking a historic high for a bowl game in the program's history.

Offensive Contributions and Milestones

Graduate running back Jaylen Coleman, in his final appearance, contributed significantly with a crucial touchdown. Freshman quarterback Grayson Loftis showcased composure, going 19-of-29 for 183 yards despite facing a resilient Troy defense.

Senior wide receiver Jalon Calhoun etched his name alongside Duke great T.J. Rahming, tying for third all-time in program history with 253 career catches. Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Sahmir Hagans played a pivotal role, hauling in five receptions for 55 yards.

Special Teams Excellence

Sophomore kicker Todd Pelino delivered a clutch performance, converting three field goals (34-, 37-, and 45-yards), tying a Duke bowl record. His precision proved crucial in securing the win, matching the tenacity displayed by the defense throughout the game.

Graduate student punter Porter Wilson showcased his punting prowess, registering four punts for 188 yards, concluding the season with the best single-season punting average in program history (46.64).

Sealing the Victory

The game's defining moment came in the fourth quarter when graduate safety Jeremiah Lewis secured the win with his fifth career interception, putting an end to Troy's hopes of a comeback.

Duke's triumph not only marked its fifth consecutive bowl victory but also snapped Troy's 10-game winning streak and halted its five-game bowl winning streak. The Blue Devils closed the season with an 8-8 all-time bowl record, leaving an indelible mark on the Birmingham Bowl and capping off a memorable year for Duke football.