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October 21, 2006

Duke's upset bid falls just short

When Duke went to the locker room trailing Miami 17-0 Saturday afternoon, it appeared that the Hurricanes were on their way to an anticlimactic win following a week of turmoil.

However, the Blue Devils put together a furious rally in the second half and ultimately had one final play from Miami's six yard line with a chance to win the game only to drop a 20-15 decision.

Trailing by five, Duke forced a Miami punt and took possession at its own 11-yard line with 1:35 remaining in the game.

With no timeouts, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis marshalled what nearly became a legendary drive. Duke's freshman signal caller completed passes to four different receivers, including a 39-yard strike to Jomar Wright as the Devils moved all the way to the Hurricanes' six yard line with just three seconds remaining.

Miami's Willie Cooper jumped in front of a slant route intended for Eron Riley in the end zone to seal the win for the Hurricanes, but not without a bizarre few seconds following Cooper's interception return.

Cooper slowed after he had returned the interception well into Duke territory and fell, losing the football as he hit the ground. Both teams streamed onto the field thinking the game had ended, but Duke's Raphael Chestnut scooped up the ball and ran all the way to the end zone for what the Devils hoped would be a miraculous game winning score.

The officials correctly blew the play dead though when Cooper fell, as replays confirmed the ground had caused the ball to squirt free.

The game certainly could have been ended differently if Duke had fared better in the first half.

On Duke's first possession, Lewis was intercepted by Miami's Kenny Phillips, the first of three big interceptions by Phillips on the afternoon.

That set up the Hurricanes with a short field, and quarterback Kyle Wright capitalized on it when he connected with Sam Shields on an 18-yard touchdown pass to put Miami up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.

The Hurricanes shut down Duke's offense for the entire first quarter, and held a 10-0 lead early in the second period when Jon Peattie converted a 21-yard field goal.

The pivotal point of the first half came two series later for Duke. Lewis teamed with Jomar Wright on a 54-yard pass over the middle of the field to get Duke out of the shadow of its own end zone, and the Devils continued moving on the strength of a pair of runs by Requan Boyette.

Facing a fourth-and-one at the Miami 31-yard line, Duke coach Ted Roof elected to go for the first down. Lewis again hit Wright on a slant route for an apparent first down, but Hurricane cornerback Chavez Grant stripped the ball free, allowing safety Lovon Ponder to pick it up at the 20-yard line and race all the way to the Duke 38-yard line.

From that point, Miami once again capitalized on good field position, as Wright found Shields again running free for a 26-yard scoring strike to make Wright's fumble doubly costly.

Duke didn't wilt though. The Devils caught a break early in the second half when a bad snap on a Miami punt attempt ended up out of the end zone for a safety, slicing the lead to 15 points.

Great defense kept the game tight even though Lewis threw a pair of third quarter interceptions.

Duke's John Talley had the biggest play when he intercepted Wright in the end zone as Miami was threatening to extend the lead to 24-2.

Though a Peattie 50-yard field goal pushed the lead to 18 points going into the fourth quarter, Duke's offense came to life in the closing 15 minutes.

Lewis excelled in the final quarter even after the three earlier interceptions, and a 15 play touchdown drive to open the fourth quarter ended when the freshman threw to Chestnut in the back left of the end zone to cut the lead to 20-9 with still more than 10 minutes remaining.

Duke's defense continued to turn up the heat with momentum swinging toward the Blue Devils. Miami went three and out after gaining only a yard on its ensuing possession, and a bad punt gave Duke great field position at the Miami 32 yard line.

It only took six plays for the Devils to slice the lead to 20-15. Justin Boyle started the drive with a pair of solid runs and Boyette ended it with a sterling seven yard score when he bounced off contact and dove into the end zone to send Wallace Wade Stadium into a frenzy.

Duke had one additional chance to win the game even before the exciting final series. A second consecutive three and out for the Miami offense gave Duke the ball at midfield.

On third and four from the Miami 29-yard line, Lewis lofted a pass into the end zone that Wright came within a whisker of catching, setting up fourth down.

Lewis' fourth down pass was deflected a couple of times and ultimately fell incomplete, but Duke's defense did the job one more time to set the stage for the final series.

Wright finished the game with 176 yards receiving on 10 catches, but the play he will probably have a difficult time forgetting is his second quarter fumble.

Duke did a decent job on the ground against a tough Miami defense, as Boyle and Boyette combined for 82 yards on 16 carries running behind an improving offensive line.

Even with his four interceptions, Lewis threw for 284 yards and played his best when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter.

The Blue Devils will return to the field next week in search of their first win of the season.

Vanderbilt visits Wallace Wade Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff.


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