DURHAM — Quentin Harris spent four years patiently waiting his turn to start at Duke. He wasn’t about to end his college career with six straight losses.
Harris led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, and the Blue Devils’ defense had nine sacks in a 27-17 victory over Miami on Saturday that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Deon Jackson ran 2 yards for the go-ahead TD one possession before Harris threw a 49-yard scoring pass to Jalon Calhoun, helping the Blue Devils (5-7, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) win a game played in a persistent downpour that made things tough on the offenses.
“That effort was about pride,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “I watched our defensive front literally twist, scratch, claw, anything they could to rush that quarterback. I watched our offense never say die.”
Harris — who redshirted his first season on campus, then spent the next three stuck behind future NFL starter Daniel Jones on the depth chart — had an early 24-yard scoring run, was 10 of 24 for 156 yards and rushed for 49 yards for Duke — a figure skewed by six sacks. His 18-yard pass to Calhoun to the Miami 5 set up Jackson’s score that made it 20-17 with 9:37 to play.
“It’s definitely great to end the regular season on a win, especially after we had a tough streak toward the end of the season,” Harris said. “Great to just kind of see the resiliency of our group and send the seniors out on a positive note.”
Miami replaced starting QB Jarren Williams with N’Kosi Perry for the next drive — a three-and-out that netted 1 yard — and the Blue Devils needed only four plays to take a two-score lead, with Harris hitting Calhoun down the left sideline.
They stopped Miami on a fourth down at the Duke 43 with 4:32 to play, then sealed it when Trevon McSwain sacked Perry and knocked the ball loose for Koby Quansah to recover at the Miami 26 with 2:17 to play.
Williams was 11 of 26 for 142 yards with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Burns and Cam’Ron Harris ran 8 yards for an early touchdown before he was hurt for the Hurricanes (6-6, 4-4), who closed the regular season with consecutive losses.
Miami: The Hurricanes are headed to a second-tier bowl but the lasting memory of Manny Diaz’s first season will be the numerous head-scratching losses. They lost to a last-place Georgia Tech, a seemingly inferior Florida International team — Diaz called that loss “unacceptable” earlier in the week — and now a Duke team that had been stuck in a five-game slide.
“I’m proud of our effort,” Diaz said. “However, our issues are obvious and it’s simply our ability to execute that gave us no chance to win this football game.”
Duke: At least the Blue Devils won’t have to carry a six-game losing streak into the offseason after losing close games (North Carolina, Wake Forest) and blowouts (Notre Dame, Syracuse) during a challenging 1½ months. The defense was dominant, and the offense did just enough at the right time to rally in the fourth quarter after being held to minus-6 yards on 13 offensive plays in the third.
“I’m not going to like the year,” Cutcliffe said, “but I’m going to like the finish.”
Williams and Perry combined to go 13 of 35 for 161 yards and had nearly as many sacks as completions. The yardage total was its second-worst of the season, surpassing only the 154 yards passing it had against Pittsburgh. “The thing that we’ve got to take a long examination of is, how can our passing game deteriorate in such a short amount of time?” Diaz said. “If there was one reason why, that reason would be easy to fix.”
Miami lost starting LG Navaughn Donaldson to a right leg injury late in the first quarter when Williams landed on his leg while being sacked by Tre Hornbuckle. Donaldson hopped off the field on his left foot.
Duke DE Chris Rumph II had 3½ of Duke’s sacks. … Miami ended the first quarter with its punter as its leading rusher, with Lou Hedley running 21 yards on a fake punt.
Miami: Awaits its bowl destination and opponent.
Duke: Waits for spring practice to start.