Duke hangs close but can’t finish in loss at Notre Dame

Quarterback Chase Brice played well in his Duke debut, but it wasn't enough to put the Blue Devils over the top against the Irish

Duke’s Darrell Harding Jr. is tackled by a Notre Dame’s Nick McCloud during the Irish's 27-13 win Saturday in South Bend. (Photo courtesy of The ACC)

Duke looked much better than the 12th-best team in the ACC, outperforming its preseason poll ranking but still falling to Notre Dame, 27-13, in South Bend on Saturday.

The Blue Devils took an early lead, but trouble in the red zone kept them from building a substantial margin. The No. 10 Irish outscored Duke 10-0 in the fourth quarter to pull away and win their first conference game in school history.

Three thoughts


1. Duke took threes instead of sevens in the first half, getting deep inside the red zone only to settle for field goals. That allowed the Irish to take the lead on a touchdown that was aided by a risky fake punt deep in their own territory. Upsets aren’t built upon kicks. They have a foundation of touchdowns.

2. Notre Dame took another risk in the second half after Duke turned the ball over on a Jalon Calhoun fumble in Irish territory. Faced with fourth and one from the 26, Notre Dame went for it and took it into the end zone to go up two scores.

3. The combination of new quarterback Chase Brice and new playcaller David Cutcliffe seemed to click on offense. Brice moved the team up and down the field, passing for 259 yards. The offensive line struggled, particularly left tackle Casey Holman, who was beaten badly twice by Isaiah Foskey. Brice was sacked three times in the game, and the Irish hit him eight times.

Number to Know

3 for 17— Duke’s experience on defense was supposed to be a strength, but three of the biggest names on that side of the ball picked up costly penalties. Corner Mark Gilbert was flagged 15 yards for a facemask, moving the ball from the 37 to the 22 on a drive where Notre Dame later scored. Ends Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje each picked up offsides flags on drives that led to a field goal and touchdown, respectively. That’s three penalties leading to 17 points for players who should know better.

They Said It

“It’s week one. There’s still plenty of time left. That was the No. 10 team.”

— Chris Rumph II

Player of the Game

Chase Brice, Duke quarterback — The Clemson transfer brought leadership, stability and playmaking talent to the quarterback spot. His day wasn’t perfect, but he did enough to put Duke in a position to win, passing 20-of-37 for 259 yards, rushing for a touchdown and avoiding turnovers.

Critical thinking

Cutcliffe’s strategy seemed to be to take Notre Dame into deep water, under the impression that the Blue Devils were in better shape. He admitted as much in a halftime interview, pointing out that Duke’s offense had run 10 more plays than the Irish. “Let’s see what happens in the fourth quarter.”

What happened was Notre Dame was able to keep swimming while Duke sunk. The Irish seemed to overpower the Blue Devils on both sides of the ball. Duke defenders were going down with cramps, while the Irish marched to a pair of game-clinching scores.