Missed opportunities, self-inflicted mistakes doom Duke

Boston College's transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec shines while the Blue Devils turn the ball over five times in a 26-6 loss in their home opener

Duke quarterback fumbles as he's sacked by Boston College's Deon Jones during Saturday's game in Durham (Nell Redmond/Pool Photo via AP)

The Duke football team didn’t get a win in its season-opening game at Notre Dame last Saturday, but it’s performance against the 10th-ranked Irish was encouraging.

Saturday, the Blue Devils lost again. This time it was a 26-6 setback to Boston College at Wallace Wade Stadium.

And this time, their performance was a huge disappointment.

Coach David Cutcliffe’s team hurt itself with penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities before the Eagles, playing their first game under new coach Jeff Hafley, broke the game open in the second half to drop Duke to 0-2.

Three thoughts

1. Just as they did last week against the Irish, the Blue Devils showed that they could move the ball effectively between the 20s. Their 351 total yards and 19 first downs were almost equal to the totals posted by BC. They even outrushed their opponent 134-84 while averaging better than 4.6 yards per carry. But once again, they sputtered when they got to the red zone and had trouble putting the ball in the end zone — mostly through their own self-inflicted mistakes.

2. Duke’s Chase Brice has gotten most of the preseason publicity, but it was the other transfer quarterback in the game that clearly helped his team more. Phil Jurkovec came to BC from Notre Dame and made an immediate splash in his first game at his new school. He threw for exactly 300 yards, going 17 for 23, with two touchdowns while the more heralded Brice — who was Trevor Lawrence’s backup at Clemson — was 23 of 42 for 217 yards and two interceptions.

3. The Blue Devils were their own worst enemy, turning the ball over five times. And while Duke only had four penalties, all were major ones that killed drives. In addition to Brice’s two picks, he also fumbled once, as did running back Deon Jackson and wide receiver Damond Philyaw-Johnson. Two games into the new season, Duke has already committed seven turnovers.

Number to know

3.5 — The number of sacks recorded by defensive end Victor Dimukeje, just missing one of the longest-standing marks in the Duke record book. Blaine Earon had four sacks against Georgia Tech all the way back in 1949. Dimekeje’s 3.5 were among the six the Blue Devils had on Jurkovec on Saturday. They also had nine tackles for losses.

They said it

“I need to know when to stop competing and take a sack instead of making it worse. If you’re moving downfield and you put the ball on the ground, your drive is over.”

— Duke quarterback Chase Brice

Player of the game

Defensive end Victor Dimukeje — Dimekeje was in the BC backfield the entire game. In addition to the 3.5 sacks, the 6-foot-3, 365-pound senior from Baltimore also had a tackle and a forced fumble to lead the Blue Devils defense.

Critical Thinking

Duke coach David Cutcliffe was hoping that the addition of Brice to the lineup would help pump some life into an offense that ranked 11th in the 14-team ACC in scoring offense last season. So far, though, it’s been more of the same for the Blue Devils. In two games, they have exactly two touchdowns, and the worst part is that it’s not always the opposing defenses that have been stopping them.

Clearly they have issues to work out, and Brice — who was a late arrival after graduating from Clemson in May — needs time to build some chemistry with his receivers. Originally, they would have gotten the opportunity to do that next week with an open date on the schedule. But because of Virginia’s postponed game at Virginia Tech last week, the schedule has been shuffled and Duke will have to travel to Charlottesville needing a win to keep its season from unraveling almost before it gets started.