No. 24 Duke (7-1, 3-1 ACC)
What worked: Duke’s offense had a banner day, racking up 438 yards. Yes, Pitt may have out-gained the Blue Devils overall, with 594 yards, but Duke averaged more yards per play (7.6, compared to the Panthers’ 6.7).
Anthony Boone was nearly flawless: 23-for-31 (74.2 percent) for 266 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. He also rushed for 47 yards on seven carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run in the first overtime. Only three of Boone’s throws could be classified as “inaccurate,” and two came on fade routes to Johnell Barnes in the corner of the end zone when the timing wasn’t quite right.
Wide receiver Jamison Crowder had his best game of the year: nine receptions, 165 yards and two touchdowns. He beat freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox like a drum in the first half, with five catches (on five targets) for 111 yards and two touchdowns of 39 and 45 yards. Pitt switched redshirt junior Lafayette Pitts on Crowder in the second half.
The offense was only flagged for two penalties—one hold on a perimeter block and one false start.
What needs work: There will be plenty to critique on the defensive film. The Blue Devils had only missed 34 tackles on the year coming into this game—they were well over double digits trying to haul down running back James Conner, who ran the ball 38 times for 263 yards, both career highs. Conner had 89 yards on the first two drives alone. Every member of the secondary tried and failed to bring him down at some point (while Pitt’s offensive line kept Duke’s defensive line on blocks often).
“I was disappointed, and our players were, too,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. He is a big guy, and he’s hard to hit up there in his wheelhouse where he is so strong. But you can’t go throwing at people’s ankles. We just didn’t tackle well. We had a lot of opportunities to make some lost yardage plays. We had some opportunities to keep people from making first downs, and we didn’t accomplish that. We can play better. We will play better than that.”
What’s next: A trip to Syracuse (3-6, 1-4 ACC) with a 12:30 kickoff.
Syracuse was the slump-buster for N.C. State, as the Wolfpack finally broke coach Dave Doeren’s 0-for-12 streak in ACC play with a 24-17 win in the Carrier Dome Saturday. Self-inflicted mistakes doomed the Orange: true freshman quarterback A.J. Long threw two interceptions, one of which was returned 82 yards for the go-ahead touchdown by the Wolfpack. Long also fumbled twice, and N.C. State recovered the second in the fourth quarter. That turnover set up the game’s final touchdown. To make matters worse, Long took eight sacks, which also speaks to the quality of his offensive line.
Injuries are mounting for the Orange, while victories remain elusive. At this point, with games remaining against Duke, Pittsburgh and Boston College, chances that Syracuse (3-6, 1-4 in the ACC) makes a bowl are slim to none.
Looking for a bright spot? Kicker Cole Murphy is 11-for-13 on the year and has made 50-yard attempts in back-to-back weeks.