A&M PICKS OFF DEVILS 52-48
In a New Year’s Eve offensive shootout, one of the few significant defensive plays of the game kept Duke’s bowl drought intact.
Toney Hurd’s 55-yard interception return with three minutes, 33 seconds left gave No. 20 Texas A&M its first lead and the Aggies held on to beat the No. 22 Blue Devils 52-48 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl before a crowd of 67,946 at the Georgia Dome.
Duke (10-4), which led by 21 points at halftime, remained without a bowl win since the 1960 season on a night when it appeared that elusive win would come its way.
Instead, Hurd picked off an Anthony Boone pass and sprinted to the end zone with the final touchdown of the game.
Boone completed 29 of 45 passes for 427 yards with three touchdowns as Duke’s offense churned out 661 total yards.
His ill-fated pass, though, meant Duke came up short.
“Anthony Boone had a great game,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Unfortunately he made a bad decision on that play that was returned for a touchdown.”
Boone said he shouldn’t have thrown the pass.
“It was a bad decision on my part,” Boone said. “I was supposed to check if they had a certain coverage. I just went ahead and ran a play that I shouldn’t have ran.”
Texas A&M (9-4) trailed the entire game until the final minutes. Quarterback Johnny Manziel’s play brought the Aggies back from their game-long deficit.
Likely playing his final college game before entering the NFL, Manziel completed 30 of 38 passes for 382 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran 11 times for 73 yards and one touchdown.
Boone nearly matched him throw for throw.
Boone completed four third-down passes on Duke’s first possession of the fourth quarter after the Aggies had cut the Blue Devils lead to 41-38. He punctuated the drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to David Reeves that put the Blue Devils ahead 48-38 with 6:46 to play.
But Manziel responded quickly, firing a 44-yard touchdown pass to Derel Walker.
But on Duke’s next possession, Boone made his first big mistake of the night. His pass to Johnell Barnes was a little behind him, allowing Hurd to pick it off and return it for a game-changing touchdown.
“It was an unfortunate play on my part,” Boone said. “it was an exciting and fun game. I hope we do better next time.”
Down 38-17 at halftime after Duke’s scintillating first two quarters, Texas A&M showed it had plenty of fight left.
Manziel keyed the Aggies comeback as they scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half.
Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Labhart on a play where it seemed half of Duke’s defense had a chance to sack him but didn’t.
Manziel completed four of five passes on the Aggies next drive before Tra Carson scampered 21 yards for a touchdown that left Duke up 38-31.
After a failed fourth down and a Ross Martin missed field goal marred Duke’s first two drives after halftime, the Blue Devils used Boone passes of 23 yards to Braxton Deaver and 33 to Johnell Barnes to reach the Aggies’ 3.
But an incomplete pass and two runs that netted a combined 1 yard meant Martin was called on for a 21-yard field goal that gave Duke a 41-31 lead.
Manziel struck again as the game entered the fourth quarter. He ran three yards for a touchdown that cut Duke’s lead to 41-38.
The near-miss means Duke will try again next season to finally win another bowl game.
Duke’s last bowl win came at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas way back on Jan. 2, 1961. The Blue Devils beat Arkansas 7-6 that day.
Since then, Duke lost the 1989 All-American Bowl (49-21 to Texas Tech), the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl (34-20 to Wisconsin) and the 2012 Belk Bowl (48-34 to Cincinnati).
Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who caught 12 passes for 163 yards, felt the Blue Devils played well enough to claim the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“It’s definitely devastating to hold a lead like that the whole game and pretty much control the game pretty much and to lose at the end,” Crowder said.
The Aggies entered the game 105th in the country in total defense (allowing 460.3 yards per game) and 88th in scoring defense (30.9) and 108th in rushing defense (221.3 yards per game).
Duke showed a nationwide audience why by moving the ball with authority and little resistance.
The Blue Devils scored on all six possessions in the first half, recording touchdowns on the first five. The only thing that stopped Duke’s offense on its final first-half possession was time.
Duke had a second-and-goal inside the Texas A&M 1 with four seconds left. Rather than gamble, Cutcliffe called on Ross Martin to kick the 18-yard field goal that put Duke up 38-17 at intermission.
While Duke’s defense was limiting the Aggies to one field goal on its first two possessions, Boone and the Blue Devils put up two touchdowns.
Snead caught an 11-yard touchdown pass to put Duke in front and Brandon Connette’s 3-yard touchdown run gave the Blue Devils a 14-3 lead.
When Boone scrambled 11 yards for a touchdown with 14:21 left in the second quarter, Duke had a surprising 21-3 lead.
Manziel finally got the Aggies into the end zone on their next drive when the fired a 23-yard scoring pass to Labhart. Texas A&M moved 75 yards in four plays on the drive, signaling that their offense was as potent as Duke’s.
Duke struck back when Boone and Crowder hooked up on a 59-yard touchdown pass before Manziel’s second touchdown pass to Labhart, this one from nine yards, left Duke with a 28-17 lead.
The Blue Devils used guile and trickery to extend their lead to three touchdowns at intermission.
Boone led Duke downfield on an 11-play drive in the waning minutes of the half. Twice Duke eschewed a punt to go for a first down on fourth-down plays. On the first attempt, Juwan Thompson broke loose for 18 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Duke 47.
On fourth-and-1 from the Aggies 26, Thompson fought hard to gain a yard and keep the drive going.
Snead’s 25-yard touchdown run on the next play gave Duke a 35-17 lead with 2:31 left until halftime.
Knowing his team would get the ball to start the second half, Cutcliffe called for an on-sides kick. Jack Willoughby executed well and Thompson recovered at the 50.
That allowed Duke to keep the ball the remainder of the half and tack on more points. Shaquille Powell’s eight-yard run on third-and-1 was followed by Boone’s 23-yard pass to Isaac Blakeney to the 1.
When Shaquille Powell was stopped short of the goal line, Duke had to settle for a Martin field goal and a 38-17 halftime lead.
|No. 20 TEXAS A&M 52, No. 22 DUKE 48|
Duke_Snead 11 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 8:50.
TAM_FG Lambo 45, 5:31.
Duke_Connette 3 run (Martin kick), 4:12.
Duke_Boone 11 run (Martin kick), 14:21.
TAM_Labhart 23 pass from Manziel (Lambo kick), 13:04.
Duke_Crowder 59 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 11:49.
TAM_Labhart 9 pass from Manziel (Lambo kick), 6:45.
Duke_Snead 25 run (Martin kick), 2:31.
Duke_FG Martin 18, :00.
TAM_Labhart 19 pass from Manziel (Lambo kick), 9:55.
TAM_Carson 21 run (Lambo kick), 5:05.
Duke_FG Martin 20, :43.
TAM_Manziel 3 run (Lambo kick), 12:48.
Duke_Reeves 21 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 6:46.
TAM_D.Walker 44 pass from Manziel (Lambo kick), 5:44.
TAM_Hurd Jr. 55 interception return (Lambo kick), 3:33.
|Time of Possession||35:02||24:58|
RUSHING_Duke, Snead 17-104, Thompson 11-92, Boone 5-27, Powell 2-7,
Connette 2-4. Texas A&M, Manziel 11-73, Malena 8-45,
T.Williams 4-23, Carson 4-21, Team 3-(minus 3).
PASSING_Duke, Boone 29-45-2-427. Texas A&M,
RECEIVING_Duke, Crowder 12-163, Deaver 6-116, Snead 3-21,
Braxton 3-17, Barnes 2-48, Blakeney 1-23, Reeves 1-21, Thompson 1-18.
Texas A&M, Labhart 7-76, D.Walker 6-113, Kennedy 5-52, Evans 4-72,
Gonzalez 3-18, Clear 2-38, Malena 1-6, J.Williams 1-6, T.Williams 1-1.