Just when it looked like Duke was about to lose its grip on Saturday’s game against Baylor, the Blue Devils found a way.
Baylor quarterback Zach Smith dropped back to pass and tried to throw it to one of his receivers. But the ball found Duke linebacker Ben Humphreys. With no one in front of him, Humphreys walked into the end zone. The touchdown extended Duke’s lead 31-20 with 11:31 left in a game the Blue Devils eventually won 34-20 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“It was probably the fastest play of my life,” Humphreys said. “But by the time I caught it, I was in the end zone, I looked up and was like, ‘oh, I scored a touchdown in college football.’ ”
With some key defensive stops down the stretch, including a fumble recovery, Duke (3-0) held on to its lead over Baylor (0-3).
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Duke used a balanced attack against Baylor, but its running game proved the difference. It accounted for three of its four touchdowns.
Senior Shaun Wilson led the way with 176 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Redshirt freshman Brittain Brown added 86 yards on 18 carries. He also scored a touchdown and had 71 receiving yards. Sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones was under pressure for the majority of the game. He completed 20 of his 35 pass attempts for 184 yards, and threw one interception. He was also sacked five times.
Duke might have led by more, but it left many points on the board, including an interception in the end zone late in the second quarter, and a missed 32-yard field goal.
Baylor scored the game’s first points.
Duke’s Wilson and Jones failed to connect on a handoff on the game’s first possession, and Baylor recovered the football at Duke’s 39.
A penalty brought the ball back 5 yards. But two plays later, Baylor’s Smith threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Denzel Mims on a deep post with 14:28 left in the first quarter.
Duke answered back and tied the score on its next drive, with a touchdown of its own. It came on a 50-yard run by Wilson, who juked one defender and ran up the middle untouched.
Early in the second quarter, Brown ran 34 yards for a Duke touchdown. He broke three tackles on his way to the end zone.
On Duke’s final possession of the half, a chop-block penalty negated a 1-yard touchdown run by Jones, and pushed the Blue Devils back 15 yards.
Jones threw an interception in the end zone on the very next play. Duke still led at the half 14-7.
The second half started out much like the first half. After one team scored the other team answered back. Duke extended its lead 24-14 with a field goal late in the third quarter.
But Baylor quarterback Smith threw a screen pass to wide receiver Chris Platt who ran 73 yards for a touchdown. Baylor kicker Connor Martin missed the extra point, but the touchdown brought the score to 24-20 before the end of the third quarter.
Duke came up empty on its next possession and was forced to punt.
That’s when Humphreys came up with the interception return for a touchdown and sealed the game. It was Duke’s third interception of the game.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who celebrated his 63rd birthday Saturday, seemed pleased with his team’s win. He said liked the way the defense had played.
“Our coverage is aggressive, our front has been relentless,” he said. “We’ve chased the ball, so you’re seeing better and better and better cohesive 11-man defense.”
After his press conference, Cutcliffe walked out of the room with his family, and found a friend, who told him happy birthday.
He swung his arms in the air and started dancing and singing to James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing.”