Duke Football Shocks No. 9 Clemson, Capitalizes on Tigers
Duke shocks

Duke’s coach, Mike Elko, entered a new realm of success on Monday night.

In the 9-4 season opener, the Blue Devils made a historic start to their second season under Elko, defeating No. 9 Clemson 28-7 at Wallace Wade Stadium.

This victory marks the first over a top-10 team since 1989 when Steve Spurrier led the Blue Devils against Clemson. Duke managed to halt their unfortunate 28-game losing streak against top-10 competitors by outplaying the ACC champion Tigers in the game’s latter stages.

After trailing 7-6 at halftime, Duke rallied with consecutive touchdowns from Riley Leonard, Ja’Kiez Morre, and Jarden Waters, amassing 22 unanswered points.

Duke’s triumph was solidified as they totaled 204 rushing yards, showcasing a commendable average of 7.3 yards per attempt.

Three fundamental lessons from Duke’s achievement:

Opponents must still tread carefully against Elko’s formidable defense.

After gaining recognition as a defensive coordinator and earning a head coaching opportunity last year, Elko’s transformation was the key to Duke’s turnaround from a 9-4 season in the previous year.

Against Clemson, Duke’s defense limited the Tigers to just one touchdown and forced two turnovers. It shut down Clemson’s scoring opportunities in the red zone and helped Duke with crucial stops inside the 10-yard line on both occasions.

Duke’s suddenly strong secondary, bolstered by graduate transfers Miles Jones, Jeremiah Lewis, and Al Blades, restricted the Tigers to just 7.7 yards per completion. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei completed 27 of 43 passes for 209 yards, with only two touchdowns to show for it.

Clemson finished with 422 yards but struggled to find the end zone. Duke’s defense, which allowed an average of 22.1 points per game last season, is looking even better this time around.

Clemson had possession 13 times and managed only one touchdown. They failed to score any points on Duke’s side of the 10-yard line on three occasions, including two red-zone visits and a goal-line stand against Duke.

Duke’s victory over Clemson is a significant milestone, showcasing the team’s remarkable defensive prowess under Coach Elko’s leadership.

Riley Leonard is shining on the big stage.

Even after a breakout sophomore season just a year ago, Duke junior quarterback Riley Leonard finds himself under the spotlight alongside ACC quarterbacks Drake Maye of North Carolina, Jordan Travis of Florida State, and even Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei on Monday night at Clubbunk.

But it was on Monday night, under the national spotlight, that Leonard played a turnover-free game and turned the tide for the Blue Devils with his 44-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

A season ago, Duke’s starting quarterback, Gunnar Holmberg, ran for 98 yards on eight carries against Clemson. He played an efficient passing game, completing 17 of 33 passes for 175 yards.

It’s been close but still winning.

Clemson plays with the frenzy of talents before the nationally televised games. The circumstances were something the Blue Devils hadn’t encountered before.

It showed a vulnerability that threatened the Blue Devils’ chances of winning. Duke was called for seven pre-snap penalties – either a false start or an offside on defense.

Duke’s other mistake, a Jalon Calhoun punt return, gave Clemson’s second-quarter touchdown a short field that gave them a 7-6 lead.

But the Tigers turned the tide in the second half, turning the ball over three times, giving Duke a chance to capitalize.

Here are updates from the game:

Penny adds another TD: Duke 28, Clemson 7

Jarden Waters adds 36 yards and a touchdown to the right side, and Todd Pileggi’s PAT is good, adding another score for the Blue Devils and adding salt to the wound.

Kaed Kubenik interception

Clemson’s quarterback made another mistake. In Clemson’s 49, the desired pass for Will Shipley was handed over to Duke defender Dorien Mausey, who returned the ball to Duke, maintaining a fourth-quarter lead at 5:01.

Key Duke Penalty


Duke had filled Cad Clubbunk near the midfield at 4th and 7, putting them just 8 yards away from the Clemson QB shift. However, a targeting penalty on Cad Clubbunk, resulting in a 15-yard penalty, targeted Keim Dylan, resulted in a 15-yard penalty as a result of the targeting penalty.

But, since the game had officially ended on the sliding Clemson, it’s a Dead Ball Foul, meaning Clemson’s drive had come to an end. It was Duke’s ball, 1st and 10 at the Duke 31. Dillon was removed from the game.

More TD Runs: Duke 21, Clemson 7

beat Clemson
Duke Football

In the early part of the 4th quarter, with 10:33 remaining, Riley Leonard once again connected with Jalon Calhoun for a two-point conversion pass, extending the Blue Devils’ lead to 21-7.

Clemson Red Zone Struggles

The Tigers had the ball inside Duke’s 10-yard line twice in the 3rd quarter and came away empty both times, maintaining Duke’s 13-7 lead.

After Clemson’s first goal from the 1-yard line, Quarterback Cad Clubbunk was dropped for a loss of five yards by a false start penalty before a botched snap derailed their drive in the red zone.

Early in the 4th quarter, Clemson squandered another opportunity to score when they couldn’t convert a first and goal from Duke’s 7, as Jeremy Lewis tackled Clubbunk for a loss when he scrambled.

Leonard TD Run: Duke 13, Clemson 7

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard managed to escape a potential sack in the early stages of the 4th quarter and broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run with 12:40 left in the game, flipping the lead back in favor of the Blue Devils.

This drama unfolded when Duke faced 3rd-and-3. Clemson linebacker Barrett Carter had Leonard in his grasp in the backfield, but Duke’s junior quarterback wriggled free and found his way to the end zone, dashing to the right side.

Halftime Update

Duke’s defense has kept Clemson’s offense at bay, but the Blue Devils have been hindered by their own mistakes, trailing 7-6 at halftime.

Duke lost two fumbles in the first half, both playing crucial roles in the scoring. Jalon Calhoun mishandled a punt, giving Clemson a short field at the Duke 18, resulting in the Tigers’ only score, a Will Shipley 2-yard touchdown reception.

Blue Devils reached Clemson’s 26-yard line with an effective two-minute drill just before halftime, leaving 17 seconds on the clock. However, Jalon Moore got caught on a short run when Duke tried to set up a field goal attempt. Clemson recovered and secured a 1-point lead by halftime.

Duke outgained the Tigers 185 yards to 167 in the first two quarters, while Clemson QB Cad Clubbunk completed 14 of 20 passes for just 85 yards. Meanwhile, Duke’s Riley Leonard completed 12 of 24 passes for 146 yards during the same period.

Blue Devils also inflicted harm upon themselves with 15 yards in three penalties. All three penalties were false starts, all pointing to the snap. Duke’s other penalty, initially an offside call against RJ Oben, negated Clemson’s interception return completely. This penalty was enforced on Clemson’s possession, but it didn’t deter Duke from a turnover on downs.

Shipley TD Catch: Clemson 7, Duke 6

Clemson earned its first lead of the game with the help of the first turnover of the game when Cad Clubbunk found Will Shipley for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 10:09 remaining in the first half.

The Tigers’ scoring drive was set up when Duke punt returner Jalon Calhoun misplayed a fair catch attempt, and Duke found themselves at the Duke 18-yard line. Clemson had gone through four plays before Shipley’s touchdown catch, all in quick succession.

Pileggi FG: Duke 6, Clemson 0

The Blue Devils doubled their lead early in the second quarter when Todd Pileggi made a 42-yard field goal kick with 14:29 left until halftime.

Riley Leonard brought Duke within striking distance with a pass play that took them to the Clemson 25-yard line before setting up the scoring opportunity. On a 28-yard pass play, Leonard connected with Jalen Coleman, the Skimmers on the right side, which put the Blue Devils ahead 3-0.

Palino FG: Duke 3, Clemson 0

The Blue Devils got on the board with their second hostile takeover of the game when Todd Pileggi kicked a 22-yard field goal after Duke moved the ball to Clemson’s 5-yard line with 10 plays, 57 yards, drive that carried over to halftime.

Riley Leonard moved Duke closer to the Clemson 25-yard line and set up the scoring play by passing to Nicki Dalman (16 yards), Samir Higens (20 yards), and Jordan Moore (19 yards).

Leonard culminated the drive with a pass to Jalon Calhoun into the end zone, a short five-yard toss, which put Duke ahead 6-0.

Pre-Game Update

Duke is facing its toughest challenge of the season against Clemson without one of its top performers from the past season, as graduate student Jalen Coleman is not in uniform due to injury. Last season, a part of Duke’s rotation, Coleman ran for 480 yards and four touchdowns.

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By Areesh

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