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Duke ended the first half of its Independence Bowl matchup Thursday against Temple with a 27-21 deficit before outscoring the Owls 35-0 in the second half as the Blue Devils won their third consecutive bowl game.
The offense set a number of records in the 56-27 win increase head coach David Cutcliffe’s Independence Bowl win total to four games. Redshirt junior quarterback Daniel Jones threw a career-high five touchdown passes, setting the Duke bowl game record, also an Indy Bowl record. Jones’ six total TDs set the Duke bowl and Independence Bowl game records as well. His 85-yard pass to senior wide receiver T.J. Rahming in the third quarter is longest completion in Duke bowl history. Rahming’s 240 receiving yards surpassed Jamison Crowder’s 163 versus Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl for the Blue Devil bowl record. The 240 yards are the most in Independence Bowl history and Rahming’s 12 catches tied the bowl record.
FIRST EARLY QB
Duke has had a number of players drafted after exhausting their eligibility, but Daniel Jones looks like he will be the first Blue Devils quarterback to leave early for the professional ranks to be drafted. If, as expected, Jones makes himself eligible for the draft after his redshirt junior season, he’s expected to be one of the top 3 quarterbacks selected this April. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Jones as the second-highest rated draft eligible quarterback behind Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.
Jones is not the only player with a decision to make now that the season is over. Linebacker Joe Giles-Harris was a highly considered NFL draft prospect, although he missed the last few games with a serious knee injury that may cause him to return for his fifth year.
Cornerback Mark Gilbert was in the same boat as Giles-Harris before dislocating a hip in the season’s second game. Cutcliffe will also evaluate a coaching staff that suffered through a second midseason slump and make potential moves, although his assistants will certainly have suitors of their own from other programs.
Texas Tech is the No. 1-ranked defense in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced stats, and the Red Raiders forced Duke’s No. 2 offense into numerous offensive miscues and uncomfortable shots before the Blue Devils survived the neutral-court showdown of top 15 teams, 69-58, on Dec. 20 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Despite hitting just 38 percent of its shots, Duke relied on its own defensive prowess and pressure to hold the Red Raiders to just 29 points per half. The Blue Devils suffocated Texas Tech down the stretch, holding them without a basket over the final 6 minutes, 25 seconds. Duke ended the contest on a 20-3 run to break open a tight battle between the Top 15 foes.
NO. 1 AGAIN
Duke started the season ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press and has gone 3-1 against top 12 opponents. The one loss came against then No. 3 Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational championship game Nov. 21. After Kansas fell to Bobby Hurley-coached Arizona State on Dec. 22, the Blue Devils jumped from No. 2 over the Jayhawks back into the top spot. In the USA Today Coaches Poll, ACC rival Virginia leapfrogged Duke to move up to No. 1 by two points in the voting. The Cavaliers and Blue Devils will see each other for the first time Saturday, Jan. 19, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a highly anticipated matchup. The rematch is set for Saturday, Feb. 9, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
ANOTHER LONG BREAK
Following a 10-day break between games for Duke over exam time, the Blue Devils then played two games on Dec. 18 and 20 before taking another break for the holidays. That span lasts 16 days until Jan. 5 when Duke hosts Clemson at Cameron in their ACC opener.
ACC PLAY TO START
Now that almost all of Duke’s nonconference games are over (there’s one more matchup against St. John’s on Feb. 2), the Blue Devils can prepare for ACC play. The level of competition always ratchets up another notch or two when conference games begin, and Duke takes on two top 10 opponents in the first two weeks of ACC play.
Saturday, Jan. 12 will see the Blue Devils head down to Tallahassee to take on ninth-ranked Florida State and then the game against Virginia. Sprinkled in are games against Clemson and Syracuse (Jan. 14) at home and at Wake Forest (Jan. 8).
3-POINT STRUGGLES CONTINUE
The Blue Devils ended the game against Texas Tech hitting just 15 percent of their shots from beyond the arc and the team is now shooting just 32.4 percent from the outside after 12 games. The only regular rotation guys to hit over 35 percent from 3-point range are Jack White and Alex O’Connell, as the starters are making only 31 perimeter of their perimeter shots.