DURHAM, N.C. – Duke redshirt senior quarterback Sean Renfree completed 36-of-59 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns as the Blue Devils’ fourth-quarter comeback came up short in a 52-45 loss to Miami in the regular season finale at Wallace Wade Stadium. Sophomore wide receiver Jamison Crowder totaled 203 yards and two touchdowns while senior wide receiver Conner Vernon had 11 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
Renfree’s 59 pass attempts, 432 yards and four touchdown passes all marked career highs as the Scottsdale, Ariz., native recorded four touchdown passes for the fourth time in his career and second time in 2012. For the season, Crowder has 1,025 receiving yards while Vernon has 955. The duo’s 1,980 combined receiving yards is also a school record.
The Blue Devils (6-6, 3-5 ACC) continued to battle despite twice trailing by 21 points. Duke made it a seven-point contest twice, but could not come any closer as Miami (7-5, 5-3 ACC) responded within the next minute to go back in front by at least two scores.
Duke fell behind 14-0 midway through the first quarter before the Blue Devils’ offense found its rhythm, pulling within 14-10 with 8:57 left in the second period. Duke utilized a balanced effort from the running and passing game to set up a Ross Martin field goal while the Blue Devils’ first touchdown drive came mostly from the arm of Renfree. The veteran signal caller complete nine passes for 69 yards on the 81-yard drive to pull Duke within one score.
Miami added a pair of unanswered touchdowns to take a 28-10 lead into halftime and a Hurricane field goal to start the third quarter gave Miami its first 21-point lead of the game, 31-10. Duke responded with the first of two Renfree-to-Vernon touchdown passes to bring it back to a two touchdown game midway through the third quarter.
After benefitting primarily from the play of Renfree in previous scoring plays, Duke got help from the running game as freshman Jela Duncan broke off a 37-yard run up the middle. The second longest rush of the young running back’s career set up the 23-yard Renfree-to-Crowder strike into the end zone to pull the Blue Devils within seven, 31-24.
Duke’s valiant comeback was tempered again as the Hurricanes put up consecutive touchdowns in 1:28 to race back in front, 45-24, at the end of the third quarter.
Facing another 21-point deficit, the Blue Devils refused to give up. Duke got a huge defensive stop on fourth down from the one-yard line and 14 seconds later, Crowder covered 99 yards off a pass from Renfree. Deep from the Duke end zone, Renfree found a wide-open Crowder at the 35-yard line. The sophomore receiver ran untouched the remaining 65 yards to pull Duke within 14, 45-31. The play was the longest from scrimmage in Duke history, topping the previous mark – a 97-yard completion from Mike Brown to Clarkston Hines in 1989.
The outstanding senior day continued for Renfree as he led yet another scoring drive to make it a one score game, 45-38, with just under eight minutes to play in the game. Behind the strong running of Josh Snead, Renfree completed a pair of crucial passes, including a six-yard toss to Vernon in the left corner of the end zone on third down. Snead ate up 24 yards on the ground in the drive, including a 12-yard scamper that put Duke at Miami’s seven-yard line to set up the Renfree-to-Vernon touchdown.
Just like it had done all afternoon, Miami scored another touchdown 10 seconds later to make it a 52-38 contest. Duke redshirt sophomore Brandon Connette added his second rushing touchdown of the day with 2:32 remaining in the game, but Duke would not regain possession in the seven-point setback.