Jamison Crowder. He listens well to his coaches.SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Say this for Duke star
With Syracuse pinned at its own goal line and getting ready to punt early in the fourth quarter of a tie game, Duke's coaches advised Crowder to be aggressive on the return.
He was, racing 52 yards for the touchdown that gave Duke the lead for good, and the No. 22 Blue Devils rallied past the Orange 27-10 on Saturday.
"Fortunately, we were able to get that spark in the fourth quarter," Crowder said. "It came late, but we were able to take the lead and get the win."
Crowder's return gave Duke a 17-10 lead with 12:45 to play and was a devastating turn for the inspired Orange, who had played the Blue Devils even for three quarters.
Anthony Boone threw two touchdowns to Issac Blakeney, including a 54-yarder midway through the fourth quarter, and Ross Martin kicked two field goals for Duke (8-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Boone is now 18-1 as a starter in the regular season for Duke, which won its fourth straight and stayed on target to reach the ACC championship game. The Blue Devils entered the game averaging 35.7 points and 422 yards that was almost evenly balanced between the pass and run. They finished with 259 yards total, just 98 on the ground against a defense that also batted down five of Boone's throws.
"Their defense was really physical," said Boone, who finished 15 of 33 for 161 yards and two TDs passing with just his fourth interception of the season. "Their front did a good job stopping our bread and butter, which is the run game."
Syracuse (3-7, 1-5 ACC) lost for the seventh time in eight games and with only two games left in the regular season lost a chance to reach six wins and play in the postseason for the fourth time in five years. The Orange finished the season 1-5 at home, its worst record in the Carrier Dome since posting a 1-6 mark under Greg Robinson in 2007.
"It hurts. It's a difficult situation cause that's one of those goals we wanted to come back and reach," Orange coach Scott Shafer said. "But we didn't, so what are you going to do, cry over spilt milk? You adjust and you overcome. We'll be fine."
Senior Day in the Carrier Dome looked promising as the Orange defense stifled Duke at almost every turn until the fourth quarter, when the Blue Devils erupted for two touchdowns and a field goal in 5:32.
The injury-riddled Orange had 12 players out, including quarterbacks Terrel Hunt and AJ Long, three offensive linemen, and middle linebacker Marqez Hodge. Standout left tackle Sean Hickey limped to the bench early in the second quarter with the score tied 3-3 but returned in the second half.
Redshirt freshman Austin Wilson made his second career start, but fourth-string sophomore Mitch Kimble kept the Orange in the game. Kimble finished 6 of 13 for 37 yards passing and gained 42 yards on 10 carries and scored his first career touchdown.
The Blue Devils, who beat Pitt last week in double overtime, had seven three-and-outs in a game that featured 16 punts.
The Syracuse offense came alive in the third behind Kimble, who did not play last year, played only a few snaps late against Wake Forest three weeks ago, and had never completed a pass in college.
Seemingly unfazed by the moment and with the Carrier Dome crowd roaring, Kimble drove the Orange 67 yards in nine plays in 4:23 to tie the game.
Freshman Ervin Philips gained 17 yards on a pitch left and Kimble followed with an 8-yard run up the middle. After a near fumble on a handoff that set up a third-and-6, Kimble foiled an all-out Duke blitz with a 19-yard completion to Jarrod West, who was in single coverage along the left sideline.
After Philips gained 3 yards, Kimble scored on an 8-yard keeper over right tackle to knot the game at 10-10.
Syracuse was pinned deep in its own territory by a booming punt by Will Monday that was downed at the Syracuse 1-yard line in the last minute of the third quarter, and that tilt in field position eventually bit the Orange.
After Syracuse went three-and-out, Syracuse's Brandon Reddish intercepted Boone at the Syracuse 2. When the Orange couldn't gain a first down, Crowder struck, returning Riley Dixon's punt untouched for the decisive score.
"I knew coming in looking at the tape that we were going to be in a battle with their defense," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "They made us play. Our offense wasn't working, but it found a way to make plays."