DURHAM, N.C. - Despite a strong outing from senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who completed 34-of-55 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns, the Blue Devils could not overcome an experienced Richmond squad, falling 24-16 to the Spiders in front of 33,311 fans at Wallace Wade Stadium, the highest attendance at a Duke home game since Nov. 3, 2001.
The Duke defense came out strong, forcing the Spiders to punt on their first possession. Richmond though took the early 7-0 lead four minutes into the first quarter after Jonathan Mayfield returned a blocked Blue Devil punt five yards for the touchdown.
Duke was able cut Richmond's lead to 7-2 with 4:56 remaining in the first quarter forcing the Spiders to punt deep in its own territory with the resulting snap sailing over the punter's head and out the back of the end zone for the safety.
After punting on its first two possessions, the Duke offense got into a rhythm, putting together a six-play, 36-yard drive highlighted by a 17-yard pass from Lewis to freshman wide receiver Conner Vernon. But the Blue Devils would miss an opportunity to cut further into the Richmond lead as junior Nick Maggio's 38-yard field goal attempt curved wide right.
With the momentum on its side, Richmond marched down the field and added another touchdown early in the second quarter. After converting on fourth-and-one inside the Duke 20, a two-yard touchdown run from Justin Forte capped the Spiders' 13-play, 80-yard drive and extended their lead to 14-2.
Facing a 12-point deficit, the Duke offense came alive on its next possession. Senior Re'quan Boyette returned the kickoff 25 yards and Lewis took over from there, gaining 17 yards on a completion to Boyette before hitting sophomore wide receiver Johnny Williams for a 54-yard touchdown pass. The Blue Devil possession covered 71 yards on four plays, while the touchdown reception was the first of Williams' career.
Duke would miss another opportunity to narrow the lead early in the second half. The offense methodically moved the ball down the field, but a second missed field goal on the night, this time from 36 yards out, ended the drive with the Blue Devils still trailing by five.
Both teams continued to battle through a scoreless third quarter, but the Spiders would strike again early in the fourth. Starting on its own 17, Richmond covered 83 yards on twelve plays, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run.
Still trailing midway through the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils' offense pushed across midfield with a 34-yard drive, but turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a fourth-and-seven attempt.
Richmond took advantage of the good field position, covering 27 yards in seven plays and hitting a 45-yard field goal to bring the score to 24-9 with 4:16 remaining.
Down 15 points with time running out, the Duke offense launched an efficient nine-play, 83-yard drive to keep the Blue Devils' hopes alive. Lewis converted on a fourth-and-14 attempt with a pass to wide receiver Tyree Watkins and finished off the drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Austin Kelly.
However, Duke failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, and Richmond ran out the remaining 2:13 on the clock to claim the 24-16 victory.
For the game, Richmond's Forte led all running backs with 69 yards on 16 carries. Spiders quarterback Eric Ward completed 12-of-23 passes for 143 yards.
Williams led a strong Duke receiving core with seven receptions for 115 yards, the second 100-yard game of his career. Kelly also had a solid night, catching seven passes for 80 yards. Linebacker Vincent Rey led Duke with 14 tackles, the third-highest single game total in Blue Devil history.
The Blue Devils outgained the Spiders by a 369-282 margin, but only accumulated 19 rushing yards, compared to 125 by Richmond.
Duke returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 12, as the Blue Devils travel to West Point to take on Army. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.
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