In a season that seemed so promising about a month ago turned bleak on Saturday afternoon, as the Duke football team ended their regular season with a loss at home to Miami, 52-45.
The Blue Devils are bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, but the season could have been so much more. Like win a game against a ranked opponent. Or some defensive stops. Or having better rushing games to take the pressure off of the quarterback and receivers.
They could not do that and finished the 2012 season losing four in a row and have not won since becoming bowl eligible. The Blue Devils are 6-6, just 3-5 in the ACC, which is fifth in the Coastal Division.
Senior quarterback Sean Renfree threw for a career-high 432 yards (36-of-59) and a career-high tying four touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough.
Miami led 28-10 at halftime and it looked as though Duke was in for another blowout loss. The offense kept coming up with plays, but the defense couldn’t hold down the Hurricanes. The two teams accounted for 1,229 total yards.
Miami’s freshman running back, Duke Johnson, rushed for a career-high 176 yards and three touchdowns. Duke, as a team, only rushed for 151 yards. Their leading rusher was Jela Duncan, who had 64 yards on six carries. 37 of those yards came on one play, which set up a Duke touchdown in the third quarter.
When Duke got back into the game, Renfree came up with big play after big play by connecting with his two favorite receivers, Jamison Crowder and Conner Vernon. On the first play after the defense stopped Miami on the one yard line in the fourth quarter, Renfree connected with Crowder for a 99 yard touchdown pass (he was not touched as he caught it at the 35 yard line). It is the longest play from scrimmage in Duke history.
After the defense forced Miami to punt, Renfree connected with Crowder for a 34 yard pass. That ended up setting up Vernon‘s six yard TD pass (it was one of Duke’s three 4th down conversions). But then the defense gave up one play, a 65 yard TD pass, which gave Miami some more breathing room.
Duke cut the deficit to seven points, which ended up being the final, but Ross Martin‘s onside kick went out-of-bounds and Miami ran out the clock for the victory.
Crowder finished the game with eight catches for 203 yards. His two TD passes were for 99 yards and 23 yards. Vernon finished with 11 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The two have combined for 1,980 receiving yards, which is a school record.
*With the win, Miami clinched a share of the Coastal Division title (though Georgia Tech is playing in the ACC Championship game).