Photo courtesy of Duke athletics
When one thinks about Duke athletics, it’s usually not football that comes to mind first. During the 2010s however, head coach David Cutcliffe brought the Blue Devils to football respectability.
On this day five years ago, Cutcliffe and Duke accomplished something it had not in 55 years — won a bowl game. The Blue Devils rallied past Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl with a 44-41 overtime victory.
Setting the Stage
After a 17-year hiatus, Duke was in a bowl for the fourth straight season as it arrived at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 26, 2015. The Blue Devils had let leads slip away in bowl games in each of the prior three seasons. Duke arrived with a record of 7-5.
Indiana was 6-6 and looking for its first bowl win since 1991 as the Hoosiers arrived for the Pinstripe Bowl. With time ticking away, it appeared the Hoosiers might get it.
Blue Devils Rally Late
Duke never led in the final quarter, but twice, it made the plays to draw even. After Indiana kicker Griffin Oakes knocked through a 27-yard field goal with more than 11 minutes to play, Shaun Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to tie the game at 34.
The Blue Devils forced a 3-and-out on the next Indiana drive, but Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk was stopped on 4th-and-1 in the red zone with six minutes to play. Indiana needed just five plays to go 82 yards for the lead as Nate Sudfield connected with Mitchell Paige for a 25-yard touchdown.
Down 41-34 with four minutes remaining, Sirk calmly marched Duke 78 yards for the tie. After converting a fourth down with a completion to Max McCaffrey with less than two minutes to go, Sirk would cap the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with just 41 seconds to go.
Indiana would march inside the Duke 40-yard-line, but Oakes’ 56-yard field goal attempt was no good as time expired. In overtime, Duke took the first possession.
The Blue Devils managed just seven yards, but Ross Martin’s 36-yard field goal put Duke in front, 44-41. It was up to the defense to win or extend the game.
On third down, Sudfield’s pass was incomplete and the pressure shifted to Oakes. His 38-yard field goal attempt sailed above the right upright and was ruled no good. For the first time in a bowl game since 1960, Duke prevailed.
Indiana tallied 667 yards of offense, but that was not enough. It was Duke however, that started strong.
Behind a 52-yard field goal from Martin and an 85-yard touchdown run by Wilson, the Blue Devils led 10-0 after a quarter. Sudfeld passed for 389 yards in the loss while Devine Redding added 227 yards on the ground for the Hoosiers.
After Sudfeld’s 27-yard touchdown to Luke Timian got Indiana on the board midway through the second quarter, Redding scored from 17 yards out to give the Hoosiers their first lead. Sirk answered with a 73-yard touchdown two plays later, but Oakes’ 45-yard field goal tied the game at 17 before the break.
In the third quarter, the teams alternated scores. Martin’s field goal was followed by Sudeld’s short touchdown pass to Nick Westbrook. After Sirk found Braxton Deaver for the 10-yard touchdown, Alex Rodriguez scored from 10 yards out to give the Hoosiers a 31-27 lead late in the third quarter.
Sirk passed for 163 yards in the win and rushed for a team-high 155 yards for Duke. Duke’s Jela Duncan and Wilson also eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. The two finished with 109 and 103 yards, respectively.
Five years later and Indiana is still waiting for its first bowl since 1991. The Hoosiers will look to end a 5-game bowl losing streak on Jan. 2 when they face Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl.
As for Duke, it went on to win bowl games in 2017 and 2018. During the 56 seasons from 1961 to 2016 however, Duke managed just one bowl win. It came in an overtime thriller on this day five years ago.