Duke opens to 2021 season on the road at in-state rival Charlotte. It’s the second straight year Duke has had a road game for the opener and third straight year the Blue Devils have been away from Wallace Wade Stadium to start. Duke opened at Notre Dame last year and played Alabama in Atlanta in 2019. That’s the longest stretch of non-home openers since the 2003-2005 Blue Devils opened at Virginia, Navy and ECU, respectively.
The Duke teams of 16 years ago lost the three straight road openers. This year’s Duke team will try to break the trend after starting the last two seasons with a loss.
This is the first time Charlotte has hosted a Power Five team and looks to get a win over a power conference team for the first time in school history. Duke blew out the 49ers at home last year, accounting for 19 percent of the Blue Devils’ points on the season in a 53-19 win.
Duke will be starting its fourth different quarterback in as many years as Gunnar Holmberg takes the reins of the offense. Ball security will be the name of the game after Duke led the nation in turnovers last season.
Mataeo Durant will be the man at running back after sharing time with Deon Jackson the last few seasons. Duke also has a deep and experienced group of receivers, led by Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun.
Jack Wohlabaugh returns at center after missing much of last season with injury.
On defense, Duke needs to find a pass rush after both starting ends departed for the NFL. Ben Frye moves outside, to the position he played in high school, and leads a young front four. Duke is also young in the middle with sophomore Dorian Mausi alongside veteran Shaka Heyward.
The Blue Devils boast a deep and experienced secondary.
According to media reports, Duke will be without starting defensive tackle Gary Smith and starting safety Nate Thompson for the opener. Smith is recovering from knee surgery. Thompson is reportedly in the COVID protocol.
Blue Devils wearing all white uniforms, blue helmets.
Duke calls tails. It's heads. Charlotte defers. Duke will start the season with the ball.
Five rushes two passes for Duke on the first drive, which stalls just past midfield. Blue Devils nearly pin Charlotte deep, but Da'Quan Johnson fell into the end zone with the ball.
Duke appeared to have Charlotte stopped on third down, but Cameron Dollar came down with the ball for a first after Duke's secondary tipped it. Next play, Chris Reynolds finds Grant DuBose for a 56-yard touchdown. Charlotte up 7-0.
Holmberg completed his first four passes for a total of five yards--everything has been horizontal. Went deep for Bobo but overthrew him badly.
Duke with two more horizontal passes that gain a total of seven yards. The Blue Devils seem to think they can break tackles and get loose outside. Instead, they're punting again.
Duke gets Jarett Garner wide open behind the defense, but he drops a sure touchdown pass. Bad snap on the next play and then a bad pass into traffic and Duke is punting again.
At the end of the first quarter, Charlotte has one big pass play, Duke has one big missed opportunity and several opportunities not attempted. Charlotte's Chris Reynolds is 5-of-6 for 97 yards. Holmberg is 6-of-9 for 22 yards.
J'Marick Woods breaks up a third down pass to Victor Tucker and Charlotte settles for a field goal. Up 10-0 on Duke with 10:22 to go in the half.
Duke with some extreme up tempo on the next drive, snapping with 25 to 31 seconds left on the clock. Jordan Waters steamrolls a defender at the sticks and takes it 43 yards for a score. Currently under review to see if he stayed in.
Ruling is confirmed. Duke pulls to within 10-7. 8:22 in the half.
Durant gains 58 yards on six straight rushes. After two other rushers gain 0 yards, Durant goes over the top for a five-yard score. He lost the ball on the way in but had already broken the plane. Duke leads, 14-10.
And the half ends with Duke up 14-10. Remarkable turnaround, thanks to up tempo and the running of Durant, who has 117 yards already.
Charlotte retakes the lead on the first play of the second half. Calvin Camp rushes 40 yards but steps out a half yard shy of the goal line. Reynolds plunged in for the score two plays later.
Duke had pressure on the QB on several plays but couldn't bring him down. Charlotte had four plays of 10+ yards on the drive.
Durant with a 23 yard catch and five yard run to get Duke to the goal line. Holmberg tries a keeper, fumbles into the end zone. Terrible call. Terrible execution. Charlotte ball on the 20.
Holmberg's protection fails on back-to-back drives--fourth down and third down. On the other end, Duke again pressures Reynolds but can't bring him down. Two untouched pass rushers flush Reynolds, who outruns them for a first. They're now reviewing it for targeting on Da'Quan Johnson. As we go to the fourth, with Charlotte up 17-14.
No targeting. Johnson survives.
Mataeo Durant goes around left end and takes it 59 yards to put Duke back on top, 21-17.
Jordan Moore in at quarterback and runs for 38 yards on his first snap. Holding penalty on his next snap sends Duke back to the Charlotte 43. Holmberg back in.
Fourth down at the 36, Duke brings in punt team. Ham missed badly from 52-53 at that end during warmups. So the decision isn't a shock.
Tucker with two huge catches over the middle on third downs and DuBose has another big play with circus catch and broken tackle to put Charlotte in the red zone. 4:04 left, looking for the go-ahead score.
DuBose takes it in for the score. 24-21 Charlotte, 2:59 left.
Duke called for delay of game before the first play of the drive.
Mataeo Durant sets Duke's single-game rushing record with a 53 yard burst up the middle. Blue Devils go up 28-24 with 1:44 left. Durant has 255 on the day.
After two long passes to Tucker put Charlotte in the red zone, Reynolds hits Byrd for the go-ahead score. 31-28 Charlotte, 33 seconds left.
Inexplicable play with 8 seconds left. Holmberg completes short to Calhoun over the middle, who runs horizontally and expires the clock. Plus Duke picks up a personal foul penalty. Refs clear the field ... There's 1 second left.
And now there are 2 seconds left.
Laterals work for awhile but eventually Durant is brought down, ball goes out of bounds. Duke loses. 31-28.