Jaw-Dropping Upset: Duke Shocks Clemson in Epic Showdown!

Xavier Roger
Jaw-Dropping Upset: Duke Shocks Clemson in Epic Showdown!

In a Labor Day Night spectacle on Monday in Durham, Duke outperformed the 9th-ranked Clemson, amassing an impressive 22-0 score in the second half and delivering a resounding 28-7 defeat to the Tigers.

The Blue Devils (1-0) capitalized on three turnovers by the Tigers (0-1) in the latter half, marking a historic victory for the program – their first triumph over an AP top-10 team since 1989. This remarkable feat also snapped Clemson’s remarkable 12-game winning streak in ACC play.

Junior quarterback Riley Leonard displayed exceptional prowess by throwing for 175 yards and rushing for an impressive 98 yards, culminating in an electrifying 44-yard touchdown run. This remarkable dual-threat performance saw Leonard evading multiple tackles, granting Duke the lead at 13-7 during the initial possession of the second half. However, it was Duke’s unyielding defense that proved pivotal, holding Clemson scoreless throughout the second half after trailing 7-6 at halftime.

Senior safety Jaylen Stinson played a decisive role, amassing nine tackles and a critical pass breakup. His pivotal moment came with a 55-yard fumble return in the third quarter, effectively turning the tide and halting a protracted Clemson drive. Junior Jaquez Moore capitalized on Stinson’s fumble recovery with a nine-yard touchdown sprint, extending Duke’s lead to 21-7 with 10:33 remaining in the fourth quarter. The game was ultimately sealed by a thunderous 36-yard touchdown run courtesy of graduate Jordan Waters with 3:15 left on the clock.

This win marked Duke’s first victory against a ranked team since their 2016 triumph over No. 15 North Carolina, with their previous victory against a top-10 team dating back to 1989 when they beat No. 7 Clemson, 21-17, in Durham.

How the Victory Unfolded

In the opening quarter, sophomore Todd Pelino displayed his mettle by securing a 3-0 lead for the Blue Devils through a 22-yard field goal.
The native of Cornelius, N.C., extended Duke’s lead to 6-0 early in the second quarter with another successful field goal attempt, this time from 42 yards out.
Although the Blue Devils forced a punt during Clemson’s subsequent drive, a mishandled return led to Clemson regaining possession at the Duke 18-yard line. Five plays later, the Tigers found the end zone from two yards out, marking their sole score of the night.
During the opening drive of the second half, Leonard’s breathtaking 44-yard touchdown run propelled Duke to a 13-7 lead with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.
The final frame was dominated by the Blue Devils, who crossed the goal line twice with Moore and Waters executing remarkable nine and 36-yard touchdown runs, respectively, ultimately securing the victory.

Noteworthy Highlights

  • Duke’s record in Monday night games improved to 3-1, marking their first Monday victory since January 2, 1961, when they triumphed over Arkansas (7-6) in the Cotton Bowl.
  • Under the leadership of head coach Mike Elko, the Blue Devils extended their undefeated streak to 8-0 when scoring first.
    Monday’s commanding 21-point victory stood as Duke’s most significant triumph over a ranked opponent since their 34-0 victory against No. 9 Colgate in 1942.
  • The Blue Devil offensive line showcased its resilience, having not yielded a single sack in two consecutive matches, tracing back to the 2022 Military Bowl against UCF.
  • Duke’s defense displayed a remarkable performance by preventing Clemson from recording any sacks since November 2, 2019, when they faced Wofford.
  • Several players contributed significantly to the team’s success, with sophomore Chandler Rivers, graduate Jeremiah Lewis, and redshirt sophomore Tre Freeman each tallying a team-best 11 tackles.
  • Redshirt freshman Wesley Williams showcased his prowess by blocking two field goal attempts during the game, becoming the first Duke player to achieve this feat since November 3, 2018, when Joe Giles-Harris blocked a kick against Miami.
  • Graduate Porter Wilson played a pivotal role in the game, punting five times for 268 yards (53.6 yards per punt) and matching his career-long punt of 70 yards in the fourth quarter.


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