Nov 12, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Elko looks on during the first half against Virginia Tech at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt hosts Duke as both aim for strong finishes

Duke and Pitt have bigger visions of how this season can turn out.

The teams play Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh with second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division possibly at stake.

But at this point, despite what both coaches say, what both teams are really playing for is the best placement for bowl season.

Pittsburgh (6-4, 3-3 ACC), winner of consecutive games for the first time since September, is gearing up for its home finale after becoming bowl eligible last week at Virginia. The Panthers won the ACC last season.

“We’re not worried about being bowl eligible,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “That was not our goal going in. We figured we’d get there. We want to be undefeated in November (and that means) going 1-0 against Duke.”

In its first year under coach Mike Elko, Duke (7-3, 4-2) is enjoying its best season since 2015 — the last time it won four conference games.

“We started this thing to become the best football team we could be this year, and not just to become a bowl-eligible football team,” Elko said. “Now it is figuring out how to get eight (wins).”

This is Duke’s first seven-win regular season since 2018. Elko is the first coach of the Blue Devils with seven wins in his first season since Fred Goldsmith’s 8-4 mark in 1994.

Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda has reached the 100-yard rushing mark in seven games this season. Yet the Panthers have been ordinary on offense the past couple of games, benefitting from two defensive touchdowns last Saturday against Virginia and going the last three quarters without reaching the end zone.

“We have to score more points on offense,” Narduzzi said.

The Panthers might get more traction with center Bub Means back on the field. He played last week for the first time after a seven-game absence because of an injury.

Duke’s defense stood strong against the run in its victory last week against Virginia Tech, holding the Hokies under 105 rushing yards. Duke is 6-0 this season when its run defense is that good.

“The biggest thing was we controlled the line of scrimmage,” Elko said.

Riley Leonard is the second quarterback in Duke history with 10-plus rushing and passing touchdowns in the same season.

“Confidence to me is the greatest thing in all of sports,” Leonard said.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Jalon Calhoun (5) makes a touchdown  during the first half against Virginia Tech at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Leonard fuels Duke past reeling Virginia Tech

Riley Leonard threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and Duke’s defense dominated after an early blunder in a 24-7 victory against visiting Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon in Durham, N.C.

Leonard completed 19 of 31 passes for 262 yards with an interception.

Duke (7-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), which hadn’t played a home game in nearly a month, stayed in contention for the ACC’s Coastal Division title pending results later in the day.

Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Wells was 16-for-28 for 177 yards and a touchdown, but the Hokies (2-8, 1-6) lost their seventh game in a row. They remained winless in six road games.

Virginia Tech was held to 281 yards of total offense and 13 first downs. The Hokies had 104 rushing yards.

Duke’s Jalon Calhoun was the game’s leading receiver with 94 yards on five catches, while teammate Jontavis Robertson picked up 81 yards on five receptions. Running back Jordan Waters gained 61 yards on 15 carries.

The Hokies scored on their second snap of the game after Wells connected with Da’Wain Lofton for a 53-yard touchdown. Lofton ended up the team’s top receiver with 75 yards on three catches.

Duke got on the board on Todd Pelino’s 25-yard field goal.

Leonard passed 24 yards to Nicky Dalmolin for a go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter.

Both teams missed long field goals in the final minute of the first half.

Leonard rushed for a 5-yard score for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season midway through the third quarter. That capped an 11-play, 62-yard drive.

Leonard threw a 6-yards pass Robertson for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Duke won for just the second time in the last seven meetings with Virginia Tech.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard (13) runs with the football for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Proud Duke aims to extend Virginia Tech losing streak

A special season is shaping up for Duke, and Virginia Tech will try to spoil that on Saturday when the teams meet in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at Durham, N.C.

“There are not a lot of teams in November with something to play for,” Duke coach Mike Elko said.

The Blue Devils (6-3, 3-2) are bowl eligible for the first time since 2018. They remain in contention to win the ACC’s Coastal Division, but they must win the rest of their games and receive help to move ahead of North Carolina.

Duke already has twice as many wins than last season.

The Hokies (2-7, 1-5) have lost six games in a row and won’t be able to reach the .500 mark, although they hope to gain some traction Saturday under first-year coach Brent Pry.

Virginia Tech squandered an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech last week.

“I don’t think it’s dread,” Pry said. “I don’t know that we’re as confident as we need to be in those situations. And that goes back to me.”

Duke will play a home game for the first time since an Oct. 15 loss to North Carolina. Since then, the Blue Devils have won twice.

“Now it’s important for us to go finish it the right way,” Elko said.

Dual-threat quarterback Riley Leonard has dinged opposing defenses repeatedly. He has produced enough on the ground — 577 yards — to boost the Blue Devils to six games with more than 200 rushing yards this season.

Duke last week lost right guard Jacob Monk to a lower-leg injury that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, putting a dent in the offensive line.

The Hokies, meanwhile, are 0-4 in road games this year.

“Our effort is tremendous. The self-inflicted wounds need to stop,” Pry said. “The margin for error is really small. You just can’t do those things and expect to win the game.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; East Hartford, Connecticut, USA; Boston College Eagles quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) walks off the field after a play against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec (knee) out vs. Duke

Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec will miss Friday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference game against visiting Duke due to a knee injury, ESPN reported.

Jurkovec injured his right knee during last Saturday’s 13-3 loss to UConn. He might miss multiple games due to the injury.

Jurkovec has completed 59.5 percent of his passes this season while compiling 1,711 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Emmett Morehead will make his first career start in place of Jurkovec. Morehead completed 9 of 18 passes for 104 yards and one interception in relief against UConn.

Overall, Morehead is 21-of-39 passing for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception this season.

Boston College (2-6, 1-4 ACC) has lost three straight games and has been outscored 87-21 during the stretch. Duke is 5-3 overall and 2-2 in ACC play.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard (13) celebrates with wide receiver Malik Bowen-Sims (18) after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Duke heads to Boston College with bowl eligibility in reach

When Boston College hosts Duke to resume Atlantic Coast Conference play on Friday in Chestnut Hill, Mass., one team will hope to stay on its current trajectory and the other will try to reverse course entirely.

Fresh off a bye, Duke (5-3, 2-2 ACC) is looking to build upon its 45-21 win at Miami from Oct. 22. The Blue Devils’ two prior games were three-point losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

First-year coach Mike Elko’s team has been a surprise, as Duke had five wins in 2020 and 2021 combined.

Now, bowl eligibility is one win away.

“Let’s go get greedy in November,” Elko said, recalling his postgame speech at Miami. “Let’s see what we can really get done.”

Senior wide receiver Eli Pancol (“probably” out for the season, leg) and redshirt junior kicker Charlie Ham (personal reasons) won’t play this week.

Elko’s team should be energized and focused when Duke plays in Chestnut Hill for the first time since 2011. Still, one bye week doesn’t cure everything.

“I told the kids, ‘You’ll feel 100 percent sometime around February,’” Elko said.

Sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard rushed for three touchdowns as Duke piled up at least 200 rushing yards for the fifth time. It turned Miami over eight times and pitched shutouts in the second and fourth quarters.

BC (2-6, 1-4) looks to curb a three-game skid after falling 13-3 last Saturday at UConn, its first-ever loss to the Huskies and first to any New England opponent since 1978.

The Eagles totaled more yards (335) than their previous two games, but an opening touchdown drive by UConn, five turnovers and the loss of quarterback Phil Jurkovec to a lower-body injury proved to spell their downfall.

“I need to do a better job, we need to play better, and our coaches need to coach better,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said. “We don’t have much time because we’re playing Friday.”

Jurkovec didn’t practice on Monday. Redshirt freshman Emmett Morehead threw for 104 yards following Jurkovec’s injury.

“We had a bunch of guys that didn’t practice (to start the short week), but I know he’s working hard to get back,” Hafley said.

Injuries have especially hurt BC’s offensive line. Redshirt junior Jack Conley has played every game, doing so at four different positions.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils running back Terry Moore (23) runs with the ball while North Carolina Tar Heels defensive lineman Jahvaree Ritzie (5) tries to tackle him during the first half at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

With newfound energy, Duke takes on Miami

After already eclipsing its win total from last season, Duke is clearly showing improvement.

But the Blue Devils are hungry for more, and they’ll look to continue boosting their stock on Saturday when they visit Miami for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown.

Duke (4-3, 1-2 ACC) finished last season with just three wins against nine losses. Former Texas A&M defensive coordinator and first-year head coach Mike Elko has already lit a fire under the Blue Devils, and it was apparent in their game against North Carolina last Saturday.

Duke nearly knocked off UNC, but the Tar Heels scored the go-ahead touchdown with 16 seconds left, winning the game 38-35. Despite the loss, the Blue Devils still showed a lot of fight.

“Couldn’t be more proud with the way we battled,” Elko said. “We knew we were going to have to. We knew it was going to be that kind of game where we were just going to have to keep trying to make plays to keep up with them.”

Miami’s situation is different considering it entered the season as Coastal Division favorites and with top-10 expectations in the national polls.

A three-game losing streak shattered the latter, and a home loss to North Carolina two weeks ago put a huge dent in Miami’s plan to take the Coastal.

However, Miami snapped their losing skid last week with a 20-14 road win over Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes led 20-0 before the Hokies finally scored in the fourth quarter.

Miami coach Mario Cristobal raved about how his team has overcome injuries to several starters, including running back Henry Parrish Jr., wide receivers Key’Shawn Smith, Michael Redding III and Xavier Restrepo, and linebacker Waynmon Steed Jr.

In addition, star tight end Will Mallory left the Virginia Tech game due to a possible concussion.

“To be on the road and still find a way to win, those guys in there deserve all the credit,” Cristobal said of his players. “They deserve all the credit. They deserve the praise for it.”

The Canes will rely heavily on quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who struggled earlier this season. He is now on a roll, though, averaging 419 passing yards over his past two contests.

Van Dyke’s top target is currently Colbie Young, who had nine catches for 110 yards and one touchdown against the Hokies. Running back Jaylan Knighton could also be a factor on Saturday.

Duke sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard is having a breakout season. He is completing 66.0 percent of his passes and thrown for nine touchdowns against four interceptions. He has also rushed for a team-high 420 yards and five TDs.

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) throws a pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Top ACC passers clash as Duke hosts North Carolina

Duke coach Mike Elko is making his first venture into the long-standing rivalry with visiting North Carolina.

It turns out there’s quite a bit at stake for both Atlantic Coast Conference teams Saturday night when the Tar Heels travel the 10 miles to visit Durham, N.C.

“They certainly understand the significance of this game and the significance of this game to our fan base, our community, our alumni,” Elko said of his players. “We talked a lot about what the energy and emotion is going to be like Saturday night and making sure we handle that the right way.”

Duke (4-2, 1-1) suffered its first league defeat last week in a 23-20 overtime setback at Georgia Tech. That left North Carolina (5-1, 2-0) as the only team in the ACC’s Coastal Division without a conference loss.

“This will be an exciting week,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said. “Duke week always is.”

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is second in the ACC in completion percentage at 69.4 percent, followed by Duke’s Riley Leonard at 65.9.

“We’ve got to find a way to get stops,” Elko said. “That is going to involve containing (Maye) and not allowing him to get outside the pocket and create plays with his feet.”

North Carolina’s defense received considerable criticism in the opening weeks of the season. But they beat Virginia Tech 41-10 on Oct. 1 and last week beat held Miami to 42 rushing yards in a 27-24 victory.

“We’ve said we’ve got to be great at something,” Brown said, though Miami gained 496 yards passing.

The Blue Devils have noticed that the points aren’t piling up as often on North Carolina’s defense.

“They are a much-improved defense over the last two weeks,” Elko said. “We have focused a lot of our attention on what they’ve become the last two weeks. I think they’ve become a lot more physical.”

The Tar Heels will be without defensive tackle Ray Vohasek and safety Don Chapman because of injuries for the second week in a row.

Duke has won its first three home games, but the Blue Devils haven’t been 4-0 at Wallace Wade Stadium since 2014.

North Carolina has won three in a row in the rivalry and lead the all-time series 63-41-4. The teams play annually for the Victory Bell, which is kept by the winner until the next meeting.

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Jordan Moore (8) runs with the ball against Virginia Cavaliers Jaylon Baker cornerback (26) during the first half at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Leonard’s 3 TDs spark Duke past Virginia

Riley Leonard ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for another as Duke rolled past visiting Virginia 38-17 on an often-rainy Saturday night in Durham, N.C.

The Blue Devils (4-1, 1-0 ACC), who were playing in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener, eclipsed last year’s win total under first-year coach Mike Elko. It was Duke’s first conference victory since Oct. 10, 2020, a span of 13 consecutive league losses.

Virginia (2-3, 0-2) received a passing touchdown and a rushing score from quarterback Brennan Armstrong, but it has lost all three road games this season. The Cavaliers managed just 295 yards of total offense.

Leonard threw for 129 yards by completing 18 of 24 passes, and he ran for another 59. Teammate Jaylen Coleman was the game’s top rusher with 97 yards on 19 carries.

Duke built a 28-7 lead by scoring on its first possession of the second half on Leonard’s 1-yard run. After a goal-line stand punctuated by a sack resulted in a Virginia field goal, the Blue Devils put it away in the first minute of the fourth quarter on Jaquez Moore’s 59-yard run.

Jalon Calhoun caught Leonard’s 19-yard pass for the first points midway through the first quarter.

After Ryan Smith partially blocked a Virginia punt, the Blue Devils needed nine plays to go 58 yards, capped by Leonard’s 2-yard run.

Duke recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Blue Devils turned that into a 21-0 lead with Jordan Waters leaping into the end zone from 1 yard out on the 41-yard drive.

Virginia got on the board by driving 83 yards late in the first half, with Armstrong’s 11-yard pass to Perris Jones providing the points.

Armstrong finished 19-for-37 for 202 yards, with an interception.

Duke snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series with Virginia.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Elko reacts during first half against the North Carolina A&T Aggies at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

First-year coaches clash when Duke hosts Virginia

Duke will try to snap a seven-game losing streak to Virginia in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest on Saturday night in Durham, N.C.

The Cavaliers (2-2, 0-1 ACC) have not lost to the Blue Devils (3-1, 0-0) since 2014 and won last season’s meeting 48-0 behind 528 yards of offense and four takeaways.

Duke limped to a 3-9 finish last season, but is off to a much better start this season under first-year coach Mike Elko. The Blue Devils are coming off their first loss of the season though, a 35-27 setback at unbeaten Kansas last Saturday.

Virginia has alternated wins and losses so far, including last Friday’s 22-20 defeat at Syracuse.

The programs are led by first-year head coaches with experience in the ACC. Elko was the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest from 2014-16, while UVA’s Tony Elliott coached the Clemson offense from 2015-21.

“We have crossed paths a lot over the years,” Elko said. “… They are an exceptionally talented offense. I know it hasn’t completely clicked for them like they would like yet, but they have a lot of weapons.”

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong has more interceptions (four) than touchdown passes (three) this season after throwing 31 TDs and 10 picks last season. Perris Jones has rushed for 273 yards (5.5 per carry) and Keytaon Thompson has 26 catches for 290 yards.

“Defensively, I think (Duke is) one of the most improved defenses in the country,” Elko said. “They are doing a really good job with their scheme … and the kids are playing really fast and physical.”

Linebacker Nick Jackson, the Cavaliers’ leading tackler, will miss the first half Saturday after a targeting penalty against Syracuse.

Without him, Virginia will have its hands full with Duke quarterback Riley Leonard. He leads the ACC in completion percentage (71.3), ranks second in passing yards (1,047) and is one of three Blue Devils with more than 200 yards on the ground.

The Cavaliers hurt themselves with 12 penalties and two missed field goals against Syracuse.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re putting precision and technique with the effort and we’re not just going out there trying to have sweat equity,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to have achievement and not just activity.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Duke, Kansas collide in rare football game of significance

It has almost everything you can ask for in a Duke-Kansas showdown.

Two teams on the rise with undefeated records.

And this time, it’s a football game.

“They’re playing with some inspiration,” Kansas coach Lance Leipold said of the Jayhawks, who had 23 votes in the Top 25 poll to check in at No. 34 among vote-getters.

It was the first time since 2009 the Jayhawks’ football team and Top 25 poll went hand-in-hand.

Both teams hold 3-0 marks, and Duke received two votes in the coaches’ poll.

“We know we have a lot of work to do to get this thing ultimately where we want it to go,” Duke coach Mike Elko said. “We certainly appreciate the buzz that is out there about what we are doing. But we know we are a work in progress and we’re a group that has got to continue to work and continue to grind.”

Last year, Duke pulled out a 52-33 home victory against Kansas. The Blue Devils didn’t win again for the rest of the season. Duke has matched its 2021 win total.

For Kansas, the Jayhawks have exceeded their two-win total from a year ago. It’s the team’s first 3-0 start since 2009 and already Leipold is being linked to big-name jobs that are — or could potentially become — open.

“You can see things are starting to swing momentum-wise for us. I see a lot of resiliency in this group,” Leipold said. “The biggest thing is: How are we going to handle it? There is still a lot of season to be played.”

The Jayhawks have scored at least 48 points in each game this season, albeit using overtime to climb past that mark at West Virginia.

Much of that has come from quarterback Jalon Daniels, who accounted for five touchdowns in last week’s win at Houston. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for two.

“The big picture for what he did for this team was really remarkable,” Leipold said.

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard had a similar impact to Daniels on Saturday with two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns against North Carolina A&T.

Duke has relied on strong starts to games this season, outscoring its three foes by a combined 45-0 in the first quarters of games.

“We talk about controlling ourselves and how we come out of the locker room and not come out of the locker room trying to figure out what the game level is going to be like,” Elko said. “We just come out of the locker room playing at a standard that meets us.”

Receiver Jordan Moore of Duke converted from quarterback to receiver in the preseason. He has caught a touchdown pass in every game this year.

This will be the final nonconference game of the season for both teams.

–Field Level Media