Defense Leads Devils Over Vanderbilt, 10-7

NASHVILLE, TENN. – A last second effort by Vanderbilt was thwarted as the Blue Devils held on to down the Commodores in a hard fought defensive contest 10-7 in Vanderbilt Stadium giving Duke their fourth win of the season.

Chris Rwabukamba couldn't have picked a better moment to make his first career interception. With 46 seconds left Mackenzi Adams heaved up a jump ball down the sideline between Sean Walker and Rwabukamba, with the sophomore cornerback out jumping the Vanderbilt wide receiver at the Duke 1-yard line for his first career interception and preserving the Blue Devils first road win of the season.

The Duke defense pressured the Commodore offense all game forcing three turnovers, two interceptions and one fumble sacking Adams four times and blocking a punt.

Vincent Rey led the way with eight tackles and one pass breakup. Michael Tauiliili chipped in the seven plus an interception. Ayanga Okpokowuruk added two sacks with Clifford Respress and Glenn Williams each picking up one.

Thaddeus Lewis paced the Duke offense completing 21-of-36 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target on the day was Eron Riley who hauled in nine balls for 83 yards. Johnny Williams chipped in with 4-for-39 and Tony Jackson grabbed 3-for-74 and a touchdown.

The Duke offense controlled the clock for over 31 minutes of the game running nine more plays despite being outgained 291-to-250.

On Vanderbilt's first possession Michael Tauiliili intercepted Adams on the third play from scrimmage. Tauiliili stepped in front of the receiver for his second interception of the season and the fifth of his career. The senior linebacker also recorded a tackle on the opening drive.

The Blue Devils defense held strong on the next Vanderbilt possession. Williams came on a safety blitz on third and one from the Commodores 48 sacking Adams for an 8-yard loss. Rey was in on two tackles and Marcus Jones assisted on one.

Duke began to move the football on their third drive of the game. Jay Hollingsworth broke a 24-yard run to the outside that was followed by a play-action wide-receiver screen to Riley for 9 yards to the Duke 46. Zack Asack then entered the game on a third and one picking up three yards for the first down. The drive stalled once the Blue Devils entered Vanderbilt Territory. Kevin Jones was able to pin the Commodores at their own 13-yard line.

Following the 31-yard punt, the Commodores moved the football all the way to the Duke 9-yard line, but came up empty handed as Bryant Hahnfeldt missed a 34-yard field goal wide left. The previous play Respress shed off the Vandy offensive lineman to record his second sack of the season bringing Adams down for a 7-yard loss. Making stops for the Blue Devils on the drive were Tauiliili, Greg Akinbiyi, Adrian Aye-Darko, Okpokowuruk, Jones, Kinney Rucker, and Respress. Joe Surgan attempted a 50-yard field goal midway through the second quarter that missed wide right. On the drive Lewis completed passes to Riley, Williams and Varner.

After the fourth offensive series for the Commodores without getting a first down, the Blue Devils punched it into the end zone for the game's first score. Lewis completed 6-of-7 passes, four in a row, for 64 yards finding Tony Jackson out of the backfield on a wheel route for the 22-yard score. The score was the first of Jackson's career. Catching passes on the drive were Tielor Robinson (1), Williams (2), Varner (1) and Jackson (2). The Duke scoring drive went 60-yards in eight plays coming with 54 seconds left in the half.

The Commodores, not willing to take a knee, tried to move the football down the field with under a minute remaining in the half, but two incomplete passes and four rush yards brought the Vanderbilt punting unit onto the field. Brett Upson's punt was blocked by Charles Robinson, with a handful of other Blue Devils swarming to the punter. The blocked kick was recovered by Eddie Morgan at the Vandy 13. A fumble by Lewis on first down and a delay of game penalty moved the Blue Devils back to the 25-yard line. Nick Maggio left his 43-yard field goal try short with Blue Devils going into the locker room up 7-0.

With 5:13 left in the third Maggio increased the Duke lead to 10 on a 42-yard field goal. The Blue Devils first possession of the second half stalled at their 47, but Vanderbilt's Jamie Graham fumbled the football on the punt return giving the Blue Devils the ball on the Vanderbilt 15. Tauiliili forced the fumble and long snapper Chris Shannon recovered. Lewis was hit on third down, losing the football and his helmet, but the junior quarterback was able to crawl back on top of the football at the Commodore 24 to preserve the field goal try.

Okpokowuruk picked up his second sack of the game sending the Vanderbilt offense to the sideline once again. On second down-and-one from the Blue Devils own 41 yard line, Lewis found Jackson on a screen pass that the sophomore halfback turned up the field for 38 yards. Two plays later Lewis completed a quick 12-yard slant to Riley putting the ball at the Vanderbilt 4. Pressure off the end from Chris Marve reached Lewis who fumbled the football. T.J. Greenstone recovered for the Commodores at the Duke nine.

Trailing 10-0 Vanderbilt finally found the end zone with 13:20 left in the fourth on an Adams to Walker 79-yard touchdown pass deep down the middle of the field needing only four plays on the 91-yard scoring drive.

The Commodores had a chance to tie the game at 10 with 7:16 left, but Bryant Hahnfeldt missed his second field goal of the game, this time a 43-yard try that sailed wide right. Behind the arm of Adams Vanderbilt moved the football 61 yards to the Duke 26 before the Blue Devil's defense held forcing three consecutive incomplete passes.

With 4:25 left the Commodores used all four downs turning the ball back over to the Blue Devils. Respress brought down Adams for a 4-yard loss at the Vanderbilt 11 on first down. A second down run gained no yards followed by Adams completing a pass to Jared Hawkins for eight yards on third down. A fourth down pass down the sideline to George Smith was broken up by Jabari Marshall giving the Blue Devils the ball at the Vanderbilt 19.

An offensive pass interference call and a delay of game moved the Blue Devils back to the Vanderbilt 41 and out of field goal range forcing Duke to punt with 2:09 left. But the defense came up big once again as Rwabukamba intercepted Adams at the 1-yard line as Duke held on for the victory.


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