The Irish rolled up 534 yards of total offense but it wasn’t enough, surrendering a whopping 498 to the previously offensively challenged Duke Blue Devils. The visitors added a kick return touchdown and forced three Irish turnovers en route to a 38-35 victory at Notre Dame Stadium.
Blue Devils kicker A.J. Reed sealed Notre Dame’s fate with a point-blank, 19-yard field goal with 1:24 remaining. Without a timeout after needing to use two of their three allotted to combat Duke’s final march, Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s offense managed just 18 yards on five plays, the final a 4th-and-3 pass thrown well behind the intended receiver by quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Notre Dame had previously used a timeout on the fourth play of the second half to avoid a penalty for having 12 men on the field.
“We're moving too many guys in and out and what happens when you run in and out of the game, you’re calling it from the sideline, but there’s only so much you can do,” said Kelly. “You (the coaches) then have to echo that going into the game. Poor communication going into the game results in having 12 guys on the field.”
Notre Dame bounced back from a 28-21 halftime deficit to take a 35-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter but could not hold off the game Blue Devils.
Battered over the first 30 minutes, Notre Dame’s defense stiffened after the break, keeping the visiting Blue Devils off the scoreboard until the 6:47 mark of the fourth quarter when Duke receiver Anthony Nash authored a 64-yard catch-and-run down the visitors sidelines to tie the score at 35.
A short kickoff return thereafter pinned Notre Dame back to its own 15-yard line on the ensuing drive, one that ended after just three plays and a Kizer interception at his own 45-yard line.
Duke scored 10 snaps later as Reed split the uprights and Notre Dame’s downward spiral reached critical mass.
“We tend to make a mistake and let teams back into the game,” said Kelly.
The Irish lead 14-0 after their first two possessions prior to Duke striking back with a 96-yard kickoff return for a score midway through the first quarter. The Blue Devils outscored the Irish in the first half 28-7 after the game’s opening six minutes.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Daniel Jones out-played Kizer, completing 24 of 32 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns against one interception. Kizer finished with 381 passing yards with two scores and the aforementioned crucial interception late, plus a lost fumble.
“Below standard. It’s not acceptable, his play,” said Kelly of Kizer.
The game marked the 19th time in 26 opportunities that Notre Dame lost under Kelly after trailing at the break.
Notre Dame fell to 1-3 for the first time since 2010, Kelly's first season in South Bend. Duke improved to 2-2, registering its first win over an FBS foe in the process.