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Duke struggles in ACC opener, offense stagnant in 22-10 loss at Miami


MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — Duke coach David Cutcliffe expected and predicted that Miami would present the biggest challenge yet for his team this season.

He found no consolation in being right.

Duke's defense of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division championship opened with an offensive thud — and the Blue Devils' run of 12 straight regular-season victories is no more. Brad Kaaya threw two touchdown passes, Duke Johnson ran for 155 yards and Miami defeated Duke 22-10 on Saturday night.

"This is the best team we've played this year," Cutcliffe said. "They're an extremely talented team. They've got size, they've got strength, they've got speed."

And it was too much for Duke's offense, which managed only 264 yards — less than half of what the Blue Devils (4-1, 0-1) piled up against Miami a year ago — and converted just two of its 19 chances on third- and fourth-downs.

"Their defense made a lot of plays," said Duke quarterback Anthony Boone, who fell to 14-1 as a starter in regular-season games. "They were physical. They made more plays on defense than we made on offense."

The Hurricanes (3-2, 1-1) made a few on offense as well — one of them downright spectacular. Fourth down, 19 yards to go, a rainstorm pouring down early in the third quarter and Kaaya knew he was about to get clobbered from his blind side.

No problem.

He stepped up, found Herb Waters with a 28-yard touchdown pass, and Miami was on its way.

"I would have preferred to hold them to zero," Duke's Jeremy Cash said, "but they're on scholarship too."

PHOTO: Miami wide receiver Malcolm Lewis (9) is brought down by Duke safety DeVon Edwards (27) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Miami wide receiver Malcolm Lewis (9) is brought down by Duke safety DeVon Edwards (27) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Strong rain started to fall in the third quarter, so much that it was tough to see from one side of the field to the other — and tougher still for some to corral a wet football. A third-down pass from Kaaya skipped off the hands of tight end Clive Walford and deflected again off Duke safety Deondre Singleton — who nearly had an interception.

Miami took advantage of the second chance.

Electing to keep the offense on the field instead of trying a long field goal in the rain, Miami gave Kaaya a shot at the end zone on fourth down and he delivered, finding Waters on the night's signature play for a 16-7 lead.

"He made a great catch," Duke's Everett Edwards said.

Johnson continued his climb up Miami's career lists, becoming the third Hurricane to reach 4,000 all-purpose yards, plus passed Graig Cooper for the No. 5 spot on the school's all-time rushing list.

"The win is more important," Johnson said.

Shaquille Powell ran for 58 yards and a touchdown for Duke.

"Offensively, it was a tough day," Cutcliffe said. "To Miami's credit, they won a lot of the battles."

Boone completed 22 of 51 passes for 179 yards, with two interceptions. Duke managed only 85 yards on the ground, its lowest total since November 2012.

"We were accountable from the top down," Miami coach Al Golden said of his oft-maligned defense. "We had good leadership all week and they were determined not to let the season go that way."

Duke still had a chance at the lead entering the final 15 minutes. But on 3rd-and-7 from the Miami 45, a shotgun snap got away from Boone — a problem all night for Duke — and the drive stalled with a punt.

Ladarius Gunter intercepted a pass by Boone on the next Duke possession, setting up a drive that was culminated by Kaaya's second touchdown pass of the night, a 47-yarder to running back Joe Yearby.

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