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Duke earns overtime win over Indiana

2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl hinges on missed field goal in thrilling game at Yankee Stadium
PinstripeBowl.com

The 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl ended with a finish reminiscent of last season's final moments at Yankee Stadium.

For the second consecutive year, the teams needed overtime to settle the contest, which was once again decided by a field goal. Duke ended its bowl game slump and came out on top of Indiana, 44-41.

The 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl ended with a finish reminiscent of last season's final moments at Yankee Stadium.

For the second consecutive year, the teams needed overtime to settle the contest, which was once again decided by a field goal. Duke ended its bowl game slump and came out on top of Indiana, 44-41.

This was the fourth straight season that the Blue Devils earned a trip to a bowl game after losing each of its postseason opportunities under head coach David Cutcliffe in the final moments of the game.

"Our team had a lot of heart. Our team had a lot of good leadership," Cutcliffe said following the win. "It wasn't all perfect tonight, but there was a will, a strong will, to prepare, a strong will to continue competing even when we fell behind in the fourth quarter."

"I think it was critical that we believed we could come out and pull this game out. If not the fourth quarter, then overtime."

Duke's final-second fate was decided by an overtime field goal attempt off the foot of Indiana's first-team Big Ten kicker Griffin Oakes that sailed just outside the uprights.

The kick was so close to sneaking through for three points that the Indiana players struggled to accept their fate and sat in disbelief on the sideline as Oakes pleaded his case with the officials.

The victory was the first win for the Blue Devils in a bowl game since 1961.

Those coming to Yankee Stadium expecting a high-scoring affair between two teams with superb offenses and subpar defenses did not leave disappointed. The teams broke eight different offensive Pinstripe Bowl records and combined for 1,203 yards of total offense, including 651 combined rushing yards.

In place of injured Indiana running back Jordan Howard, Devine Redding led all rushers with 227 yards on 35 carries, setting records for both Indiana and the Pinstripe Bowl. Duke had three players rush for more than 100 yards, including quarterback Thomas Sirk, who totaled the most for the Blue Devils with 155 yards.

Both teams showed a lot of vulnerability in stopping the ground game, and both coaches stuck to that strategy. Redding rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. Duke running back Shaun Wilson and Sirk each broke touchdown runs of 85 and 73 yards, respectively. The teams combined for more than 500 yards rushing before the start of the fourth quarter.

But it takes more than a bad opposing defense for a team to put up these types of gaudy numbers on the ground.

"We have a good [offensive] line situation, good tight end group," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "We are going to keep that going. I think this is the first time in school history we had two thousand-yard rushers."

All three of Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld's touchdown passes were thrown to receivers covered by Duke cornerback Devon Edwards.

Sudfeld found Mitchell Paige all alone in the back of the end zone to give the Hoosiers a 41-34 lead late in the fourth quarter. Paige found himself wide open after Edwards and the entire left side of Duke's secondary abandoned their coverage to pursue Sudfeld when it looked as though he would scramble.

Edwards was also flagged for three pass interference penalties, two of which set up touchdown runs for Indiana.

Duke and Indiana both showed glimpses of defensive stability, particularly in the first half. The Blue Devils held the Hoosiers without a point in the first quarter all while stopping two fourth-down conversion attempts and intercepting Sudfeld twice.

Indiana can attribute both of Duke's first-half touchdowns to just two plays on the ground. The Hoosiers also prevented the Blue Devils from running a single play from the red zone until a field goal attempt early in the third quarter.

"That kind of game is what you're seeing more and more in college football," Cutcliffe said. "Sometimes I look at the game and I wonder what in the world you do to play defense … It's very difficult."

Indiana could not have found worse spots to make their mistakes and commit turnovers. In the first half, Sudfeld was unable to capitalize on great opportunities with both interceptions coming after plays that gained more than 20 yards for the Hoosiers.

Indiana also lost the football on a punt return around the halfway point of the third quarter. The punt came as a result of a three-and-out in which the Hoosiers surrendered just one yard following an Indiana scoring drive.

Mitchell Paige had the ball wrestled away from him during the return before it was recovered by Duke on the Indiana 19-yard line. The Blue Devils were able to capitalize on the short field, and Sirk found Braxton Deaver for a 10-yard touchdown reception.

Adding those costly mistakes, the Hoosiers allowed Duke to tie the game after a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Shaun Wilson. The kick came after Indiana extended their lead to 34-27 with a field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Duke struggled for most of the game with its aerial attack. Sirk fell out of sync with his receivers after totaling 41 yards passing on the (45-yard) opening drive.

He was unable to get Duke's leading receiver Max McCaffery involved in the offense until just before halftime and was picked off three times in the contest. Cutcliffe admitted that he wrestled with the idea of pulling Sirk for back-up Parker Boehme at times.

"Obviously, when you're not completing passes, missing opportunities, you have a guy the quality of Parker, that's going to roll through your mind." Cutcliffe said. "He's had a lot of injuries, a lot of things he's had to go through."

Sirk did not eclipse 100 yards passing until the three-minute mark at the end of the fourth quarter. It was on this drive that he seemed to find a rhythm in the pocket. He led the Blue Devils, mainly with his arm, to a touchdown that tied the contest with less than a minute remaining, capped off by a five-yard touchdown run from Sirk himself.

From there, the Blue Devils escaped with the win in overtime.

For more New Era Pinstripe Bowl coverage, visit PinstripeBowl.com.

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