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November 11, 2006College football is a game of momentum swings and game changing plays, and Duke lost a 28-7 decision to Boston College Saturday night because the Blue Devils couldn't take advantage of some key momentum changes and the Eagles made a few more big plays.
Duke entered the game Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill knowing it had to slow down Boston College's passing attack, which has propelled the Eagles to number two in the ACC in total offense.
Early on it looked like Duke wouldn't be able to do that, as BC quarterback Matt Ryan directed a 94-yard drive on the Eagles first possession and fired a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Challenger to quickly stake his team a 7-0 lead.
Duke's defense would tighten the screws for the remainder of the first half, giving up some chunks of yardage but not surrendering any more points.
That gave Duke's offense time to try to put together some momentum against a stingy Boston College defense.
The Blue Devils broke through early in the second quarter when Clifford Harris broke free for a 54-yard run that put the Blue Devils inside the five yard line following a penalty against Boston College.
Harris finished what he started when he slid off tackle for a two yard touchdown run that tied the game 7-7 with 10:43 remaining in the first half.
Boston College threatened to answer right back, driving the ball down inside the 20 yard line, but a third down run by short yardage specialist Brian Toal backfired when Toal lost the football and Duke linebacker Mike Tauiliili gobbled up the fumble to give Duke the ball with a chance to take the lead.
The offense couldn't take advantage of the opportunity though, as the Devils had to punt after making an initial first down.
Boston College regained possession with a little more than three minutes remaining and the Eagles used that time to efficiently move the football down the field before scoring on Ryan's second touchdown pass of the game on a one yard toss to Jonathan Loyte.
Duke dodged disaster before going to the locker room. When the Devils took possession following the Loyte touchdown that put BC up 14-7, coach Ted Roof elected to play aggressively in the final 30 seconds.
The plan didn't work out as Thaddeus Lewis threw an interception that gave the Eagles a chance to score again before halftime, but BC kicker Steve Aponavicius misfired on a 42-yard field goal.
The biggest series of the game came early in the third quarter, and the end result of it was a deficit that proved too big for Duke to overcome.
Duke cornerback John Talley intercepted Ryan on the third play of the second half, giving the Blue Devils the football inside BC's 30 yard line.
Five plays later, Duke had moved the ball down to the two yard line but faced a fourth-and-one situation.
The Blue Devils have struggled all year on fourth-and-short situations and the problem again bit Duke when Lewis was stopped short on a quarterback sneak.
Following the defensive stand, BC began a methodical drive that covered 98 yards and ended with an Andre Callender 26-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles up 21-7.
Duke responded on its next possession by moving the ball inside the BC 40, but Lewis' 4th-and-8 pass to Jomar Wright fell incomplete to turn the ball over on downs again.
Though Duke's defense fought hard all night, it still surrendered 504 yards of offense and appeared to wear down as the game progressed.
The Eagles rushed for 256 yards and passed for 248 in a perfectly balanced effort.
Duke was bitten hard by the injury bug in the first half, as tailback Justin Boyle, nose guard Eli Nichols, and left tackle Cameron Goldberg all left the game and were unable to return.
More will be known about their injuries Monday, but seeing Nichols go down raised fears that he had aggravated the knee he injured against Alabama five weeks ago, which might mean he could miss the final two games of the season.
Harris, Jabari Marshall, and Requan Boyette helped pick up the slack for Boyle in the running game.
Harris totaled 69 yards and Boyette added 38 yards on eight carries. Marshall provided a spark by gaining 42 yards on two carries as he got some touches from the devil back position.
Raphael Chestnut led the team with 46 receiving yards, while Talley's interception, Tauiliili's fumble recover, and a sack from Ayanga Okpokowuruk highlighted the defensive effort.
Duke plays its final road game of the season next week at Georgia Tech.