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Duke beats Boston College, 20-19

Posted by Mark Blaudschun, Globe Staff  September 17, 2011 04:58 PM

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A bad season turned worse this afternoon for Boston College as the Eagles went into the final minute of their game against Duke trailing by a point.

But with 41 seconds left, Nate Freese, who had missed an extra point earlier in the game, missed a 23-yard field goal attempt with 43 seconds left, which preserved a 20-19 decision for Duke.

The Blue Devils had overcame a 19-7 first half deficit to send the Eagles to their worst start since 1991.

"We had our chances,'' said BC coach Frank Spaziani. "Disappointing. We didn't make enough plays.''

The Eagles didn't do that on offense or defense. The defense allowed Duke QB Sean Renfree to complete 32 of 41 passes for 308 yards and 2 first half touchdowns which turned the Eagles' 19-7 lead into a 19-14 nail biter. He finished 40 of 52 for 359 yards, a career high.

The Eagle offense did not score a point in the second half.

The week, which began with the announcement that offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers was taking a leave of absence for health reasons, ended with a sense of optimism for BC as the Eagles faced a Duke team which had also dropped its first two games.

With interim OC Dave Brock calling the plays, BC QB Chase Rettig tried to pick up the momentum he had gained when he passed for a career high 375 yards in the Eagles' season opener against Northwestern.

The Eagles still had to shed the bad vibes from last week's 30-3 loss to Central Florida in which the offense and defense both suffered breakdowns. The good feelings surfaced midway through the first quarter. Following a blocked punt by Spencer Rositano, the Eagles struck quickly as Rettig led the offense down field in a five-play drive which ended with a 31-yard screen pass to Tajh Kimble for a 7-0 lead. It was Rettig's first TD pass of the season.

The Eagles increased their lead to 10 at the 10:44 mark of the second quarter when Rettig took the Eagles from their own 14 to the Duke 25 before the Blue Devils were able to stop the push, forcing the Eagles to settle for a 43-yard field goal by Nate Freese.

Duke struck back quickly, however. On a third and 14 situation from Duke's own 47, quarterback Sean Renfree connected on a 53-yard TD pass to Connor Vernon which cut the Eagles' margin to 10-7 with 8:31 left in the first half. As Renfree released the pass, he was knocked down and needed some attention from the Duke medical staff before walking off the field without any aid.

Still, the Devils and Renfree had put themselves back into the game with one quick pass.
Rettig, looking much more confident than a week ago against Central Florida and using his full assortment of running backs -- including Andre Williams, Kimble and Deuce Finch -- quickly brought the Eagles back into Duke territory. But once again Duke held firm and the Eagles went to Freese for another field goal attempt. The 47-yard attempt barely cleared the cross bar, but it was still good, which increased BC's lead to 13-7 with 4:03 left in the first half.

The half ended with BC in control as Rettig took control of the offense, highlighting a scoring drive with a 57-yard pass to Colin Larmond Jr. which gave the Eagles a first and goal from the Duke 7-yard line with 1:26 on the clock. Andre Williams capped the drive with a 7-yard burst up the middle, giving BC a 19-7 lead as Freese missed the extra point.

However, the Blue Devils weren't finished as Renfree, passing on almost every down, moved Duke into BC territory in the final minute of the first half. And once again Renfree found Vernon in the end zone, connecting on a 21-yard TD pass with 30 seconds left which cut the BC lead to 19-14.

While the Eagles were playing much better on offense, their lapses on defense was evidence that there was still room for improvement.

The third quarter began the way the second quarter ended, badly, as Renfree took the Blue devils from their own 17 to the Eagles' 6 until BC cornerback Jimmy Noel came up with an interception to kill the drive.

BC held onto its precarious lead going into the fourth quarter, but it hardly seemed secure as Duke controlled the offensive flow of the game.

Renfree continued to pick apart the BC defense as the fourth quarter started and this time the Blue Devils got on the scoreboard. On a third and inches from the BC 1-yard line, Renfree dove over for the TD which gave the Blue Devils the lead for the first time at 20-19. The Devils went for a two-point conversion which failed.

Still, with 9:57 left, BC only trailed by a point.

It was time for Rettig and the offense to do something and do it quickly as a game, and perhaps even a season, were slipping out of their grasp. But, as in the previous two games, they couldn't do it.

Rettig's last chance came when BC took over on its own 21 with no timeouts remaining. On a third and 10, Rettig hit Larmond with a 30-yard completion, with a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty tacked on bringing the ball to the Duke 34.

A running play by Tajh Kimble brought the ball to the Duke 31. Andre Williams then carried the ball to the Duke 14, where Rettig spiked the ball with 1:01 left. Williams went up the middle to the 4-yard line, with Duke calling a timeout to regroup with 52 seconds left.

It all went as scheduled until Freese's kick bounced wide right.

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