SOUTH BEND – AJ Reed kicked a 19-yard field goal with 84 seconds left as Duke rallied back from an early two-touchdown deficit to beat Notre Dame 38-35 on Saturday.
Reed had missed all three of his field goal attempts this season before kicking the game winner. Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 19 early in the fourth quarter and failed, said he didn’t hesitate to let Reed attempt the field goal, saying the team had confidence in him.
“That unit there, they believe in him and he’s got a lot of talent. I know when it came down there at the end — the field goal — there was no doubt in my mind he was going to make it,” he said.
Reed said he knew his teammates were behind him.
“They were all telling me that they had my back and that they knew I was going to get it done for them,” he said.
Daniel Jones threw for three touchdowns, including a 64-yard scoring pass to Anthony Nash midway through the fourth quarter to tie the score as Duke beat the Irish for just the second time. The first win was in their first meeting, a 9-7 victory in Durham, North Carolina, in 1958. Jones was 24 of 32 passing for 290 yards and Duke rushed for 208 yards.
“I think we were, as a team, executing at such a high level. We weren’t perfect by any stretch, but overall, we were executing more consistently than we had been,” Jones said.
With DeVon Edwards out with what likely is a season-ending knee injury sustained on Notre Dame’s first kickoff, Shaun Wilson returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score to spark the Blue Devils (2-2) after they fell behind 14-0. The Duke defense set up the final touchdown when it sacked DeShone Kizer for a 7-yard loss at the 5-yard line and Deondre Singleton intercepted a pass at the Notre Dame 45.
The Irish defense continued to struggle, giving up 30 or more points against Power Five teams for the seventh time in their last nine games. The student section chanted “Fire VanGorder,” referring to defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the coaching of the defense is one of the few areas he wasn’t disappointed in, saying he doesn’t think it was a factor in the outcome. He said Duke was grittier and more determined than the Irish, who opened the season ranked No. 10.
“I told our guys, essentially, that we’re going in the wrong direction. We’re not going to continue to go in this direction. We’ll have to reevaluate what we’re doing, who we’re doing it with, and how we’re doing it,” he said.
Nash had six catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns and Jela Duncan ran for 121 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Kizer was 22 of 37 passing for 381 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a fumble to lead the Irish (1-3). Kizer threw a 12-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter that put Notre Dame ahead for the first time since squandering a 14-0 lead, but the Irish couldn’t hang on.
The Blue Devils, who managed a total of 27 points in losses to Wake Forest and Duke, scored 28 in the first half against the Irish. Duke scored three straight touchdowns after falling behind 14-0.