South Bend, In—The 2020 college football season was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Duke opened their season by losing 27-13 against No. 10 Notre Dame Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
Irish running back Kyren Williams ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in his first start, quarterback Ian Book threw for 263 yards before a socially distanced crowd of 10,097.
The victory was Notre Dame’s 19th straight at home and the first for the Irish in a conference after playing as an independent since 1887. Because of the pandemic, the Irish are playing this season as a member of the ACC conference.
“I’ve been getting a lot of reps,” Williams said. Also Williams was Notre Dame’s leading receiver with two receptions totaling 93 yards. “It took a couple of drives for me to finally relax and breathe.”
Coach Brian Kelly was really impressed with Williams’ output for the day.
“That was a pretty good opener for (Williams); there’s a lot he can build off of this,” Kelly said about Williams, who saw limited action last season as a freshman.
The offense was a little sluggish in the first half but Irish played smash mouth football with Williams and Chris Tyree to open some lanes up in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be a grind, but they hung in there,” Kelly said on a day when the school announced a four-year contract extension through the 2024 season and he improved to 9-2 in openers. “We played much better football in the second half.”
Duke quarterback Chase Brice made his first start as well, finishing 20-of-37 for 259 yards passing and 10 carries for 10 yards and a score on the ground. Brice’s 259 passing yards were the most in a Blue Devil debut since Thomas Sirk (289 yards) in 2015.
“Hats off to Duke, they had a good scheme,” Book said. “I thought our offensive line did a great job. I had a little bit of a slow start but the team carried me until I got back to where I needed to be.”
Notre Dame were outgained 151-13 in the first quarter as Duke took a 3-0 lead on the first of Charlie Ham’s two field goals, took a 10-6 lead at the break when Jonathan Doerer drilled a 48-yard field goal, his first of two successful field goals, as time expired.
A successful 14-yard run on a fake punt by Jay Bramblett in the second quarter got the Irish going followed by Williams’ 1-yard run to pay-dirt allowed ND to overcome a 3-0 deficit after the first quarter.
Williams’ second TD came on a fourth-and-short play from the Duke 26 when he took a hand off from Book, cut left outside of the bone crushing blocks of tackle Liam Eichenberg and guard Aaron Banks, he was able to sprint into the end zone for a 17-6 ND lead in the third quarter.
Ian Book rushed for 139 yards and passed for 181 yards and four touchdowns last season in Notre Dame’s 38-7 victory at Duke, completed 19 of 31 passes, one a 17-yard TD pass to Avery Davis early in the fourth quarter that increased the Irish lead to 24-13. He rushed for just 12 yards on nine carries and also threw a pick.
Duke had 246 yards at halftime, had just 82 after halftime. The Irish finished with a 439-334 edge in total offense, including a 176-75 advantage on the ground.
“The story of the day was they made more plays than we made,” Cutcliffe said. “They’re a good team. I think we have a really good football. We have to play better in the second half that we did on offense.”