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Duke edges Indiana in Pinstripe Bowl on missed field goal in OT

Duke players celebrating their 44-41 victory over Indiana

Duke players celebrating their 44-41 victory over Indiana in the New ERA Pinstripe Bowl held at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

Considering the context, which Indiana University president Michael McRobbie summed up as, “Two great basketball schools playing for a football trophy in a baseball stadium,” you just knew it was going to be unusual. Add in the fact that one of the 10 touchdowns was scored by a running back named Alex Rodriguez, for heaven’s sake, and it was inevitable that it would come down to a tough call such as: Fair or foul?

That is what it seemed like when the overtime field-goal attempt by Indiana’s Griffin Oakes went over the upright and was ruled no good Saturday. It was like waiting for a ruling on a home run at the foul pole. That came at the end of a day in which Duke and Indiana seemed to be swinging for the fences in a wild Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, which ended with a 44-41 win for Duke.

Oakes seemed dismayed when he was told his try did not answer the successful kick by Duke’s Ross Martin moments earlier in the overtime before a crowd of 37,218. But if you take fate into account, it was only fair. Fair to Duke, which had not won a bowl game since 1961.

“This has been a long time coming,” Duke senior center Matt Skura said.

His teammate and classmate, running back Shaquille Powell, said of Indiana’s potential tying field goal: “I actually thought it was good. But when I saw the team celebrating, that’s when the emotions came out. That’s when I got so excited. It’s a relief when you see something like that.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe, in his eighth year at the school that was long a football doormat, always took the drought head on. “Well, we’ve talked about it a lot. Why wouldn’t you mention it? I like goals. But I like milestones better than I do goals,” he said after his team finished 8-5. “First time ever, eight or more wins. First time [on top at a bowl] since 1961. That’s a milestone.”

Indiana (6-7) also is trying to climb into respectability. It has not won a bowl game since 1991. For much of the afternoon and early evening, it looked like both sides might be trying too hard. There were trick plays that usually didn’t work, fourth-down tries that also were spotty. “Seems like everything I tried to do special didn’t work. We kind of overcame me,” Cutcliffe said.

The Blue Devils also overcame 667 total offensive yards by Indiana, including 227 rushing by Devine Redding (replacing injured first-team Big Ten running back Jordan Howard) and 389 yards passing (three touchdowns) by Nate Sudfeld.

Rod riguez, a redshirt freshman from Indianapolis, gave the Hoosiers the third of their four leads with 1:20 to go in the third quarter — running 10 yards into the end zone that is normally right-centerfield, where the other A-Rod sometimes hits rockets.

Duke seemed in trouble in the overtime, what with quarterback Thomas Sirk having been injured on the second play. He had gained 155 yards rushing — including a 73-yard touchdown — and threw for 163 more. If the overtime had lasted another round, he would not have been able to go.

But there was no second round because Oakes’ kick was ruled no good. Referee Chris Coyte said that it was not reviewable because the ball went over the upright and past the end line.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said: “You really don’t win games when you miss five scoring opportunities. You don’t blame anything else. They made enough plays to win the game, we made enough errors.”

The game had plenty of runs, hits and errors. Finally, Duke felt like it had hit a walk-off grand slam.

“Absolutely ecstatic,” said Martin, whose 36-yard field goal decided it. “It’s finally good to jump around in the locker room and celebrate up on stage.

“Now,” he said, “they’ll talk about the 2015 team.”

New York Sports