Duke shocks college football world: Crushes Clemson 28-7 in prime-time thriller

Durham, NC – Duke out-scored No. 9 Clemson 22-0 in the second half and handed the Tigers a 28-7 defeat in a Labor Day Night prime-time game on Monday in Durham.

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard ((photo by Gene Galin)

The Blue Devils (1-0) feasted on three second-half turnovers by the Tigers (0-1) in claiming the program’s first win over an AP top-10 team since 1989 and snapping Clemson’s 12-game winning streak in ACC play.

Junior Riley Leonard threw for 175 yards and rushed for 98 yards, including an electrifying 44-yard touchdown run that saw the dual-threat quarterback break multiple tackles to give Duke the lead at 13-7 on the first possession of the second half. But it was Duke’s defense that pitched a second half shutout after trailing 7-6 at halftime.

Senior safety Jaylen Stinson finished with nine tackles, a pass breakup and his 55-yard fumble return in the third quarter turned the tide that halted a lengthy Clemson drive. Junior Jaquez Moore cashed in the Stinson fumble return with a nine-yard touchdown sprint that made it 21-7 with 10:33 left in the fourth and graduate Jordan Waters‘ thundering 36-yard touchdown run put the game on ice with 3:15 left.

 Jordan Waters runs into the end zone for a Duke touchdown (photo by Gene Galin)

The win was Duke’s first over a ranked team since beating No. 15 North Carolina, 28-27, in 2016 and the first win over a top-10 team since beating No. 7 Clemson, 21-17, in Durham in 1989. 
How It Happened

  • Sophomore Todd Pelino put the Blue Devils up 3-0 following a 22-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter.
  • The Cornelius, N.C., native added another field goal, this time from 42-yards out, early in the second quarter to extend Duke’s advantage to 6-0.
  • The Blue Devils forced the Tigers to punt during the ensuing Clemson drive, but a muffed return handed the ball back to Clemson at the Duke 18-yard line. Five plays later, the Tigers found the end zone from two yards out for their lone score of the night.
  • On the opening drive of the second half, Leonard broke free for a 44-yard touchdown jaunt to put Duke up 13-7 with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.
  • The Blue Devils controlled much of the final frame, finding the end zone twice on nine and 36-yard touchdown runs by Moore and Waters, respectively, to ultimately seal the win.


  • Duke improves to 3-1 in Monday night games, recording its first victory on Monday since January 2, 1961, against Arkansas (7-6) in the Cotton Bowl
  • The Blue Devils improved to 8-0 when scoring first under head coach Mike Elko.
  • Monday’s 21-point win was Duke’s largest over a ranked opponent since beating No. 9 Colgate 34-0 in 1942.
  • The Blue Devil offensive line has now not relinquished a sack in two consecutive outings dating back to the 2022 Military Bowl against UCF.
  • Duke held Clemson to zero sacks since November 2, 2019, against Wofford.
  • Sophomore Chandler Rivers, graduate Jeremiah Lewis and redshirt sophomore Tre Freeman all tallied a team-best 11 tackles.
  • Redshirt freshman Wesley Williams blocked two field goal attempts in the game, to become the first Duke player since November 3, 2018 when Joe Giles-Harris blocked a kick against Miami.
  • Graduate Porter Wilson punted five times for 268 yards (53.6) and tied his career-long punt of 70 yards in the fourth quarter.

Up Next

  • Duke welcomes Lafayette to Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday for a 6 p.m. contest on ACC Network Extra.