Coach Manny Diaz’s defense shines in Duke spring football game victory

Durham, NC – In the Blue Devils’ first public performance under new head coach Manny Diaz, the defense (White Team) held off the offense (Blue Team) for a 21-16 victory in the Blue & White Game on Saturday evening at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Wallace Wade stadium (photo by Gene Galin)

The contest featured two 15-minute quarters with traditional scoring for the offense and specialty scoring for the defense, including six points for a turnover, three points for a fourth-down stop, two points for a three-and-out and one point for a sack.

On the opening drive with redshirt sophomore quarterback Maalik Murphy calling the signals, the defense secured a three-and-out for an early 2-0 advantage. The offense moved the ball to the 9-yard line on the ensuing drive but was stopped on a fourth-down pass into the end zone, as the defense increased its margin to five points.

As sophomore Grayson Loftis rotated in at quarterback, linebacker Tre Freeman broke up a pass on fourth down to push White’s lead to 8-0.

On Blue’s fifth possession, Murphy engineered a 14-play drive with four first downs to set up junior Todd Pelino for a 25-yard field goal, narrowing the deficit to 8-3 with 1:55 remaining in the opening half.

Blue implemented its two-minute offense to move the ball from the 25-yard line to the opponent’s 35-yard line, but a pass to the end zone on the final play fell incomplete to give the defense a 11-3 cushion at halftime.

Out of the break, the White Team added another fourth-down stop to extend its edge to 14-3, but Pelino chipped in again for the Blue Squad with another field goal, this time from 28-yards away, to cut into the deficit at 14-6.

On the next drive, although forced into a third-and-long situation following a pass break-up by junior cornerback Chandler Rivers and a tackle-for-loss by graduate student defensive end Michael Reese, Murphy completed a five-yard pass on fourth down to keep the drive alive. After moving the chains, senior receiver Jordan Moore made a leaping grab over a defender at the goal line for the game’s only touchdown. The connection from Murphy trimmed the Blue Team’s deficit to one point, 14-13, with 8:19 left on the clock.

With less than four minutes remaining and still a one-point contest, the offense moved the ball inside the red zone, but a pass toward the sideline by Loftis was intercepted by freshman cornerback Vontae Floyd at the 10-yard line to keep Blue off the scoreboard and push White’s advantage to 20-13 at the 3:38 mark.

On the final drive, junior safety Terry Moore tallied his second pass deflection of the evening and junior defensive end Vincent Anthony Jr. recorded a sack to force the offense into a long field goal try. On the last play, Pelino drilled his third field goal of the night, a 49-yard boot, but it was not enough as the defense secured the victory.

The Blue & White Game was the Blue Devils’ final workout of the spring. Duke now turns its attention to its 2024 season opener against Elon on Friday, August 30 at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Season tickets for the upcoming season may be purchased online at or by calling the Duke Athletics Ticket Office at 919-681-BLUE (2583). Current season ticket holders will receive communication from their respective account representative.