Duke won the 2022 Military Bowl against UCF 30-13 on December 28th. In our preview of this game, we stated that the UCF would have to rely heavily on an injured John Rhys Plumlee and the Blue Devil would need to stop him. Duke did just that and kept its offense front and center like it has been doing all season long. Let’s take a look at how Duke won the 2022 Military Bowl.
Duke Handled UCF in the 2022 Military Bowl
When previewing what to watch from each team, we stated that continued great play from Duke’s starting quarterback would be key. Sophomore signal caller Riley Leonard did not disappoint. Leonard threw for 173 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. Looking at this alone you might wonder how Leonard walked away as the Military Bowl MVP. However, he didn’t only play clean football through the air, but also on the ground. We stated that Offensive Coordinator Kevin Johns has been very good this year keeping the game balanced. That was the case in the 2022 Military Bowl as well. Leonard was the Blue Devils’ leading rusher with 63 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t a high-passing affair like we thought, but Duke played a clean game. This could be seen as the deciding factor, winning the turnover battle is often key.
How Plumlee Stacked Up
Plumlee looked good on paper. He went 21-for-38 through the air and threw for 182 yards and one touchdown. However, he also accounted for two turnovers and was clearly limited running the ball. Plumlee has been plagued by a hamstring injury and limited in the rushing attack as of late. He threw one interception and lost a fumble in the contest. In addition, he had 14 carries for 21 yards. However, his long was for 19 yards and he just averaged one-and-a-half yards per rush. Finally, he managed just 28 yards passing in the first half. The offense as a whole just couldn’t get it done without a healthy Plumlee at the helm.
How Did it Happen
Duke got on the board first in the first quarter. UCF’s first drive of the game stalled and the Golden Knights were forced to punt it away. Jaquez Moore scored a 14-yard rushing touchdown to start things off for the Blue Devils and to cap a first drive that started at Duke’s own 13-yard line. Duke couldn’t get too comfortable. UCF came out on its next drive and scored seven points as well. However, those would be the last points scored by the Golden Knights until the fourth quarter.
Duke settled for a field goal early in the second quarter, making the score 10-7. Then, on the next drive for UCF Plumlee lost the fumble on Duke’s 42-yard line. Giving the Blue Devils a short field. Duke only needed seven plays and 58 yards to score again. This time on a Leonard one-yard rushing score. To end the half, UCF punted again on a three-and-out. Closing out the first half with a 20-7 lead.
UCF Continued to Struggle
Duke scored again in the third quarter with a field goal that ended the Blue Devils’ opening drive. This made the score 23-7. The Golden Knights couldn’t get anything going in the third quarter, resulting in UCF being shut out in two consecutive quarters. However, the fourth quarter started better for the Golden Knights. UCF started with the ball and marched downfield for a touchdown. Its first score since the first quarter. Although, the drive took a lot of time. Something that UCF didn’t have. The drive took over five minutes off the clock. Then, the Golden Knights tried a two-point conversion and failed. This made the score 23-13.
The Blue Devils didn’t do anything with the gift of the ball back. Instead, punting away to UCF. However, the Golden Knights couldn’t do anything with the ball and gave it back to Duke. The Blue Devils took advantage of a short field from a fourth-down attempt by UCF and scored in just 26 yards. This made the score 30-13. UCF had one final chance, however, an interception by Plumlee ended the game. Giving Duke nine wins on the season and momentum into 2023.