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(Photo by Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports)
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (GoDuke.com) -- Anthony Boone threw two touchdowns to Issac Blakeney, Jamison Crowder returned a punt 52 yards for another score, and No. 22 Duke survived another scare, beating Syracuse 27-10 on Saturday with a late rally.
Boone is now 18-1 as the starter for Duke (8-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which won its fourth straight and stayed on target to reach the ACC championship game.
Syracuse (3-7, 1-5 ACC) lost for the seventh time in eight games and lost a chance to play in the postseason for the fourth time in five years. The Orange finished the season 1-5 at home, its worst record in the Carrier Dome since posting a 1-6 mark under Greg Robinson in 2007.
Senior Day in the Carrier Dome looked promising as the Orange defense stifled Duke at almost every turn until the fourth quarter, when the Blue Devils had two touchdowns and a field goal in 5:32.
Crowder snapped a 10-10 tie with his return, Ross Martin kicked a 33-yard field goal, and Blakeney caught a 54-yard touchdown pass in single coverage along the left sideline.
Boone, who had five passes batted down by the Syracuse defense, finished 15 of 33 for 161 yards passing with one interception and Crowder had nine catches for 58 yards. Duke, which was outgained 211-171 through the first three quarters and in a real dogfight until the rally.
The injury-riddled Orange had 11 players out, including quarterbacks Terrel Hunt and AJ Long, three offensive linemen, and middle linebacker Marqez Hodge. Standout left tackle Sean Hickey limped to the bench early in the second quarter with the score tied 3-3 but returned in the second half.
Redshirt freshman Austin Wilson made his second career start, but fourth-string sophomore Mitch Kimble kept the Orange in the game. Kimble finished 6 of 13 for 37 yards passing and gained 50 yards on 10 carries and scored his first career touchdown.
The Orange defense stood toe-to-toe with the Blue Devils, who entered the game averaging 422 yards and nearly 36 points. The Blue Devils, who beat Pitt last week in double overtime, had seven three-and-outs and finished with 259 yards offensively to 224 for Syracuse.
The Syracuse offense came alive in the third behind Kimble, who did not play last year, played only a few snaps late against Wake Forest, and had never completed a pass in college.
Seemingly unfazed by the moment and with the Carrier Dome crowd roaring, Kimble drove the Orange 67 yards in nine plays in 4:23 to tie the game.
Freshman Ervin Philips gained 17 yards on a pitch left and Kimble followed with an 8-yard run up the middle. After a near fumble on a handoff that set up a third-and-6, Kimble foiled an all-out Duke blitz with a 19-yard completion to Jarrod West, who was in single coverage along the left sideline.
After Philips gained 3 yards, Kimble scored on an 8-yard keeper over right tackle to knot the game at 10-10.
Syracuse was pinned deep in its own territory by a booming punt by Will Monday that was downed at the Syracuse 1-yard line in the last minute of the third quarter, and that tilt in field position eventually bit the Orange.
After the Orange went three-and-out, Syracuse's Brandon Reddish intercepted Boone at the Syracuse 2. When the Orange couldn't gain a first down, Crowder struck, returning Riley Dixon's punt untouched for the decisive score.
The Blue Devils, held to two first downs and 35 total yards on offense in the first quarter, broke through late in the second behind Boone, who was nearly flawless on a 13-play, 91-yard scoring drive.
The shifty quarterback hit a wide-open Crowder for 13 yards, then eluded pressure and hit again Crowder for 14 yards on a third-and-5 play. After a Syracuse penalty gave Duke a first down, Boone hit Blakeney in space for 18 yards and foiled a Syracuse blitz with a pretty dump to Shaun Wilson for 5 yards to the Orange 22.
Blakeney scored on the next play after catching a pass in the left flat and eluding a weak tackle attempt by cornerback Julian Whigham to give the Blue Devils a 10-3 halftime lead.