Duke needed quarterback Gunnar Holmberg to lead its suddenly consistently potent offense to subdue Kansas Saturday and the quarterback delivered.
Holmberg tied a school record by rushing for four touchdowns and he threw for another score as Duke rallied from a six-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Kansas 52-33 in nonconference football at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Kansas (1-3) lead 27-21 in the third quarter when Holmberg helped the Blue Devils score three touchdowns in a little less than six minutes of play.
On Duke’s first possession of the third quarter, Holmberg eluded the Kansas rush to toss a swing pass to senior running back Mataeo Durant, who gained 53 yards to the Kansas 8. Jordan Waters’ 4-yard touchdown run with 10:20 left in the quarter put Duke ahead for good at 28-27.
Holmberg’s 48-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jake Bobo on Duke’s next possession moved the Blue Devils to the Kansas 19. Holmberg’s 1-yard touchdown run at 6:37 gave Duke a 35-27
After Shaka Heyward intercepted a Kansas pass and returned it to the Jayhawks 8, Holmberg scored on a 3-yard run with 4:38 left in the third quarter giving Duke a 42-27 lead.
Holmberg became the eighth player in Duke football history to rush for four touchdowns in a game. It most recently happened in 2013 when Brandon Connette did it against Miami.
Holmberg completed 22 of 29 passes for 328 yards for the Blue Devils (3-1). His touchdown pass went to Jalon Calhoun covering 26 yards. Holmberg rushed for 88 yards on 17 carries, helping Duke amass a season-high 607 yards of total offense.
Durant rushed for 124 yards on 21 carries and scored his ninth touchdown of the season on a 57-yard run in the first quarter.
The win gives Duke more victories than it had all of last season. The Blue Devils have their first three-game winning streak since September 2019.
Duke’s defense was leaky, getting burned for big plays by Kansas. The Jayhawks had gains in the passing game covering 61, 45 and 42 yards as well as running plays that netted 62 and 36 yards. But Duke turned in the one explosive defensive play it needed in the third quarter when linebacker Shaka Heyward intercepted a Jason Bean pass and returned it to the Kansas 8.
The turnover bug that hurt Duke so often last season has returned over the last two games. After three turnovers while beating Northwestern 30-23, the Blue Devils lost the ball twice in the first quarter against Kansas. Both were inexcusable, unforced turnovers, too.
Holmberg and Jalon Calhoun miscommunicated on a pass play from the Kansas 24. Calhoun took off for the end zone but Holmberg threw it short, where Kansas cornerback Ra’Mello Dotson picked it off.
Later in the quarter, Durant dropped the ball after taking a handoff from Holmberg at the Duke 25. Kansas recovered and scored a touchdown three plays later.
Duke’s output on offense continues to shine. The Blue Devils have surpassed 500 yards of total offense three times in the their four games this season. They only did that one time all of last season while going 2-9.
The 27-21 lead the Jayhawks held in the second half marked the first time Kansas lead a nonconference team on the road after halftime since 2019. That’s when Kansas beat Boston College 48-24 at Chestnut Hill, Mass.
3: Games this season when Duke running back Mataeo Durant has rushed for 100 yards or more.
14: Third downs Kansas faced against Duke’s defense. The Jayhawks only converted three into first downs.
105: Receiving yards gained by Duke senior Jake Bobo, the second game in a row he’s surpassed the 100-yard mark.