Duke football suffers setback as Riley Leonard reinjures ankle in loss to FSU

Duke football

Duke football’s hopes of winning the ACC Coastal division took a hit on Saturday as the 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost 38-20 to the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminoles. To make matters worse, Duke quarterback Riley Leonard left the game in the third quarter with a reaggravated ankle injury.

Duke football

Leonard’s injury history

Leonard, a sophomore from Fairhope, Alabama, had missed three weeks of action after injuring his right ankle against Notre Dame on Sept. 30. He returned to the starting lineup against FSU, hoping to lead the Blue Devils to their first win over the Seminoles since 2013.

However, Leonard’s comeback was short-lived as he twisted his ankle again on a scramble in the third quarter. He was helped off the field by trainers and did not return to the game. He finished with 7-of-16 passing for 69 yards and an interception.

“He wanted to come back in,” Duke coach Mike Elko said after the game. “He was begging me on the sideline to come back in. I didn’t feel comfortable with where he was health-wise to bring him back and so we didn’t do it.”

Belin struggles in relief

With Leonard out, Duke turned to freshman Henry Belin IV, who had started the previous three games in Leonard’s absence. Belin, a four-star recruit from Bronxville, New York, had shown promise in his first three starts, leading Duke to wins over Virginia Tech and Clemson.

However, Belin was unable to replicate his success against FSU’s defense, which ranks among the best in the nation. Belin completed only one of his seven passes for seven yards and was sacked twice. He also fumbled the ball on a botched handoff, leading to a FSU touchdown.

“I thought Henry did some good things,” Elko said. “He obviously made some mistakes as well. He’s still a young quarterback and he’s still learning. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

FSU pulls away in fourth quarter

Despite losing Leonard and struggling on offense, Duke was still in the game entering the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils trailed 24-20 after a 37-yard field goal by Charlie Ham late in the third quarter.

However, FSU scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The Seminoles were led by quarterback McKenzie Milton, who threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Milton also ran for 68 yards and a score.

FSU improved to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the ACC, maintaining its lead in the Atlantic division and its status as a playoff contender. The Seminoles have won seven straight games over Duke since losing to the Blue Devils in the 2013 ACC Championship Game.

What’s next for Duke?

Despite the loss, Duke is still in control of its own destiny in the Coastal division. The Blue Devils are 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the ACC, tied with North Carolina for first place in the division. Duke holds the tiebreaker over UNC by virtue of its 38-35 win over the Tar Heels on Oct. 7.

Duke will face another tough test next week when it travels to Louisville to take on the 15th-ranked Cardinals, who are 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the ACC. Louisville is led by quarterback Malik Cunningham, who ranks second in the nation in total offense with 2,271 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Duke will then host Wake Forest on Thursday, Nov. 2, before facing UNC again in Chapel Hill on Nov. 11. The Blue Devils will close out their regular season with home games against Virginia and Pittsburgh.

Elko said he is confident that his team will bounce back from the loss to FSU and compete for the division title.

“We’ve got a lot of football left to play,” Elko said. “We’ve got a lot of goals that are still attainable for us. We’ve got a resilient group of guys that are going to fight and work hard and get ready for next week.”

By Kane Wilson

Kane Wilson, founder of this news website, is a seasoned news editor renowned for his analytical skills and meticulous approach to storytelling. His journey in journalism began as a local reporter, and he quickly climbed the ranks due to his talent for unearthing compelling stories. Kane completed his Master’s degree in Media Studies from Northwestern University and spent several years in broadcast journalism prior to co-founding this platform. His dedication to delivering unbiased news and ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible format make him an influential voice in the industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts