Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
October 6, 2012DURHAM, N.C. -- Sophomore quarterback Anthony Boone threw for four touchdowns in his first career start for the Duke Blue Devils Saturday and routed Virginia 42-17. The win moved Duke to an overall record of 5-1, one step closer to the crucial six-win mark needed for bowl eligibility.
Boone's performance was just one great part of what turned out to be an excellent day all around for the Blue Devils. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe agreed after the game.
"I think it's simple to say that I could not be more proud of a group of players and a group of coaches," Cutcliffe said. "Our staff and our players have shown unbelievably a resiliency that's kind of been second to none."
With both schools' starting quarterbacks out with an injury heading into Saturday's game, there was some uncertainty for both teams over who would start and how each signal caller would perform. Senior Sean Renfree, Duke's usual starter at quarterback, hurt his elbow last weekend against Wake Forest and was limited in practice all week. Due to injuring his knee last week against Louisiana Tech, UVA starter Michael Rocco was also not able to take the field, giving sophomore Phillip Sims his first starting nod.
Cutcliffe spoke highly of Boone's performance in his first starting bid.
"Anthony didn't play like a rookie," Cutcliffe said. "He was very confident and went out there and play well. He played really well."
Early on, it seemed as though the matchup between the two first-time starters would be a close one.
Sims led the Cavaliers to two first-quarter scores, while Boone notched touchdown passes of 37 and 54 yards.
The two teams would trade possessions several times in the second quarter before Sims would lead his unit to a field goal in the final minute of the half.
With a 17-14 advantage at the half, the Cavaliers seemed to have the momentum, but Duke came out of the locker room a different team to start the third quarter.
"I challenged both lines of scrimmage pretty good in the locker room," Cutcliffe said. "It was fairly positive, but a pretty good challenge and wow, did they take it A lot of intensity, a lot of consistency, a lot of really fine execution on both sides of the ball."
After the Blue Devils' first drive of the half stalled, senior receiver Conner Vernon returned a short UVa punt to the Cavalier 12 and gave the Duke offense excellent field position. Boone was able to capitalize quickly and found junior running back Juwan Thompson wide open in the flat for a 12-yard score. The strike gave the Blue Devils a 21-17 lead with 11:52 left in the third quarter, and they would never give it back.
Duke would pick up three more scores, with one more of them coming from Boone's arm, to help seal the win.
With a victory and a start under his belt, Boone said he recognized the potential Duke has this year.
"We're very hungry," Boone said. "All these guys here have been part of these losing seasons We all know that we've worked so hard and it's our time to show people that we want respect and we can play football. That's our kind of mentality in the locker room right now."
Duke will travel to Blacksburg, Va. to take on Virginia Tech next week with the hope of securing its sixth vital win.
BOONE PUTS ON A SHOW
When Cutcliffe said earlier in the week that the Blue Devil offense would remain the same regardless of what quarterback got the start, it is clear he was not kidding around.
Though the Blue Devils converted only three of 14 attempts on third down, the Duke offense was explosive enough Saturday that it did not miss a beat with Boone at the helm.
The sophomore had a stellar afternoon, completing 18-of-31 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
"It was a big thing for me," Boone said after the win. "I had a little jitters at first, but once I calmed down and settled in, I feel like I executed pretty well."
Duke's offensive line was key to the Blue Devils' explosive offensive performance. It did not allow a single sack, and helped lead the way to an offensive performance that came close to exceeding 400 total yards.
Boone praised the performance of his offensive teammates.
"The offensive line and the receivers helped me out," Boone said. "The running game was there. They just did a really good job up front protecting me and giving me time to read the coverage."
Boone made sure to credit the performance of his receivers specifically.
"My receivers, they're really good - I can throw just about anywhere and they would catch it. They have a lot of faith in me, so I have a lot of faith in them."
VERNON ENTERS THE ACC RECORD BOOKS
With his performance against the Cavaliers Saturday, Vernon can add one more record to his college football resume. He had another big day for the Blue Devils, hauling in seven catches for 93 yards and two huge touchdowns.
Thanks to a catch that came at the nine-minute mark in the first quarter, Vernon now is now the all-time leader in pass receptions in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His mark of 239 receptions surpassed the previous mark of Clemson's Aaron Kelly, who had 232.
Cutcliffe had plenty of good things to say about his senior receiver after the win.
"I can't say enough [about Conner]," Cutcliffe said. "Conner is a true elite athlete and a true person. He takes care of business in every aspect."
Vernon was consistently able to get underneath the Virginia secondary to make big plays for the Blue Devils. He often found himself open in the flat for Duke and, using his speed as a runner, was able to turn small gains into large ones.
His two touchdowns helped set the pace for another explosive performance for the Blue Devil offense.
DEFENSE CLAMPS DOWN IN THE SECOND HALF
Despite allowing 461 yards of Cavalier offense, the Blue Devil defense shut down UVa in the second half of Saturday's contest.
After a shaky defensive performance in the first 30 minutes of the game, Cutcliffe approached his defense at halftime and asked them to step it up.
"I really didn't have to do much," Cutcliffe said. "They challenged each other and they went out and took control of the game. Virginia had two yards rushing in the second half, and that's a great tribute to what our defensive front was able to do."
With Duke able to clamp down on the Cavalier rushing attack in the second half, Virginia was forced to go to the air more frequently. Virginia was only able to muster 138 passing yards in the second half. With Duke locking down through the air, Virginia was only able to pick up five first downs.
One of the most instrumental pieces to the Blue Devils' defensive performance was junior cornerback Ross Cockrell. He had a big day for the Blue Devils, notching his fourth interception of the season and the eighth of his career at the 12:17 mark in the fourth quarter. He also picked up a pass breakup and six tackles.
Despite his notable performance, he said he knew that Duke did not perform up to its standard of play in the first half.
"We knew that we didn't put our best foot forward," Cockrell said. "We didn't play Duke football in the first half, so we made the decision that we were going to play and we did that."
Cockrell said he and the rest of the locker room was ecstatic about the outcome of the game and being 5-1.
"It's a jubilee, I guess," Cockrell said after the game. "Everybody is smiling and jumping around excited. This is uncharted territory for us. We're going to enjoy tonight and we're going to come back tomorrow ready for work."
FROM THE NOTEBOOK
** Duke's 5-1 start is its best since the Blue Devils went 6-0 in 1994.
** The Blue Devils put up 28 unanswered points after they trailed by a field goal at the end of the first half.?
** The Cavaliers rushed for 184 yards on 26 carries in the first half, but managed only two yards on nine in the second half.?
** With the win Saturday, Duke is now 16-5 in games when it scores 30 or more points.?
** Duke did not commit a turnover Saturday, finishing with a +2 margin thanks to interceptions from Cockrell and senior cornerback Tony Foster.?
** Senior safeties Jordan Byas and Walt Canty both had great days for the Blue Devils. Byas picked up 11 tackles, tying a career-high set in last week's victory over Wake Forest. Canty finished with game with a season-high 14 stops. He also had three tackles for loss.