Connette leads Blue Devils past Troy in high-scoring showdown
Coming off a week in which it allowed 58 points to Pittsburgh, Duke’s defense showed similar ineffectiveness against Troy on Saturday.
The Trojans, one drive into the second half, had already scored four touchdowns and showed no signs of letting up.
Duke’s experienced players up front on defense had other ideas.
“Enough is enough,” Duke redshirt senior defensive end Kenny Anunike said. “Enough of them getting yards. Enough of them throwing the ball on us.”
The Blue Devils didn’t let Troy get much else as the Trojans were held out of the end zone the rest of the game in Duke’s 38-31 non-conference college football win at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Troy (2-3) had put together scoring drives covering 66, 75, 83 and 91 yards to erase Duke’s two-touchdown lead and tie the score at 28 with 13:15 left in the third quarter.
From there, though, the Trojans didn’t add another touchdown over their final six drives. They only got points — a field goal — on one of them.
“They up front made a decision that they were going to get a rush on the quarterback,” Duke linebacker David Helton said. “And, boy, I think we’re all happy about that. That was fantastic.”
The defensive front produced three sacks in the second half — one each from Justin Foxx, Dezmond Johnson and Jonathan Woodruff. Anunike and defensive tackle Jamal Wallace got enough pushes to tip two passes.
And it was Anunike who dropped Troy’s Bryan Holmes for a 7-yard loss that stymied a Trojan drive and led to a punt. That play came with Duke clinging to a 35-31 fourth-quarter lead.
“We didn’t get as much out of (the defensive front) in the first half and those guys challenged themselves and it was much better,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We had some big plays on defense — didn’t give up near as many explosive plays.”
That allowed the defense to give Duke’s healthy offense some backing. That, of course, didn’t happen a week earlier against Pittsburgh in a 58-55 loss that marked the second-highest scoring football game in ACC history.
Against Troy, quarterback Brandon Connette led the Duke offense up and down the field once again. The Blue Devils (3-2) finished with 514 total yards after having 532 against Pitt.
Connette completed 20 of 28 passes for 324 yards with three touchdowns. His favorite target was junior wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who caught seven passes for 149 yards. That included a 60-yard touchdown catch.
Running back Josh Snead ran 11 times for 108 yards while Connette ran for two touchdowns and 55 yards.
“They were difficult guys to tackle,” Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. “(Connette) was a make-them-miss kind of guy and they have a couple of backs that creased us there pretty good early. The receivers caught the ball and made runs. It was like a circus for a while.”
Troy scored the game’s first touchdown but Duke responded with three consecutive touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead. Connette threw touchdown passes to McCaffrey and Crowder while also running for the first of his two touchdowns.
With the score 28-14 Duke following Connette’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Jela Duncan, the Trojans found things easy against Duke’s defense.
Jordan Chunn’s 1-yard touchdown run completed a 14-play, 83-yard TD drive that left Duke up 28-21 at the half.
On Troy’s first possession of the second half, the Trojans needed seven plays and just 1:37 of game clock to march 91 yards. Troy quarterback Corey Robinson completed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Wilson Van Hooser and the score was tied 28-all.
But Duke’s defense had already shown signs of changing its tone. On that touchdown drive, Foxx was flagged for a personal foul for a late hit on the quarterback.
While that was a negative outcome, it signaled that the Blue Devils were at least close to Troy’s quarterback — something not true in the first half.
“We have to get after that quarterback,” Anunike said. “We’ve got to get pressure to take pressure off of our back end. That’s exactly what we did.”
After Troy tied the game, Connette led Duke on a 75-yard touchdown drive. His 4-yard scoring run with 9:46 left in the third quarter put the Blue Devils up 35-28.
Forced to punt on its next two drives, Troy reached Duke territory late in the third quarter but had to settle for a 37-yard Will Scott field goal that left Duke up 35-31.
Duke’s offense stumbled on its first two fourth-quarter possessions, giving Troy the ball with a chance to take the lead. But the Blue Devils stopped the Trojans both times.
On Troy’s possession that started at its 40 with 7:26 to play, the Trojans gained 11 yards on their first three plays to enter Duke territory. But a 10-yard holding penalty turned things Duke’s way.
On first-and-20, Anunike grabbed Holmes for a 7-yard loss that left Troy with second-and-27 from its own 34. Following an incomplete pass, Duke freshman cornerback Breon Borders tackled Eric Thomas for a measly 1-yard gain on third down and the Trojans punted the ball back to Duke with 4:12 left in the game.
The Blue Devils drove 51 yards and erased all but 25 seconds of the game before Ross Martin’s 34-yard field goal gave them a seven-point lead.
“I thought we were a little more physical than they were but in the end we were a little more consistent than they were and we won the dogfight,” Cutcliffe said. “We won the shootout because our defense was opportunistic in some down-and-distance circumstances and got it done.”
|DUKE 38, TROY 31|
Troy_Chunn 5 run (Scott kick), 6:46.
Duke_McCaffrey 7 pass from Connette (Martin kick), 5:08.
Duke_Connette 3 run (Martin kick), :25.
Duke_Crowder 60 pass from Connette (Martin kick), 11:44.
Troy_Thomas 12 pass from Robinson (Scott kick), 10:07.
Duke_Duncan 9 pass from Connette (Martin kick), 7:55.
Troy_Chunn 1 run (Scott kick), 2:52.
Troy_Van Hooser 40 pass from Robinson (Scott kick), 13:15.
Duke_Connette 4 run (Martin kick), 9:46.
Troy_FG Scott 37, 12:44.
Duke_FG Martin 34, :31.
|Time of Possession||34:24||25:36|
RUSHING_Troy, Burks 16-68, Anthony 6-38, Chunn 11-33, Worthy 2-8,
Thomas 1-7, C.Williams 1-4, Robinson 4-(minus 8). Duke, Snead 11-108,
Connette 17-55, Duncan 8-27, Thompson 2-4, Team 1-(minus 4).
PASSING_Troy, Robinson 35-45-1-354, Anthony 2-5-0-8. Duke,
RECEIVING_Troy, Thomas 9-77, Holmes 7-82, C.Williams 5-57,
Payton 4-36, Chunn 4-0, Burks 3-31, Van Hooser 2-49, Anthony 2-7,
Edenfield 1-23. Duke, Crowder 7-149, McCaffrey 4-54, Barnes 2-73,
Deaver 2-18, Braxton 2-2, Blakeney 1-11, Duncan 1-9, Thompson 1-8.