D-linemen fill big shoes admirably in Duke spring football game
For the offense, Duke’s spring football game Saturday wasn’t a day for the top returning stars to light up the highlight reels.
Starting quarterback Anthony Boone threw for 33 yards. All-ACC wide receiver Jamison Crowder totaled three receiving yards. Senior running back Josh Snead averaged 7.3 yards per carry but lost a fumble.
The worries were few for the Blue Devils though. Such is the state of a team that returns 17 starters from a season in which it claimed a school-record 10 wins.
While the Blue team, comprised of first and third-team players, beat the White team, made up of mostly second-teamers, 24-14 at Wallace Wade Stadium, there were plenty of encouraging signs to carry the team into the offseason.
“As an offense, we’ve grown a lot,” Duke quarterback Brandon Connette said. “Today some young players showed spurts of being really good players.”
Connette, who teamed with Boone in Duke’s two-quarterback system last season, had a strong day. The redshirt senior completed 11 of 16 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
No player caught more passes than sophomore wide receiver Ryan Smith, who hauled in five and had one of the touchdown catches from Connette.
On defense, defensive ends Dezmond Johnson and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo each recorded two sacks from positions where Duke suffered heavy graduation losses.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Evrett Edwards had seven solo tackles among his eight stops, including a sack.
“You saw what our spring practice has been — continued momentum,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “I felt like that was a big part of the today.”
Duke surprised not only the ACC, but all of college football by going 10-4 last season, winning the ACC Coastal Division championship and playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Having played in bowl games the last two years, the program now has serious championship expectations. The coaches and returning players have no plans for a letdown.
“I certainly can’t imagine when you are in our situation that you have anything to be complacent about,” Cutcliffe said. “Our key right now is, we look back and the last game we played, we lost. I told them to think about something. A lot of great things happened, but the last game we lost in the fourth quarter. That’s not acceptable.”
That loss came to Texas A&M in a 52-48 shootout where the Blue Devils defense was unable to slow the Aggies in the fourth quarter.
In Saturday’s spring game, the defense that lost four senior starters from that game showed signs of being formidable this fall.
The sacks by Johnson and DeWalt-Ondijo were particularly important since Duke lost Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and Sydney Sarmiento from its defensive line. Kyler Brown, a linebacker turned defensive end, also had a sack.
“They (last year’s seniors) left the place better than they found it, which is what Coach Cut preaches all the time,” Johnson said. “For me, it’s about not letting what they built fall. Keep it going and continue to grow it as much as I can.”
While Boone only threw for 33 yards, he did complete 10 of 13 passes as he opted for shorter routes.
With two redshirt seniors at quarterback this fall, Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils are in good shape at that position. In Saturday’s spring game, redshirt freshman Thomas Sirk got some extended playing time after missing last season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
Sirk completed 12 of 28 passes for 83 yards while also rushing 19 times for 30 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think we’ve got talent,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve certainly seen in game situations what Anthony and Brandon can do. Now we see that Thomas made some progress.”
Duke Blue 24, Duke White 14
Duke White 0 7 0 7 — 14
Duke Blue 3 7 7 7 — 24
BLUE — FG 43 Ross Martin,8:30
BLUE — Ryan Smith 10 pass from Brandon Connette (Martin kick), 8:49
WHITE — Thomas Sirk 1 run (Jack Willoughby kick), 2:20
BLUE — Max McCaffrey 37 pass from Connette (Martin kick), 6:20
WHITE — Sirk 8 run (Willoughby kick), 7:50
BLUE — Shaquille Powell 36 run (Martin kick), 1:19
RUSHING — White, Joseph Ajeigbe 10-59, Thomas Sirk 19-30, Eric Adams 2-12, Eamonn Vain-Callahan 1-7. Blue, Shaquille Powell 8-75, Josh Snead 6-44, Johnathan Lloyd 3-18, Brandon Connette 6-7, Anthony Boone 3-2, Jackson Conway 1-1.
PASSING — White, Thomas Sirk 12-28-0 83. Blue, Brandon Connette 11-16-0 121; Anthony Boone 10-13-0 33.
RECEIVING — White, Joseph Ajeigbe 4-34, Quay Chambers 3-7, Anthony Nash 2-24, Issac Blakeney 2-11, Erich Schneider 1-7. Blue, Ryan Smith 5-26, Max McCaffrey 4-68, Johnell Barnes 3-24, Shaquille Powell 3-16, Braxton Deaver 2-8, David Reeves 1-8, Jamison Crowder 1-3, Josh Snead 1-3, Tanner Stone 1-(-2).
TACKLES — White, Evrett Edwards 8, Nick Hill 8, Quay Mann 7, Dominic McDonald 6, Dwayne Norman 6, Kyler Brown 6, Phillip Carter 5, Mike Ramsay 4, Keilin Rayner 3, Michael Westray 2, Michael Mann 2, Deion Willimas 1. Blue, Corbin McCarthy 8, Chris Holmes 6, A.J. Wolf 6, Dezmond Johnson 4, Deion Williams 4, Deondre Singleton 4, Carlos Wray 4, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo 3, Breon Borders 3, Kelby Brown 3, DeVon Edwards 3, Jeremy Cash 3, Christian Conway 2, Bryon Fields 2, Mario Sanders 2, Lucas Fisher 1, Jamie Cockey 1, Allen Jackson 1, Britton Grier 1.
SACKS — White, Edwards 1, Norman 1, Brown 1, Ramsay 1. Blue, Johnson 2, DeWalt-Ondijo 2, Williams 1.
TACKLES FOR LOSS — White, Edwards 1, Mann 1, McDonald 1, Norman 1, Brown 1, Ramsay 1. Blue, McCarthy, Johnson 2.5, Williams 1.5, DeWalt-Ondijo 2, Borders 1, Kelby Brown 0.5, DeVon Edwards 0.5
PASSES BROKEN UP — White, Kyler Brown 1. Blue, Johnson 1, Williams 1, DeWalt-Ondijo 1, Edwards 1, Borders 1.