NCCU can't get anything going in worst-ever Classic loss
It got worse.
Duke beat N.C. Central by 35 points in the first Bull City Gridiron Classic in 2009. N.C. Central lost by 37 in the second installment a year ago.
On Saturday, NCCU didn’t even get on the scoreboard.
Duke, a 33-point Las Vegas favorite, was all over NCCU, 45-0.
“We just really couldn’t get anything going,” NCCU quarterback Jordan Reid said. “From the start, I think they kind of had our number, and the momentum just wasn’t on our side.”
NCCU’s game plan was to pressure Duke’s offense to keep athletic quarterback Anthony Boone from getting loose and hurting the Eagles with his legs, NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said.
Boone had 24 yards rushing, including a 1-yard touchdown, and threw for 176 more.
Duke backup quarterback Brandon Connette carried for 22 yards and churned for a 1-yard touchdown, adding two touchdown passes.
Neither Blue Devil quarterback was sacked.
NCCU’s defensive line, a strength last season, wasn’t getting a great push early on.
So on fourth-and-one in the first quarter, Boone kept the football and got three yards to continue Duke’s drive. NCCU’s defense managed to keep Duke out of the end zone and forced the Blue Devils into a 38-yard field goal attempt that went wide.
Reid came out for NCCU’s first offensive series with an empty backfield and completed a five-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Poole, a promising opening salvo. But NCCU’s offense fizzled and was off the field in three plays, a slow start reminiscent of last year’s and one the Eagles had hoped to avoid.
NCCU’s defense returned to the field with little rest. Duke lined up with a short field and scored.
“They just came out with more energy than us,” NCCU linebacker Tazmon Foster said. “They wanted it more than us. We didn’t bring it tonight.”
Duke’s defense showed discipline on fourth-and-one with 1:05 to go in the first quarter, not buying Reid’s bark that was intended to draw the Blue Devils offside, leading to a punt that Jamison Crowder returned 76 yards for a touchdown.
“We’ve got to get that fixed,” Dwayne Foster said.
A year ago in the classic, Duke’s Lee Butler returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown.
The Eagles wanted to push the tempo when they had the ball, Dwayne Foster said, but it didn’t work. Five NCCU rushers combined for 81 yards, and Reid, who was sacked twice, threw for 87 more.
“We had too many mistakes,” Coach Foster said.
The Eagles caught a bad break, too.
Tazmon Foster has an acute nose for footballs, and he sniffed out an apparent second-quarter fumble by Duke receiver Anthony Nash, scooping it up and running into the end zone.
But after replay review, officials ruled that Nash never had possession. The reversal clipped the Eagles’ wings.
Duke returned to the field and scored some more.
“It was disappointing. I thought the guy caught the ball for three steps and it came out,” Coach Foster said. “A little deflating.”
Tazmon Foster, who led all tacklers with 13, wouldn’t use that play to make excuses.
“It was a big play, but the downfall is it got called back,” Tazmon Foster said. “I don’t know what to say, man. We lost.”
“It could have been a big turnaround at that point, getting on the board,” Dwayne Foster said. “The officials on the field agreed that it was a fumble.”
Reid said he’s moving on to prepare for NCCU’s next game at 2 p.m. Saturday at home against St. Augustine’s.
That’s as it should be — there’s no time for guys to be hanging their heads, Coach Foster said.
“We had a lot of fight,” Coach Foster said. “We’re going to build off the positives, get the negatives fixed.”
Duke personnel in the press box received a message that there would be no fireworks after the game for the sake of good sportsmanship.
That’s how bad the beating was.
But somebody on the field must have missed the memo, because those loud bombs were bursting in the air as the final whistle sounded.
“We’ll be fine,” Dwayne Foster said about his team. “I like the look in their eyes. We’ll be fine.”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe seconded that.
“As people are going to find out, Central is going to be a good team in their league,” Cutcliffe said, referring to the FCS Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“They’ve got a real chance to win that league,” Cutcliffe said. “They have some real weapons on offense, and that quarterback is a good player.”