DUKE SCUTTLES NAVY
Anthony Boone went from part-time player to starter on Saturday.
It didn’t take him long to become a standout for Duke football once again.
When quarterback Brandon Connette’s tender ankle left him suddenly unavailable 30 minutes before kickoff, Boone returned to the starting lineup for the first time since breaking his collarbone on Sept. 7.
Admittedly rusty and hesitant early, Boone proceeded to throw for three touchdowns and a career-best 295 yards as the Blue Devils routed Navy 35-7 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“The first thing I’ll say is a tremendous performance from Anthony Boone,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “He found out he was playing about the same time I did.”
Duke’s starting quarterback entering the season, Boone was replaced by Connette when he broke his collarbone.
Over the last two weeks, Boone had progressed rapidly in his recovery from the injury and Cutcliffe wanted to get him two or three series on Saturday to re-acclimate him to the offense.
But Connette twisted an ankle on Thursday. He was jogging from the practice field to the locker room with teammates and, while they zig-zagged in and out of each other’s paths, Connette got tangled up, stumbled and inured his ankle.
He was able to practice on Friday and Cutcliffe planned to start him. But after pregame warm-ups, Connette told Cutcliffe he didn’t feel healthy enough to play.
“He moved around just OK in pregame warmup,” Cutcliffe said. “I know how tough Brandon Connette is and he comes to us and says, `I can’t go. I can’t play.’”
Cutcliffe and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper made the decision to go with Boone rather than give freshman Parker Boehme his first collegiate experience.
“I’m proud of Brandon Connette for being honest with us,” Cutcliffe said. “And then Anthony just slipped in like he hadn’t missed a beat.”
Boone completed 31 of 38 passes, the most completions and attempts in a single game in his career. The redshirt junior’s completion percentage of .816 marked the sixth-best performance in Duke history.
“The line did a great job protecting me,” Boone said. “The scheme that we played allowed me to get the ball out quick and get my confidence building and just go from there.”
It wasn’t all smooth, but most of it was.
Boone completed 7 of 8 passes on Duke’s first possession as the Blue Devils (4-2) reached the Navy 20. On fourth-and-1, Boone was supposed to roll right and toss a short pass for the first down.
But Boone thought his receiver had fallen and felt he had to run. Not wanting to lower his shoulder and risk re-injury, he headed for the sidelines. He ran out short of the first down.
After Duke’s next drive, which included Boone absorbing a sack, the redshirt junior’s outlook changed.
“After the first quarter I felt more comfortable,” Boone said. “The first couple of series was kind of like flying bullets. Things flying around and the speed of the game.”
The Blue Devils scored touchdowns on their next two possessions, with Boone firing a 27-yard touchdown pass to Issac Blakeney and a 3-yard scoring pass to Max McCaffrey.
The scoring toss to McCaffrey was especially brilliant as the sophomore wide receiver ran a fade route the corner of the end zone. Boone lofted the ball up and it fell into McCaffrey’s arms as the receiver had his back to Boone.
Up 14-7 Duke took a knee on its final play of the first half, but came out of the halftime lockerroom with three more scoring drives in a row to take control.
The first two covered 72 yards each with Boone hooking up with Blakeney on an 18-yard touchdown pass and sophomore running back Jela Duncan running 5 yards to put Duke up 28-7.
“I thought Boone looked good coming back,” said Duke junior receiver Jamison Crowder, who caught a game-high 10 passes for 88 yards. “His first game since being gone what, the second game? He just stepped in and I thought he was on track. Our offense was going.”
The Blue Devils defense, after giving up at least 31 points over its last three games did its part as well. Navy managed just 73 total yards after halftime as Duke’s front line stymied the Midshipmen (3-2).
After its opponents committed only six turnovers in the first five games, Duke forced three Navy turnovers. That matched the same number Navy had in its previous four games combined.
“We got our butts whupped all the way around,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We got outcoached, we got outplayed. It’s been a long time since we’ve been beat that bad in every phase.”
Cutcliffe, trying to get the Blue Devils to back-to-back road games for the first time in school history, didn’t disagree.
“I think, at this point,” Cutcliffe said, “that was probably the best game we’ve played at Duke.”
|DUKE 35, NAVY 7|
Duke—Blakeney 27 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 9:35.
Navy—Staten 7 run (Sloan kick), 7:49.
Duke—McCaffrey 3 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 4:35.
Duke—Blakeney 18 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 9:52.
Duke—Duncan 5 run (Martin kick), 3:42.
Duke—Powell 7 run (Martin kick), 12:36.
|Time of Possession||25:11||34:49|
RUSHING—Navy, C.Swain 13-61, Thomas 3-56, Reynolds 16-31,
Sanders 4-27, N.Copeland 7-26, Singleton 3-14, Staten 2-13,
Williams-Jenkins 1-4, Akers 1-(minus 2). Duke, Duncan 9-45, Snead 7-35,
Thompson 6-30, Powell 3-27, Crowder 2-10, Boone 6-(minus 3),
Team 4-(minus 10).
PASSING—Navy, Reynolds 6-13-1-89, Team 0-1-0-0. Duke,
Boone 31-38-0-295, Monday 1-1-0-6.
RECEIVING—Navy, Sanders 3-55, Williams-Jenkins 2-24, Staten 1-10.
Duke, Crowder 10-88, Braxton 7-41, Blakeney 5-57, Deaver 3-54,
Nash 3-31, McCaffrey 3-29, Snead 1-1.