Duke freshman Jalon Calhoun on his two TDs
N.C. A&T built two leads to make Duke fans watching their team’s home opener nervous Saturday night.
Quarterback Quentin Harris and the Blue Devils shrugged off that sluggish start to make things comfortable with a big second quarter.
Duke scored three touchdowns over span of two minutes, 26 seconds just before halftime to build an 18-point halftime lead on the way to a 45-13 win over the Aggies at Wallace Wade Stadium in front of a crowd of 38,013.
Harris, a redshirt senior taking over as Duke’s starter this season, threw for a career-best 345 yards with four touchdown passes, completing 30-of-42 passes. He also rushed 13 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.
N.C. A&T (1-1), ranked No. 14 in the country in the latest Football Championship Subdivision poll, opened the scoring with a first-quarter field goal and grabbed a 10-7 lead on Jah-Maine Martin’s 66-yard touchdown run with 11:20 left in the second quarter.
The Aggies maintained that lead until Harris began a Duke onslaught just prior to halftime. His 22-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Mataeo Durant put Duke up for good at 14-10 with 3:10 to play before halftime.
On the next play from scrimmage, Duke cornerback Leonard Johnson stripped the ball from Aggies wide receiver Elijah Bell after a completed pass. Dylan Singleton recovered for the Blue Devils at the N.C. A&T 25.
Harris quickly converted that into a score, tossing a pass over the defense to freshman wide receiver Eli Pancol for a 25-yard touchdown and a 21-10 Duke lead.
Duke got the ball back at the Aggies’ 45 with 1:57 left until halftime but needed just six plays to reach the end zone again. Harris completed three consecutive passes before his 6-yard touchdown run for a 28-10 Blue Devils lead with 34 seconds left in the half.
After not making a field goal longer than 38 yards during his one season as Duke’s starting kicker in 2016, AJ Reed booted a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter for the Blue Devils on Saturday night.
After N.C. A&T took a 10-7 lead, Duke’s defense limited the Aggies to 16 yards on their next five possessions as the Blue Devils took control and built their big lead.
Penalties continued to plague Duke’s effort. After being penalized eight times in last week’s 42-3 loss to Alabama, the Blue Devils picked up nine penalties for 97 yards against N.C. A&T. Last season, Duke was called for an average of 4.2 penalties per game last season, second-fewest in the ACC.
Duke’s first three touchdowns were scored by players who had never scored a college touchdown prior to Saturday night (sophomore running back Durant and freshmen wide receivers Jalon Calhoun and Pancol).
2: Successful third-down conversions for N.C. A&T on 14 attempts as Duke succeeded in preventing Aggies long drives.
105: Receiving yards gained by Duke freshman wide receiver Jalon Calhoun on his eight catches. That included two touchdowns.
574: Duke’s total yardage against N.C. A&T. It’s the fifth game in the past 12, dating back to last season, that the Blue Devils have surpassed the 500-yard mark in total offense.