Duke claims Bull City Gridiron Classic over N.C. Central with 55-0 win

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils welcomed the North Carolina Central Eagles back to a revamped Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium as both teams contested one another in a sold out Bull City Gridiron Classic on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the return engagement for the Eagles ended up the same as it did in 2013, with the Blue Devils shutting them out 55-0 this time.

Duke not only extended its record to 2-0 on the season, but finished the game with 655 total yards of offense – gaining 367 yards passing and 288 rushing.

While the Eagles opened their season with 72-0 win over St. Augustine’s, they were not able to keep pace with the Blue Devils.

“N.C. Central is a good football team,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said.

“You don’t do what they did last week, if you’re not a good football team. I know because I watched them on tape. They’re well coached, they’re gonna play real well and do real well in their league. Our team was ready; their team was ready. A lot of things went well for us, but consistency was better.”

Both teams started with choppy first possessions.

For the Eagles, it was due to Duke’s defense, whereas for the Blue Devils, it was due to a lack of finish.

While N.C. Central quarterback Malcolm Bell (12-24, 127 yards) made some impressive passes, including a 37-yard strike to Khalil Stinson (4 catches, 54 yards), Duke defensive captain Jeremy Cash (six tackles) contributed to two sacks on the quarterback.

Along with Cash, Breon Borders (5 tackles), Alonzo Saxton II (4 tackles), Kyler Brown (4 tackles) and the rest of the Blue Devils defense held the Eagles to 54 yards rushing all game.

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk (15-22, 315 yard, 3 TDs/9 rushes, 89 yards, 1 TD) eventually got the offense firing on all cylinders.

“Each game’s a learning process for me,” Sirk said.

“I’m taking away from each game as much as I can – learning more about coverages, learning more about my guys. Learning where they’re gonna be on certain plays, how the defense is reacting, and the speed of the game.”

With 2:49 remaining in the opening quarter, Sirk put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive that finished with a lofted 24-yard pass to Shaquille Powell (3 receptions, 21 yards, 1 TD/16 rushes, 71 yards) that put the Blue Devils ahead 7-0.

After Sirk rushed for a touchdown to extend the lead to 14-0 in the second quarter, he connected a 44-yard bomb to Johnell Barnes (2 catches, 56 yards) that eventually led to a field goal from Ross Martin (2-2 FG, 34 & 38 yards).

A rushing touchdown from Shaun Wilson (17 rushes, 57 yards, 1 TD) came from one-yard out with 55 seconds remaining and eventually put Duke ahead 24-0 at halftime.

The Blue Devils added another 17 points during the third quarter, including an 89-yard touchdown reception from Wilson, the third-longest in program history that extended their lead to 41-0.

“When I caught it, I had two good blocks on the outside,” Wilson said.

“I just saw green and I went with it.”

Duke backup quarterback Parker Boehme (4-4, 52 yards) came into the game during the final quarter, and after transfer running back Zach Boden scored his first touchdown in a Blue Devils uniform, ran a four-yard option to finalize the game’s scoring with 2:33 remaining.

“I thought we played better the second half, than we did the first half, which is always a good sign,” Cutcliffe said.

“It’s now two games, we have a lot to build off of. A lot of people played two weeks in a row with meaningful snaps. I think we’re gonna’ grow that. I think we have an opportunity to get better, each and every week. That’s all you think at this time of year.”

Highlights – ACC Digital Network – TheACC.com