DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils smothered the Elon Phoenix 52-13 in front of a crowd of 31,213 in attendance at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.
The win extended the Blue Devils’ opening-day record to 5-2 under head coach David Cutcliffe who was pleased with his team’s balanced offensive performance, as it finished with 292 passing yards while moving the chains another 275 yards on the ground.
“It was a good opener,” Cutcliffe said.
“I knew it would be. I was really impressed with Elon. We didn’t know what to expect, although I knew they would be well organized, well-oiled on both sides of the ball…It tested us in a lot of areas and we’ll grow.”
Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery made his debut in his role and utilized all three of the team’s pivots.
Starter Anthony Boone went 22-33, threw four touchdown passes and totaled 247 total yards, while Thomas Sirk (5-7, 40 yards, 8-55 yards, 2 TD’s) and Parker Boehme (1-2, 5 yards, 3-14 yards) made an impact in leading Duke’s offense effectively in the air and on the ground.
“We played three quarterbacks,” Cutcliffe said.
“That’s something we wanted to accomplish. I know all of you want to ask about Thomas Cirk. He (can) run the football pretty good. I thought he played extremely well. I though Anthony played extremely well, and Parker Boehm – he came in and ran the offense too.”
Boone’s four touchdown strikes went to wide receivers Jamison Crowder (7 catches, 93 yards) and Issac Blakeney (4 catches, 45 yards) who posted two touchdown receptions apiece.
Max McCaffrey (5 catches, 65 yards), David Reeves (3 catches, 25 yards) and Anthony Nash (2 catches, 16 yards) made impressive long snags of 26, 19, and 18 yards respectively to keep Duke’s scoring drives going.
Running backs Josh Snead (12 carries, 74 yards) and Shaquille Powell (11 carries, 54 yards) did formidable work in softening up the Elon defense throughout the game.
The Blue Devils defense finished with 77 total tackles with DeVon Edwards (7 tackles), Bryon Fields (6 tackles), and David Helton (5 tackles) leading the way in pressuring Elon quarterback Mike Quinn (19-38, 190 yards) and leading rushers B.J. Bennett (13 carries, 87 yards) and Tracy Coppedge (15 carries, 65 yards), along with containing pass receiver Kierre Brown (5 catches, 70 yards) throughout the game.
“The short of what I saw is that we do have some players makin’ plays,” Cutcliffe said.
“We’ve got some good football players and we’ve got some guys who are capable of makin’ a lot of plays.”
After forcing Elon to three-and-out following the opening kickoff, the Blue Devils scored on their first possession, taking a 7-0 lead at the 8:55 mark.
Boone connected on a four-yard pass to Blakeney in the left corner of the end zone for his first score of the game.
Placekicker Ross Martin successfully converted the first of his seven PAT’s on the day, and ended Duke’s 11-play drive that spanned 61 yards in four-and-a-half minutes of possession time.
The Phoenix quickly answered back on their next possession, eating up over five minutes of the game clock while moving the chains 61 yards before placekicker John Gallagher put the ball through the uprights on a 36-yard attempt that cut the Duke lead to 7-3.
Boone connected on a 46-yard pass to Crowder on just one play and extended the Duke lead to 14-3 just 41 seconds into the second quarter.
Sirk made his first appearance in the game with 10:52 remaining in the opening half.
Filling the role that former quarterback Brandon Connette assumed during his time at Duke, he took the snap in the wildcat formation and gained four yards on the play.
From there, Boone continued the Blue Devils’ eventual 80-yard drive with a combination of handoffs and passes.
Powell finally got the ball from Boone at the two-yard line and rushed in his first touchdown of the season and pushed the Duke lead to 21-3 with 8:08 to play.
Elon then put together its most aggressive scoring drive of the half, but couldn’t break past the Duke 18-yard line.
The Phoenix settled for another Gallagher field goal, this time from 35 yards out, and cut the Blue Devils lead to 21-6 with 4:24 remaining.
Boone then connected with McCaffrey, making his longest reception of the game, and set Blakeney up to finish the drive on the next play.
The wide receiver caught a 19-yard strike from Boone in close coverage, broke a tackle while spinning from left to right, and ran the ball into the end zone untouched for his second score of the half.
Duke led 28-6 following the nine-play 79-yard drive, and carried that margin into the halftime break.
As Duke’s lead increased throughout the second half, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles utilized as much of the personnel in his depth charts to put work in and contribute to the team’s sack (2), tackles for loss (3-14), pass breakup (6), and quarterback hurry (4) totals on the day.
The Phoenix were held scoreless throughout the third quarter while the Blue Devils added 10 more points.
Boone put together a drive that found McCaffrey the recipient of two throws that put Duke at the Elon 35-yard line.
Unable to move the ball farther ahead and faced with fourth down and seven, Montgomery left Boone and the offense out on the field.
Boone responded and kept the drive going as he zipped a pass over the middle to Crowder to gain the first down on the 28-yard line.
After a few rushes, Boone was faced with another seven-yard challenge on third down.
Easily enough, he finished the drive with a 13-yard pass to Crowder to extend the lead to 35-6 with 11:32 to play.
Just under five minutes later, Duke’s defense led by Deondre Singleton held off a threatening Elon drive with fourth and one yard to go on the Duke 44-yard line.
Singleton’s hurry on the play forced Quinn to throw the ball low and to the ground and gave the Blue Devils the ball in good field position.
From there, Martin eventually capped off the ensuing drive with the longest kick of the game, a 49-yard field goal that had Duke leading 38-6 with 4:33 to play in the quarter.
On the next series, Duke’s Zach Muniz (3 tackles, 1 PBR) and Alonzo Saxton II (4 tackles, 1 PBR) each earned a pass breakup on back-to-back plays and forced the Phoenix to punt the ball away.
With 1:24 remaining in the quarter, Sirk assumed control of the offense and proceeded to gain yards from the Duke 18-yard line.
He moved the ball towards the middle of the field to begin the final quarter of play and soon connected with freshman receiver Joseph Ajeigbe to give him his lone catch of the game and set up Duke’s next score.
The 14-yard reception advanced the ball to the Elon 15-yard line from which the quarterback began his run to score his first career touchdown, plowing through the Phoenix defense to do so.
On its next possession, It only took two snaps following a catch from Brown to set up Elon’s lone touchdown of the game.
B.J. Bennett ran the ball in from the Duke five-yard line and modestly narrowed the Blue Devils lead to 45-13 with 10:23 remaining.
Duke then answered the score on the kick return as Johnell Barnes ran the ball back 60 yards where Sirk again took control of the offense on the Elon 37-yard line.
Sirk scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run three minutes later to complete the game’s scoring.
With Duke leading 52-13, Boehme came into the game with 6:16 remaining and got some reps in and led Duke’ final drive of the game.
During that time, freshman running back Shaun Wilson (6 rushes, 71 yards) made an impressive showing with his longest gain of the game, a 26-yard run that set the Blue Devils up at the Elon 10-yard line.
Boehme worked the ball off the snap with a few more handoffs to Wilson, and followed up with a rush of his own, but an incomplete pass attempt on fourth and goal eventually turned the ball over to Elon with 1:02 remaining.
Even with a 28-yard rush from Bennett, the Phoenix weren’t able to get anything else going offensively before the game clock ran out on them to end the game.