by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM It’s the second edition of the Bull City Gridiron Classic, with new crosstown rivals
The Blue Devils won the first meeting 49-14 in 2009, and the teams are set to play in four of the next five years with the exception being 2014.
Both teams are 1-1, and each is coming off a rough loss last week — Duke falling 50-13 at No. 25 Stanford and NCCU bowing 34-14 at Elon. The Dunkel Index has Duke as a 50-point favorite.
Duke will get an emotional list from the return to the sidelines of Blair Holliday, the wide receiver who suffered a brain injury in a jet ski accident on July 4 weekend.
Before the game both schools’ cross-country teams — men and then women — start their dual meet on the stadium track before heading out into the woods. Duke wins the men’s event 15-50 and the women’s 15-44.
Duke leads by 17 at halftime, then uses a couple of turnovers to blow out the final score in a 54-17 win.
Duke gets on the board on its second possession, as Ross Martin’s 25-yard field goal completes a five-play, 35-yard drive following a long punt return from Lee Butler. The key play of the drive is Sean Renfree’s 31-yard pass to Hillside High alum Desmond Scott.
Butler then produces some lightning when he returns a punt 65 yards for a TD, getting out of about three tough situations along the way before sprinting the last 30 yards down the right sideline. It is Duke’s first punt return TD in 11 years. Martin’s boot makes it 10-0 at 6:57.
The Eagles answer at 3:24 as Andre Clarke goes in from a yard out and Oleg Parent adds the try. Arthur Goforth’s 59-yard kickoff return sets up the eight-play, 41-yard drive.
Martin adds a 30-yard field goal with 9:14 left in the half to put Duke up 20-7.
And the Blue Devils make it 27-7 with 3:10 left before intermission, as Renfree hits Josh Snead out of the backfield for an 18-yard touchdown to end an 11-play, 70-yard march with Martin adding the boot.
Parent cuts it to 27-10 on a 33-yard field goal with four seconds left in the half.
Duke gets the killer blow with 6:49 left in the third, when Snead goes in from five yards out to complete a methodical 10-play, 66-yard march and Martin converts.
And it goes to 41-10 with 1:34 left in the quarter when Renfree hits Isaac Blakeney on a 54-yard strike and Martin adds the kick.
The Eagles make it more respectable when Jordan Reid bulls in from two yards out and Parent converts to make it 41-17 with 11:54 remaining.
Duke tacks on another when Ross Cockrell takes an interception of Reid 32 yards to the house at 7:38 and Martin adds the try.
And after NCCU loses a fumble Anthony Boone hits Jack Wise from six yards out at 5:54 to make it 54-17.
Renfree completes 24 of 34 passes for 274 yards and three TDs. Crowder leads the Blue Devils with 84 yards on seven catches.
Reid comes off the bench to complete 17 of 26 for 218 yards with two interceptions. Clarke rushes 14 times for 59 yards and the TD.
They said it …
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “Being 2-1 beats the heck out of 1-2. Being undefeated at home at this point is something we need to build on and take pride in. Now, when you get down to the football end of things there is plenty to work on. I think the key word I left the squad with is ‘persistence’ … I don’t ever take wins lightly. (NCCU has) some good athletes, some good-looking defensive linemen and a couple of good-looking offensive linemen and some guys who can run. I was really impressed with Reid.”
NCCU coach Henry Frazier: “We thought on offense if we sped the tempo up a little bit we would be in pretty good shape. I thought we were able to do well in some aspects of that, but penalties and tackling in space hurt us. They’ve got some jitterbugs out there who can put some moves on guys, and when you miss a tackle you see what happens.”
Renfree: “I thought our offense was good in spurts. There wasn’t much of a flow to it; I think we struggled at times. We had a couple three-and-outs. But we had some explosive plays. Those were good to see, and that’s what got us the win. … I thought our defense did a phenomenal job. In all three phases, really, we scored. Special teams scoring a touchdown, that was big. It’s important to have that momentum going into next week.”
Cockrell: “The defense wanted to come back and our defensive line got us a lot of pressure today. … Especially with our defensive line and our front six or seven playing as well as they’ve played all season, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be the toughest defense in the ACC.”
What does it all mean?
That this one turned out about as expected. Both teams should be favored next week.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Renfree’s touchdown pass to Snead late in the first half.
Duke: Won 1.
NCCU: Lost 2.
Duke leads 2-0.
Duke vs. Memphis, 6 p.m., Sept. 22
NCCU at Savannah State, 7 p.m., Sept. 22