by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke comes into its annual Homecoming game on a bit of a roll, following its 20-19 escape at Boston College a week ago.
Today’s opponent on a damp day is Tulane (2-1), which will come into the contest before a half-full stadium a 10½-point underdog.
Tulane, another one of those “Southern Ivies” similar to Duke, has a 2-0 lead in the all-time series although the last contest was in 1973.
Duke is impressive, rolling up 484 yards total offense and scoring 48 points before Tulane’s offense gets into the end zone in a 48-27 win.
Duke has no trouble on its first possession, going 76 yards in five plays resulting in Juwan Thompson’s 1-yard plunge at 11:25. Sean Renfree’s 44-yard bomb to Conner Vernon sets up the play with Will Snyderwine adding the boot.
The Green Wave evens it up at 8:22 as Ryan Travis steps in front of a Renfree pass and returns it untouched 23 yards down the right sideline with Cairo Santos adding the try.
The Blue Devils strike again at 7:27 on Thompson’s 20-yard run left, with Snyderwine again on the kick. And it goes to 21-7 at 2:45, when Vernon catches a 13-yard Renfree pass before recovering his own fumble into the end zone and Snyderwine converts.
Santos kicks a 20-yard field goal for the visitors with 14:24 left in the half, but the rest of the period is all Duke.
Snyderwine shoes his ailing leg is getting better with a 40-yard field goal at 11:23. And at 1:33, Renfree keeps for a two-yard score to complete an 18-play, 75-yard march with Snyderwine making it 31-10.
Duke stretches the lead to 28 points following Jay Hollingworth’s three-yard run with 10:22 left in the third. And after Santos’ 49-yard field goal, Renfree scores on a seven-yard run with 1:57 left in the period with Jeffrey Ijjas’ boot making it 45-13.
Ijjas’ 26-yard field goal with 13:19 remaining completes the Duke scoring. Tulane gets a two-yard TD pass from Ryan Griffin to Brock Sanders with 10:37 to go and a seven-yard Robert Kelley TD run at 2:09.
Renfree finishes 21-for-30 for 278 yards with a TD and an interception and runs for the score himself. Thompson picks up 69 yards on 14 carries, while Vernon has six catches for 96 yards.
Griffin completes 14 of 29 passes for 188 yards and the TD with one interception, while Justyn Shackleford catches three for 59 yards. Tulane rushes for 55 yards on 22 tries.
They said it …
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “I was happy we got better in the second half. We kind of picked up where we left off in that regard. We weren’t perfect, (but) we answered everything they did — field goal or otherwise — with touchdowns. A lot of players were involved and we ran the ball a little across the goal line. One thing I was disappointed in is that Sean got hit a little bit. He’s been more banged up than we let on. I’m proud of the fact that he won’t give in to it.”
Tulane coach Bob Toledo: “They ran the ball extremely well and we missed tackles. Of course, Renfree did a great job of being accurate and the receivers did a nice job of catching the ball and running after the catch. … Duke put eight or nine guys in the box and they took away the run. They got us out of our rhythm.”
Vernon: “It was a big win for us. We knew this was a good team coming in. We had a good game plan and we executed. We had a lot of confidence after winning on the road. Just getting that first win definitely helped. It was a momentum-builder just like this win this week. Now we’ve just got to build on this and try to win next week in Miami and come back 3-2.”
Duke nose guard Charlie Hatcher: “This was really important for us, but Coach Cutcliffe has been telling us that it’s a one-game season. We start on Sundays, and regardless of what happens the week before we’re going to go out there and do what we do and just work hard to prepare for that week.”
What does it all mean?
That the Blue Devils are a third of the way to bowl eligibility and have some pretty solid momentum.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Vernon’s score for the two-touchdown Duke lead.
Tulane leads 2-1.
Duke: Won 2.
Tulane: Lost 1.
Tulane at Army, Oct. 1, noon
Duke at Florida International, Oct. 1, 7 p.m.