by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM It might be time for the biggest basketball games of the year and the finish of playoff chases in hockey, and Major League Baseball is already running.
But in the Triangle, it’s spring football time for the local ACC schools.
Duke plays the first of the spring games today in a little bit of heat after some morning rains looked like they might soak everybody.
David Cutcliffe’s squad is coming off a 3-9 season in which it was once again competitive and about three plays away from a bowl game. But the program seems to be at least getting on a solid foundation and with a few breaks, challenging the middle of the ACC.
Duke will be missing a boatload of injured players for its annual spring contest, which will pit the best offensive players on the Blue team against the best defenders on the White. And it will be a standard football game except for its 12-minute quarters and the absence of any kickoffs with offenses simply starting play at their own 25 following touchdowns.
Today the top defense is better than top offense, as the Whites score the first 14 points en route to a 38-24 win.
And the game features some unusual stars.
Little walk-on sophomore Eric Adams (5-8, 170) is the workhorse in the White attack, carrying a whopping 31 times for 107 yards and catching . And freshman quarterback Thomas Sirk, who is likely to redshirt, completes 11 of 13 for 90 yards and two scores and carries three times for 21 for the winners.
Sean Schroeder completes nine of 15 for 85 yards and rushes seven times for 27 for the Whites.
Blue quarterback and regular starter Sean Renfree has a rough day, completing 10 of 24 passes for 104 yards but with two interceptions – both returned for touchdowns. Jordon Byas takes a 32-yarder to the house to help make it 14-0 in the first quarter, while Kyler Brown seals the outcome on a 32-yard return with five seconds left in the game.
Brandon Connette completes four of seven for 83 yards and a touchdown, while adding 54 yards on six carries for the Blues.
Josh Snead – who missed all of last season with a foot injury – carries four times for 90 yards and a touchdown for the Blues, but is on the wrong end of the biggest play of the game as Ross Cockrell strips him of the ball at the end of an 85-yard run and the ball rolls out of the end zone for a touchback.
Britton Grier has 13 tackles to lead four double-figure tacklers for the Blues as Chris Hoover adds 11 and Tim Burton 10 and Jeremy Cash 10 each.
They said it …
Cutcliffe: “There was a lot of good individual play. Schematically we don’t have everything we’ll do, but we’ve got players that can make plays on both sides of the ball. That’s a key. We want to grow that number. There were a lot of people on both teams in both sides of the ball who made big plays. … Adams carried the torch and kept the spirit of this team today, and I’m very, very proud of him.”
Adams: “Great blocking. We all just went out there and worked. I figured after 15 practices this is where we all go at it. We (walk-ons) just do what we can. We step up in a lot of ways. We’ve got some running backs out, so we knew we’d have to step up. It was very competitive with a lot of hard-hitting guys out there and a lot of passion. I know I need an ice bath.”
Cockrell: “The pressure was on (the defense) from the very beginning. We had to make plays and had to make stops, and we did that. We had players go down and we had players step up. The defense is about interlocking pieces. And when you have players like (S) Brandon Braxton and (CB) Lee Butler go down (apparently with short-term injuries), we have to finish the game.”
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Cockrell’s strip of Snead on the 85-yard run.
Duke vs. Florida International, Sept. 1.