Generally, it’s not a good sign when you can’t get your defense off the field. Tulane ran 14 consecutive plays early in the fourth period against Duke, keeping the ball for almost eight minutes.
They also gave up two touchdowns during that period, the second a bizarre play in a game full of bizarre plays.
But Duke benefited more than the visitors, turning a slew of self-inflicted Tulane wounds into a 47-13 win.
This one isn’t going to make a time capsule, not with seven turnovers, 20 penalties and enough video reviews to challenge even the most stalwart fan. But Duke is 4-0, after its fourth straight non-conference blow-out.
Duke got the ball first and marched down the field 75 yards in less than three minutes. No surprise here. Duke’s high-powered offense frequently scores early and often.
But except for a five-yard Tulane penalty, all of Duke’s yards came on quarterback rushes, 27 yards by Anthony Boone on four carries, Thomas Sirk 44 on two. Sirk picked up 43 yards on a third-and-one.
Tulane evened it up with disturbing ease. Tanner Lee--unimpeded by even a semblance of a Duke pass rush-completed five of six passes as Tulane marched 85 yards in 11 plays.
Dontrell Hilliard scored on a five-yard run.
Duke linebacker David Helton said Tulane had some surprises. "They showed us a lot of split back, a lot of two-back work. We weren’t expecting the hurry-up. We saw what they were doing. They changed throughout the game. A lot of our guys were getting out of their gaps. But we adapted and made big plays when we had to."
Duke marched back to go ahead 14-7. Josh Snead scored from a yard out but the big play was a 32-yard pass from Boone to Jamison Crowder.
Duke started blitzing more--David Cutcliffe said this was part of the game plan--and Helton sacked Lee, bringing up a fourth-and 20 from the Tulane 12. The snap sailed serenly over the head of punter Peter Picerelli, out of the end zone for a safety.
The first period ended with Duke’s quarterbacks at 68 rushing yards and the running backs at 12.
Boone called it a mixture of planning and reads. "They had real aggressive over-throw defense. I knew I had a chance to make their ends make decisions. Keep it as long as possible and make the ends guess wrong."
Duke got the ball back and moved to the Tulane 23. Cutcliffe passed up a makeable field goal and Boone failed to pickup the first down on a scramble.
It got stranger. Duke backed up Tulane to their 18 but Josh Snead was called for roughing the kicker on fourth-and-17. Tulane gambled on fourth down from their 42 and converted.
The drive reached the Duke 21 but Jeremy Cash ended the drive with an interception.
Ross Martin added a field goal, then Lee and Boone exchanged interceptions. Duke’s Zavier Carmichael had his first career pick, while Boone’s interception was Duke’s first turnover of the season.
The half ended with Duke up 19-7, scoring only three points in the second period.
Crowder says the second-period woes are fixable. "The receivers are not on the same page with the quarterbacks. It’s something we need to work on."
It looked like it might get easy early in the third quarter. Duke got a three-and-out and scored quickly once they got the ball, Boone hitting Crowder for 48 yards and then scoring from seven yards out.
But Tulane regained momentum with their second touchdown drive, aided by a pass-interference call and a defensive-holding call.
A low snap lead to a missed extra point, leaving the score at 26-13.
Tulane got a defensive stop but Will Monday got Duke out of a hole with a 55-yard rocket.
Duke started putting Lee into difficult situations. "We hit that quarterback a lot," Cutcliffe said, ":and applied a great deal of pressure."
The key sequence occurred late in the third quarter. Tulane went for it on fourth down at the Duke 24 but came up inches short.
Duke did nothing on offense but Monday’s 45-yard punt was fumbled by Teddy Veal and recovered by D.J. Reeves at the Tulane 24. Shaun Wilson scored four plays later, from seven yards out, extending Duke’s lead to 33-13.
Duke drove to the Tulane 12 but Wilson lost a fumble.
Then i t got weird again. Byron Fields got his first career interception and returned it 22 yards for a score.
Tulane ran five punts and was forced to punt. Another bad snap and blocker Rae Juan Marbely ended up with the loose ball. Marbley inexplicably tried to throw a pass; it was fourth and 15, he was behind the line of scrimmage and he’s a linebacker.
The pass ended up in the hands of Joe Ajeigbe, who took it 12 yards for the score.
That ended the scoring, although Sirk did notch another long run, this one for 50 yards.
Losing coach Curtis Johnson summed up how far Duke football has traveled under Cutcliffe. "They’re a good football team. I’d like to be there in a couple of years where they are right now. . . . That’s a model program of what we aspire to be."
Sirk ended with 94 yards on five carries, Boone 42 yards on 10 carries. Shaun Wilson followed his record-setting game against Kansas with 70 yards on seven carries. Wilson now has 404 yards on 28 carries.
Crowder had his best game of the season, 119 yards on six catches. He added a 24-yard punt return and a 26-yard kickoff return.
Tulane had a 28-23 edge in first downs and a nine-minute edge in time of possession. Duke had a 437-375 advantage in total yardage and forced five big turnovers.
After startiing 5-6, Lee ended up 14-35.
Ross Martin became all-time Duke career leader in PATs, with 126, passing Randy Gardner. Martin has made 82 consecutive PATs.
- Duke has won 12 straight regular-season games.
- Duke has won 10 straight non-conference regular season games.
- Duke has seven consecutive home wins.
- Quarterback Anthony Boone is 14-0 as a starter in regular season games, 14-2 overall.
- Crowder’s six catches moved him to fifth place in ACC history.
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