Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson combined for 166 yards on the ground, but the Blue Devils could not overcome missed opportunities and costly turnovers, falling to Richmond, 23-21, in front of 32,241 fans at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday evening.DURHAM, N.C. - Duke's running back tandem of
Starting quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 201 yards on 23-for-33 passing, while receiver Conner Vernon caught eight passes for 78 yards to pace Duke's receiving corps as Duke outgained Richmond 379-288 for the game. In addition, senior Donovan Varner totaled 60 yards on four receptions to become the seventh Blue Devil to amass 2,000 career receiving yards.
Despite Duke gaining 172 yards to Richmond's 166 in the first half, the Spiders were able to capitalize on a pair of Blue Devil turnovers to take a 10-7 lead into halftime. Both teams got off to a slow start as neither team put points on the board in the opening quarter. Richmond punched in the first touchdown of the game early in the second quarter after a Duke fumble gave the Spiders the ball at the Devils' 14-yard line.
The Duke offense began to gel on its next possession and needed only four plays to cover 63 yards to tie the game, 7-7. Following three straight completions from Renfree, Scott broke free through the middle for a 29-yard TD run with 12:57 left in the quarter. The run marked the second-longest of Scott's career and the fifth career touchdown dash for the junior.
On Richmond's next possession, the Spiders moved into Duke territory before cornerback Ross Cockrell tipped a Corp pass that safety Walt Canty caught for the interception. However, the Blue Devils gave the ball back three plays later as Duke lost a second fumble inside its own territory. The Duke defense kept Richmond out of the end zone, but the Spiders hit the 29-yard field goal to go on top, 10-7.
With time running down in the second quarter, Duke moved the ball deep into Richmond territory, but the Blue Devils were unable to stop the clock following a completion inside the Richmond 20-yard line and time expired.
The Blue Devils' offense continued to pick up yardage following intermission and mounted an 11-play, 73-yard drive on its first possession of the half. The duo of Scott and Thompson totaled 58 yards on the drive, which was capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Brandon Connette.
Richmond faced a three-and-out on its next possession, but a 48-yard pass brought the Spiders down to the Duke 29, and Richmond used three plays to regain the lead, 17-14, with 5:13 to go in the quarter. Duke again responded, marching 73 yards down the field in 4:36 to take a 21-17 lead on a three-yard run up the middle from red-shirt freshman quarterback Anthony Boone, but the Blue Devils could not hold onto the advantage down the stretch.
On their next possession, the Spiders found the end zone on fourth-and-one following a 78-yard drive to claim the lead for good.
Duke had its opportunities to win the game late after pinning Richmond deep in its own territory, but a missed 28-yard field goal with 1:43 remaining ended the Blue Devil threat. Duke got the ball back with under a minute to play, and moved across midfield. However the Blue Devils' attempt at a 60-yard field goal with five seconds remaining fell short, securing the win for the Spiders.
On defense, linebacker Kelby Brown totaled 10 tackles to lead Duke, followed closely by safety Matt Daniels, who also tied the school record with six pass breakups in the game, with nine tackles. The Blue Devils finished the game with 11 pass breakups. Sophomore Ross Cockrell added six tackles and three PBUs in the game.
Duke returns to action next Saturday, Sept. 10 as the Blue Devils play host to Stanford at 3:30 p.m. from Wallace Wade Stadium.