DURHAM, N.C. – Duke quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 274 yards on 24-of-34 passing to lead the Blue Devils to a 54-17 victory over N.C. Central this evening in the Bull City Gridiron Classic in front 22,829 fans at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Blue Devils finished with 408 yards of offense to improve to 2-1 on the year.
Renfree finished with three touchdown passes, marking the third time in his career he has registered at least three touchdown passes in a game. Jamison Crowder led all receivers with seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, while Josh Snead finished with a rushing and receiving touchdown and had 45 all-purpose yards on the night.
The Blue Devils scored an offensive, defensive and special team touchdown in the victory, the first time it has been done since beating Maryland in 2004. The 54-points are the second highest by Duke in the David Cutcliffe era.
Freshman kicker Ross Martin scored the first points of the game with a 25-yard field goal 6:29 into the opening quarter. The Blue Devils forced the Eagles into their third punt of the game on the ensuing drive to set up a thrilling 65-yard punt return from redshirt senior Lee Butler.
Butler, collecting the punt at the 35-yard line, got pushed all the way back to the 20-yard line. The Anderson, S.C., native eluded a pair of tacklers and raced up the right sideline, spun out of two tackles and into the end zone for the six points. Butler’s 65-yard punt return for touchdown was the 37th punt return to the end zone in Duke football history and the 15th longest in program history.
N.C. Central came right back at the Blue Devils as Austin Goforth returned the kickoff 59 yards to the Duke 41-yard line. Eagles quarterback Jordan Reid connected on a pair of passes to get into the red zone at the Blue Devils’ 20-yard line. Redshirt sophomore Andre Clarke broke off a 15-yard dash up the middle to Duke’s five-yard line. Clarke got the ball on each of the next three carries and dove into the end zone on third down to make it a 10-7 contest with 3:24 to play.
The Blue Devils, behind the arm of Renfree and a pair of penalties by the Eagles, immediately answered by rolling down the field 66 yards for a touchdown. Renfree capped the six-play drive with a 33-yard strike to Crowder in the right corner of the end zone and a 17-7 Blue Devil lead with 1:21 left in the first quarter.
After trading punts to start the second quarter, the Blue Devils took advantage of a Cockrell interception to get a 30-yard field goal from Martin for a 13-point advantage. Cockrell returned the ball to the 50 and Snead scampered 10 yards up the middle to the N.C. Central 40-yard line. Renfree connected with senior wideout Conner Vernon for 20 yards to get into the red zone at the Eagles’ 15-yard line, but was unable to find the end zone as Martin came on the field and knocked the 30-yard kick through the uprights for the 20-7 advantage.
Snead got into the scoring action late in the third quarter with an 18-yard pass from Renfree. It was the sophomore’s first career touchdown reception and completed an 11-play, 70-yard drive for the Blue Devils. Renfree was outstanding on Duke’s final drive of the half, connecting on eight of nine passes for 68 yards. The touchdown pass marked the 10th time the signal caller has thrown multiple touchdowns, tying him with Steve Slayden for fifth on Duke’s all-time list.
N.C. Central took over with 3:04 remaining in the half on its own 15-yard line. The Eagles, behind quarterback Reid, gobbled up 76 yards to get to the Duke nine-yard line with 18 seconds to play. Reid accounted for 69 of the 76 yards on the drive. The Blue Devils sacked Reid to push N.C. Central back to the 16 and forced the Eagles to settle for three points on a 33-yard field goal.
Snead tacked on a rushing touchdown with a five-yard run into the end zone, giving the Blue Devils a 34-10 lead with 6:49 left to play in the third quarter. The Blue Devils added three more touchdowns, including an interception return by Cockrell.
The Blue Devils remain at home next weekend, hosting Memphis on September 22 at 6 p.m. Duke will celebrate the 100th football season in conjunction with Duke Homecoming.