DURHAM, N.C. — Led by senior quarterback Sean Renfree’s season-high 314 yards passing, Duke amassed a season-high 500 yards of offense en route to a 38-14 victory over Memphis in front of 23,658 fans at Wallace Wade Stadium. Down 14-7 in the second quarter, the Blue Devils outscored the Tigers 31-0 the rest of the way to move to 3-1 on the season.
Renfree was 26-of-37 for 314 yards with four touchdowns and one interception on the night. He also picked up 20 yards rushing on three carries. Senior Conner Vernon led the receiving corps with eight catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns, his 11th career 100-yard receiving game. Freshman Jela Duncan anchored the running game with 88 yards on nine carries.
The Duke defense was outstanding as it held Memphis to just 152 yards of offense in the game and only 79 yards in the final three quarters. Junior Brandon Braxton led all Blue Devils with eight tackles, including four solo stops, and a tackle for loss. Senior Walt Canty and redshirt junior Ross Cockrell added seven tackles apiece while sophomore Jonathan Woodruff registered 1.5 sacks for the game.
The Duke offense struggled in the opening quarter, turning the ball over twice on its first two possessions, including a fumbled punt at the Duke 23-yard line. Duke’s defense salvaged the situation with an outstanding effort on fourth-and-3 to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
The turnover woes continued for Duke as Renfree threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown from the Duke three-yard line. Wynton McManis made the play for the Tigers, giving Memphis the early 7-0 lead.
After a slow start, the Blue Devils’ offense found its rhythm starting in the second quarter. Duke compiled 414 yards of offense in the final three quarters, including 196 in the second session alone.
Duke, after turning the ball over three times in four possessions, answered with a nine-play 79-yard scoring drive. Faced with a third-and-10, the Blue Devils drew a pass interference penalty to move the ball up to its 36-yard line. Junior Juwan Thompson picked up three yards on the ensuing play to set up a 27-yard strike from Renfree to Desmond Scott to the Memphis 34.
Renfree continued to shine on the drive as he connected on each of his next three passes, including a 22-yard pass to Connette at the Memphis 4-yard line. Connette got the call on first down and powered into the end zone for six points, tying the game 7-7 with 10:28 remaining in the second quarter.
Memphis sophomore Bobby McCain nearly put the Tigers back in front on the ensuing kickoff as he took the ball 95 yards, setting up a Tevin Jones two-yard touchdown run for the 14-7 advantage.
Duncan got into the action and quickly put the Blue Devils in scoring position with a 58-yard dash up the left sideline to the Memphis nine-yard line. Duncan added one more yard on the next carry, but the Blue Devils were unable to find the end zone, settling for a 23-yard Ross Martin field goal.
Renfree and the Blue Devils’ offense continued to roll in the final minutes of the first half. The senior signal caller, taking over on the Duke 27-yard line, went 4-of-4, including a 37-yard completion to Vernon in the left corner of the end zone, on Duke’s next possession to give the Blue Devils a 17-14 lead. Renfree threw for 136 yards on 10-of-18 passing in the second period to give Duke the three-point edge heading into the locker room.
Duke carried the momentum over to the second half, outscoring Memphis 21-0 after the intermission. Renfree hit Scott on a 16-yard touchdown strike for the only score of the third quarter to put the Blue Devils up 24-14.
Touchdown grabs by Vernon and Connette extended Duke’s advantage as the defense limited Memphis to 24 yards in the final period to secure the victory.
Duke opens ACC play next weekend when it travels to Wake Forest. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m., on the ACC Network.