DURHAM, N.C. - Quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns and the receiving duo of Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner combined for 17 receptions and 252 yards as Duke opened the season with a 41-27 win over the Elon Phoenix in front of 33,941 fans at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday night.
Renfree became the fourth Duke quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in his debut as a starter and the fifth Blue Devil with at least 300 yards in a season opener. Vernon matched a career high 10 catches, while Varner tallied his sixth career 100-yard receiving game, moving into a tie with Doug Green and Eron Riley for third most in school history.
Elon opened the scoring two minutes into the first quarter with a 28-yard field goal, but the Duke offense responded with three consecutive touchdowns to take a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter. On the Blue Devils' opening drive, sophomore back Desmond Scott carried the ball five times for 52 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown run to cap off the series for his second career touchdown and longest career run.
Duke scored again on its third possession as Renfree completed three-of-four passes for 49 yards in the 82-yard drive, capped by an eight-yard strike to Varner.
After an Elon punt to close out the first quarter, the Blue Devils took over on their own 43 yard-line and needed only four plays to cover 57 yards in 1:23. Renfree hit Vernon for a 47-yard reception and ended the drive with a six-yard TD toss to tight end Brandon King to put Duke up 21-3.
The two teams traded field goals their next possession before Elon's Bradon Newsome completed an 80-yard Phoenix drive with a five-yard TD run.
The Blue Devils took a 27-13 advantage into halftime, closing out the second quarter with a 20-yard field goal from kicker Will Snyderwine.
After a scoreless third quarter, Elon cut the lead to seven early in the final period. Duke would respond with an 11-play drive, culminating with freshman running back Josh Snead's first career touchdown run from three yards out.
The Phoenix added a late touchdown on its final drive, but could not overcome the Duke advantage as the Blue Devils secured the 41-27 win.
On defense, safety Lee Butler led the Blue Devils with nine tackles, while safety Matt Daniels and linebacker each added an interception. Linebacker Austin Campbell and end Justin Foxx both recorded sacks in the win.
Duke returns to action next Saturday, September 11 at 12 p.m. as the Blue Devils travel to Wake Forest for their first conference game of the season.