Holmquist's perfect kicking night highlights Duke football's preseason scrimmage
Duke got its first game-like action of 2017 in an intra-squad scrimmage Saturday night at Wallace Wade Stadium, with a pair of newcomers impressing on offense and a potential solution emerging in the kicking game. Here are a few observations on how the Blue Devils fared in every phase of the game.
Running backs Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown both had big days for an offense that struggled to throw the ball for much of the scrimmage. Wilson, Duke’s senior starter, had 55 yards on just six carries to lead the first-team offense down the field for a touchdown on the first series of the night. Quarterback Daniel Jones found the end zone untouched from a yard out after keeping the ball on a zone read.
Starting running back Shaun Wilson had a 35-yard run on Duke's lone touchdown drive before resting for most of the scrimmage.
“We were taking what the defense gave us, and we did a great job running the ball,” Jones said. “At this point in camp, the run game might come a little quicker at points.”
A former four-star recruit, Brown figures to see meaningful playing time this season and was on the field frequently with the first-team offense, as Wilson rested for most of the scrimmage. The redshirt freshman had nine carries and picked up 61 yards on the ground.
But the Blue Devils never scored another touchdown after the opening drive and struggled to make big plays. Wide receiver T.J. Rahming dropped a deep pass from Jones down the right sideline that could have gone for a touchdown, and Jones completed just 5-of-12 passes for 49 yards.
“We’re making progress," Jones said. "That was a tough one to miss there. We’d like to have that one back. We’re still a ways away from being ready to play. I wouldn’t say we’re ready to play, but that’s why we have three more weeks to get there.”
Backup quarterback Quentin Harris and third-stringer Chris Katrenick also saw action, and highly touted redshirt freshman receiver Scott Bracey caught two passes for 32 yards with the second-team offense.
Duke’s first-team defense played primarily against the second-team offense and did not let it move the ball. Safety Jordan Hayes came down with an early interception against Harris, and Alonzo Saxton II recovered a Deon Jackson fumble at the line of scrimmage.
“There was some contact in that line of scrimmage defensively,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “We need to create that as more of a war zone for Duke football to be what it can be, and we’ve got a lot of people to look at there, but I have not been displeased with our defensive front’s start.”
The Blue Devils’ defensive line owned the line of scrimmage, sacking Harris twice and pressuring him on several throws. Returning third team All-ACC linebacker Ben Humphreys also made a big tackle in the backfield on a handoff to Jackson.
“We played as well as we could possibly play. Early in camp, it’s all about just being able to play football again,” Humphreys said. “It felt good to be out here on the grass with my brothers.”
Cutcliffe rested redshirt senior cornerback Bryon Fields for the scrimmage to get more young defensive backs on the field. Linebacker Brandon Hill and defensive linemen Quaven Ferguson and Terrell Lucas were also out with injuries.
All eyes were on Duke’s kicking after A.J. Reed was just 3-of-10 on field goals last season, and four different Blue Devils kicked at least one field goal in the scrimmage.
William Holmquist, a partially deaf graduate transfer from Division III Tufts, made an extra point and all three of his field-goal attempts, including two from more than 40 yards out. Sophomore Austin Parker was 1-of-2 on field goals, and Reed and freshman Jack Driggers each missed their lone attempt.
“I took a longer look at Willie. I know less about him in some regards, but I’ve also been pleased with him to this point. That’s obvious,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s those four right now, and what a great setting to do it in.”
No matter where each drive ended, the ball was moved up for a field-goal attempt before the next drive started. Redshirt senior quarterback Parker Boehme, who played in 10 games with one start under center two years ago, did not get any snaps at quarterback Saturday but was Duke’s primary holder on field goals.
Parker and freshman Jackson Hubbard each took a few punts, with Parker appearing to be the more consistent option at that position.