Conner Vernon eclipsed the ACC record for career receiving yards in Duke's loss to Georgia Tech.
Conner Vernon eclipsed the ACC record for career receiving yards in Duke's loss to Georgia Tech.

ATLANTA—Conner Vernon continued to rewrite the ACC’s record books Saturday when he became the conference’s all-time leader in receiving yards.

The senior recorded just five catches for 38 yards in Duke’s 42-24 loss to Georgia Tech, but the effort was just enough for Vernon to surpass Florida State’s Peter Warrick for first all time in the ACC. Vernon now has 3,521 receiving yards in his career. Vernon set another ACC record in the game’s opening quarter when he recorded his first reception, catching at least one pass in his 46th-consecutive game.

“My name as well as Duke’s name is at the top of the record books, and that’s great for the program and great for the University,” Vernon said. “I couldn’t be happier to be here.”

Vernon’s record-breaking catch came when quarterback Sean Renfree found him over the middle with 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Blue Devils’ loss to the Yellow Jackets. The Miami native gained just five yards on the play, but it was just enough to surpass Warrick’s total of 3,517 yards. Vernon became the ACC’s all-time leader in receptions in Duke’s win against Virginia Oct. 6.

“I think it’s phenomenal,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “Conner, he’s sneaky fast and you forget all of the explosive plays he’s had through the years. He just certainly is one of those rare, rare football players and is really special.”

As the frequent target of double coverage, Vernon’s progress toward the record had slowed during Duke’s current three-game losing streak. With four games remaining in the regular season and just 94 yards away from the ACC’s all-time mark, Vernon appeared poised to break the record with time to spare. But with limited production in the Blue Devils’ losses to Florida State and Clemson—recording just eight total receptions for 59 yards in the two-game stretch—Vernon was not able to break through until late in Duke’s penultimate game of the regular season.

Recording his fourth reception of the day on a fourth-down conversion in the third quarter, Vernon moved within two yards of Warrick’s record. His pursuit of Warrick’s record had been in the back of his mind all season, but it was well worth the wait.

“Four games left, I think I needed 90-something yards and after two games you don’t have it, you’re more disappointed in yourself because two games you can’t combine to get 94 yards at our position, it’s not very good. To finally get that over with is great,” Vernon said.

The Blue Devils return home next week to face Miami in Duke’s final game of the regular season. Vernon and the rest of his senior teammates will be honored before their final game at Wallace Wade Stadium.