In the third edition of the Bull City Gridiron Classic, Duke dominated N.C. Central from the opening kickoff, running away with a 45-0 victory against the Eagles in Wallace Wade Stadium. The game was the Blue Devil's first shutout victory since 1989, when they held North Carolina scoreless en route to a 41-0 victory.
Unlike last year’s lopsided victory, Duke (1-0) did not wait to until the second half to pull away. Behind a stifling defense, a 257-yard rushing performance and an explosive performance from junior receiver Jamison Crowder, the Blue Devils proved their offense is as potent as ever.
Utilizing a no-huddle offense for the entire game, Duke kept the Eagles defense on their heels for the entirety of the game. N.C. Central (0-1) did its best to match the speed on offense, but failed to put together any successful drives, being held to 184 yards compared to Duke's 488.
The first half belonged to Crowder, who brought the crowd to its feet on a pair of exciting punt returns. His first return of 25-yards set up the Blue Devils’ first touchdown. Crowder fielded the Eagles’ next punt at Duke’s 24-yardline and weaved in-and-out of would-be tacklers before breaking away to the right sideline, taking it all the way for a 76-yard return, putting the Blue Devils up 14-0.
In his second career start, Boone looked sharp—completing 16-of-20 passes for 176 yards and adding a rushing touchdown. Boone started hot, completing his first four passes before McCaffrey dropped a would-be first down, bringing on sophomore kicker Ross Martin.
Martin, who was touted as one of the top kickers in the NCAA and named to the Lou Groza Award watch-list, struggled early on missing the 38-yard field goal wide right and placing a kickoff out of bounds following Crowder’s punt return for a touchdown. Martin managed to redeem himself later on, nailing a 39-yard field goal to secure the final score.
Following the 25-yard punt return by Crowder, Duke took over at the Eagles’ 45-yard line and Boone led the offense down to the N.C. Central 5-yard line. From there, redshirt-junior Brandon Connette took over at quarterback and put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard with a 3-yard pass to redshirt junior Braxton Deaver, putting Duke up 7-0 with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
Duke’s defense managed to hold its own against redshirt senior Jordan Reid and the Eagles offense to 106 yards, five first downs and no scores in the first half. Reid was under duress all day, going 11-for-20 with only 89 yards passing on the day.
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Cash was particularly impressive, leading the team with five solo tackles, one pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
The second half opened up with the Blue Devils and Eagles trading punts, with neither team having much success moving the ball. After a few stale possessions, Duke’s offense found its spark behind sophomore running back Jela Duncan, who rushed 11 times for 79 yards and a touchdown with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
Boone did not see much playing time in the second half, with Connette taking over following the first drive of the half. Connette connected with redshirt junior receiver Isaac Blakney for a 19-yard touchdown strike with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Duke was able to empty its bench in the final quarter, with a number of true freshmen and walk-ons seeing the field as the Blue Devils ran out the clock to preserve a shutout victory.