After watching his team struggle to a 4-8 record last year from the sidelines, redshirt freshman running back Brittain Brown was eager to finally show what he could do at the college level. And the former highly-touted four-star prospect wasted no more time getting acclimated to the bigger stage.
The first carry of his career went down the sideline for 24 yards, and two plays later, he took it to the house on a 39-yard run in the first quarter to give the Blue Devils a 21-point lead en route to a 60-7 victory.
“It was kind of back-to-back. I was just running behind my O-line,” Brown said. “On the touchdown, I was kind of just weaving around defenders.... When I got that touchdown, it’s been a while since I’ve been in the end zone so it felt really good.”
Despite just having 10 carries on the day, Brown torched the N.C. Central defense for 120 yards and a touchdown. He even caught a pass for 11 yards and had a 38 yard kickoff return in the third quarter, bringing his all-purpose yards for the day to a total of 169.
“That was my first kickoff return. In high school, I didn’t return kicks much,” Brown said. “It was fun to get back there again and return a kick. I feel like I could have taken that one to the house, but I made the wrong cut and ran into a teammate.”
Although Brown might have looked like the best player on the field out of both teams Saturday, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe remained adamant that senior running back Shaun Wilson, who totaled 623 rushing yards last year and started after Jela Duncan went down with an injury, would remain the starter.
Wilson was pulled in the second half in order to prevent further injury after a collision earlier in the game, but Cutcliffe insisted that Wilson is healthy.
With Wilson out in the second half, Brown was happy to get as much experience as possible and soak in the atmosphere of the game.
“It’s really important [to get reps] because it’s my first college football game,” Brown said. “I know what to expect because it’s football, just at a faster pace, so it was really good to get some experience out there.”
Even with Brown remaining in the second spot on the depth chart, he will still be able to make an impact. In just one game, he has given his coach the confidence to give Wilson a rest or to bring him as a change of pace for a series or two, and he also provides peace of mind as an insurance plan for the senior.
Brown was far from a one-man wrecking crew for Duke, however, as the Blue Devils posted their highest scoring output in nearly 70 years with the 60-7 win. Duke threw for 281 yards and ran for 243 more as a team.
“Every time [Daniel Jones] throws the ball, it just helps us in the run game,” Brown said. “He’s a great quarterback. I think he’s the best in the ACC and I know he’s going to do big things.”
Regardless of the cause, Brown showed flashes of potential against the Eagles. With Jones more comfortable in the pocket and having a full offseason to prepare for the starting gig, Brown could be the component that provides a spark to the offense as the Blue Devils look to improve upon a subpar season.
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