Boone, Blue Devils roll over Navy
Ten minutes before kickoff, after warming up, hobbled quarterback Brandon Connette told head coach David Cutcliffe he wouldn’t be able to start.
Anthony Boone, who had not played in a month because of injury, had anticipated two or three series. Instead he got them all and shined brightly on an overcast afternoon in Wallace Wade Stadium, leading Duke past Navy 35-7.
Connette had fallen on a jog to the fieldhouse following practice earlier in the week.
Cutcliffe said Connette’s ankle was injured significantly and Boone had medical clearance to return.
But he and Boone, he said, realized the starting assignment at the same time.
“I’m proud of Brandon Connette for being honest with us,” Cutcliffe said. “And then Anthony just slipped in like had hadn’t missed a beat. I mean, 31-of-38, that’s just ridiculous.”
Boone tossed three touchdown passes and threw for career-highs in completions (31), attempts (38) and yards (295). Boone had missed the last three games after fracturing a collarbone in the second quarter against Memphis.
“The first couple of series, things were flying around,” Boone said. “After the first quarter, I settled down and felt real comfortable.”
Navy (3-2) entered with an NCAA-low of nine penalties in four games, and was fourth-best in turnover margin at 1.5 per game.
The Midshipmen had four penalties in the first half and were minus-three in turnovers, the first in the red zone trailing 14-7 just before halftime and the second setting up the Blue Devils’ fifth touchdown.
Duke had no turnovers and only three penalties.
“They change games,” senior Kenny Anunike said of the turnovers.
Anunike had seven tackles, and forced a fumble making a sack. Jeremy Cash had seven tackles and his first career interception. Kelby Brown and Carlos Wray had fumble recoveries, Justin Foxx led with eight tackles and Jonathan Woodruff had a sack.
Duke’s red zone defense had given up points 14 of 17 times previously, but held Navy to once in three tries in the first half.
The Midshipmen never crossed midfield after intermission and finished with 319 total yards, only 73 in the second half.
Fueling the Devils was Anunike’s sack forcing a fumble inside the Duke 10 that Brown recovered with 18 seconds left in the first half leading 14-7.
“I saw the quarterback keep the ball and I knew I had to get up the field to him,” Anunike said.
The Blue Devils, who visit Virginia and Virginia Tech the next two weekends, scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives save for sandwiching a one-play kneel-down to end the first half.
“That’s the best we’ve played as a team since we’ve been at Duke,” Cutcliffe said.
Issac Blakeney caught two touchdown passes and Max McCaffrey one. Jamison Crowder had 10 catches.
The Blue Devils got touchdown runs from Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell.
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