Blue Devils hold off scrappy Troy

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 10:27 PM

One week after scoring 55 points and losing, Duke won with defense. Honest.

The Blue Devils scrapped past Troy 38-31 Saturday afternoon with 30,126 on hand in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke (3-2) made a handful of defensive plays in the final 10 minutes after a 56-yard go-ahead touchdown by the Trojans was whistled back, surging into a week off before hosting Navy with a two-game skid now history.

“Up front, they made the decision they’d get a rush on the quarterback,” said linebacker David Helton after a 15-tackle afternoon. “We played hard. Once we start executing, that’s when we’ll separate ourselves.”

Troy (2-3), of the bowl division Sun Belt Conference, trailed 35-31 with 9:37 left when a holding call wiped out Chandler Worthy’s touchdown reception from Deon Anthony. Duke took advantage of the opportunity, getting a pair of pass breakups at midfield to regain possession.

A series later, again after a Trojans’ holding penalty, end Kenny Anunike snuffed out a jet sweep to force 2nd-and-27. On third down, cornerback Breon Borders stifled a pass reception in the flats as the clock went below five minutes.

Duke wasn’t able to exhaust the time, but Jamison Crowder’s 33-yard catch-and-run set up a field goal of 34 yards from Ross Martin with 31 seconds left. Jeremy Cash added one more defensive stop, an interception inside the Duke 5 as time expired.

“That was a pivotal play,” Anunike said of the fourth-quarter score getting called back. “We were getting off our blocks, getting to the quarterback.”

Anunike said at halftime the defensive front united in its decision to reach the quarterback in order to help the secondary. He also said the 58 points yielded last week were taken personally.

Brandon Connette threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns. Crowder had seven catches for 149 yards and a score. Josh Snead ran for 108 yards.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said Troy’s style of a fast tempo, mixing staccato moments, caught the Blue Devils for a half. He also said the defensive front was developing a needed positive identity.

“Ultimately, we got aggressive by getting our butts lined up in the right place and not playing on our heels,” Cutcliffe said.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.