Duke shuts out NC Central, 45-0

Jamison Crowder

Duke earned its first shutout in 24 years with a season-opening 45-0 win rout of NC Central on Saturday at Wallace Wade

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Brandon Connette threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Duke earned its first shutout in 24 years with a season-opening 45-0 rout of North Carolina Central on Saturday.

Jamison Crowder returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, starting QB Anthony Boone had a 1-yard touchdown run and Jela Duncan added a 3-yard scoring run.

Connette — his backup and short-yardage specialist — ran 1 yard for a touchdown, threw an early 3-yard TD pass to Braxton Deaver and added a late 19-yard scoring pass to Isaac Blakeney.

Duke led 28-0 before N.C. Central crossed midfield, scoring touchdowns four straight times it touched the ball while cruising to its most lopsided victory under sixth-year coach David Cutcliffe.

The Blue Devils outgained the Eagles 488-184 in their first shutout since Steve Spurrier's final Duke team blanked rival North Carolina 41-0 in 1989.

The Blue Devils, who won the previous two matchups with N.C. Central by a combined 103-31, snapped a five-game losing streak that dated to last season and included their Belk Bowl loss to Cincinnati.

Boone finished 16 of 20 for 176 yards and added 24 yards rushing in his debut as the Blue Devils' full-time starter and the public unveiling of a Duke offense that has incorporated some zone-read elements to take advantage of Boone's mobility.

Jordan Reid was 11 of 22 for 87 yards for the Eagles, who didn't advance deeper than the Duke 24.

They were playing nine days after the school fired coach Henry Frazier III following his second arrest in 16 months, and made Dwayne Foster his interim replacement.

They fell to 0-4 against Bowl Subdivision opponents — three of those losses have come to the Blue Devils — and have yet to finish within five touchdowns of one.

The only things that kept Duke from scoring on every drive of the first half were a missed 38-yard field goal by Ross Martin on the opening possession and the kneel-down Boone took with 11 seconds left.

Connette gave Duke a 7-0 lead when he stepped in for Boone inside the 10-yard line and hit Deaver with 5:09 left in the first.

Then, after forcing a punt, the Blue Devils went up two scores on Crowder's long punt return. He fielded Matthew Cornelius's punt at the 24, made one quick move and took off between the hash marks before making a late angle toward the right sideline, giving Duke a punt return for a TD against N.C. Central for the second straight year.

Consecutive 11-play touchdown drives followed that, with Connette powering in from 1 yard out a series and Boone adding his short scoring run to put Duke up by four touchdowns and effectively end it at the break.

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