Raise your hand if you had Duke going 5-1 mid way through the season. People definitely knew it was possible, and David Cutcliffe said this team was the most talented team he has had during his tenure and so far it is showing.
The depth at every position has been incredible to watch. In the past years at Duke there has been a drop off in talent from starter to backup, but not this year. Duke has had numerous injuries this year, having over 10 players out for every game this season, and so far the backup’s are providing sparks.
The first player that has stepped up has been Anthony Boone. He finally had a whole game under his belt, instead on certain packages and he delivered. He ran for 41 yards on seven carries and went 18-31 passing for 212 yards and four touchdowns. There were some throws that he threw in the 2nd quarter that were forced, but other than a couple throws, Boone had a great outing.
The second player that stepped up was Tony Foster. In the beginning of the game it seemed like Virginia was trying to pick him apart by throwing the ball his way almost every time they passed on the first two possessions. At first Virginia had their way with Foster, but it was he who would get the last laugh, intercepting a pass on Virginia’s second possession of the game. The play was a comeback route, and he broke on the route as good as the receiver did and came up with an interception.
For the captains of the team (Not including Renfree), they had a huge roll in the win. Walt Canty did his best Matt Daniels impression by tackling running backs in the backfield. He led the team with 14 tackles and 3 TFL’s. On a fourth and one attempt by the Cavaliers he blitzed through the middle of the hole and knocked Perry Jones a yard behind the line of scrimmage. With that big stop, it led to a Jela Duncan run on Duke’s next possession that gave Duke a 28-17 lead and full momentum.
Ross Cockrell also played well versus the Virginia wide receivers. He played lock down coverage on the wide receivers when he played corner back. But due to Duke’s Safety injuries, he had to play some Safety, and he came up big in that role. Cockrell made nice open field tackles and came up with a fourth interception of the season on a 4th down play by the Cavaliers. With that interception, he now leads the ACC in INT’s.
Last but not least, Conner Vernon. He was the Player of the Game and deserved the game ball. For the game, Vernon had seven catches for 93 yards and two scores. On his first catch, he lost two yards, but he also made ACC history by passing Aaron Kelly for most receptions in a career. Later in the drive, Anthony Boone threw a jump ball to Vernon when he was in one on one coverage. Vernon jumped to his apex, with the defenders arm on his chest, and reeled in the touchdown catch. Later in the game, he blew past the cornerback and Boone placed the ball in between the cornerback and safety right in his arms for a touchdown that essentially put the game away for the Duke Blue Devils. It was such a great play, that it made The Top 10 for Sportscenter.
Next weekend Duke plays at Virginia Tech, with a win, Duke will become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994.