Blue Devils’ tandem looks crisp in spring game

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DURHAM – With Duke’s redshirt senior quarterback tandem entrenched for the fall, it’s pretty easy to make things look smooth, Brandon Connette said.

Connette completed 11 of 16 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns while classmate Anthony Boone was 10-for-13 for 33 yards, leading the Blue team to a 24-14 win against the White in the Blue Devils’ spring game Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Duke (10-4, 6-2 ACC) is coming off its first 10-win season, its first ACC Coastal Division championship and back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history.

“There are little things we need to clean up, but overall, I think our offense was really efficient,” Connette said. “We’ve had times in practices when we’ve been on a very elite level. And then we’ve had other practices where we’ve been great, and we’ve had others where we’ve just been good.

“The one positive thing I can say is we haven’t had a practice where we looked like a bad offense. Now, the goal is not to look like a good offense; we want to look like at least a great offense and eventually get to an elite level every single practice.”

Connette connected with Ryan Smith on a 10-yard scoring pass in the second quarter and with Max McCaffrey for a 37-yarder in the third. Shaquille Powell’s 36-yard scoring run with 1:19 remaining clinched the win for the Blue. Powell was the game’s leading rusher with 75 yards on eight carries.

Thomas Sirk, who completed 12 of 28 passes for 83 yards, scored rushing touchdowns of one and nine yards for the White.

“You saw what our spring practice has been - continued momentum,” said David Cutcliffe, heading into his seventh season as Duke’s head coach. “We divided our team in half, and we saw what we wanted to see. There were defensive plays made by both Blue and White teams, there were offensive plays made by both Blue and White teams.

“We’ve got talent at quarterback that you see, what Anthony and Brandon can do, but I’m always afraid of those questions because as soon as you think you’ve got enough, something happens. But we’re looking for consistency at the position.”

Joseph Ajeigbe rushed 10 times for 59 yards and caught four passes for 34 yards for the White. Defensive end Dezmond Johnson had two sacks among four tackles for the Blue.

“This felt good,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working toward this day to play in front of fans, so it felt real good.

“We just have to pick up where the (three defensive linemen who graduated) left off. Coach Cut preaches on that all the time. I just need to keep growing as much as I can and be the leader I know I can be.”

Ross Martin hit a 43-yard field goal for the Blue in the first quarter.

“We’ve been really smooth,” Boone said of the offense. “We’ve got a lot of veterans who have taken a lot of snaps. There’s not much teaching, just doing a lot of reps of what we normally do.”

Junior guard Lucas Patrick, who started against Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, was helped off the field early in the game with a leg injury and did not return.

Tackle Casey Blaser and wide receiver Terrence Alls won the team’s spring most-improved awards on offense, while end Kyler Brown, who moved up front a few weeks ago from linebacker, and linebacker Chris Holmes were the defensive honorees.

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