DURHAM – Nobody figured Anthony Boone would be starting so soon for Duke again – including Boone.
So when he received word about 10 minutes before kickoff that he was the surprise starter, there wasn’t much time to dwell on it.
Boone threw three touchdown passes in his first game back from injury to lead Duke past mistake-prone Navy, 35-7, on Saturday.
Boone, who was out for three games with a broken collarbone, was put back in the starting lineup when his replacement, Brandon Connette, tweaked an ankle.
“The beauty of Anthony is that he had no idea he was going to start – nor did we until Brandon ... just said he can’t go,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “Anthony just slipped in like he hadn’t missed a beat.”
He was 31 of 38 – which Cutcliffe praised as “just ridiculous” – for a career-high 295 yards for Duke (4-2) with scores covering 27 and 18 yards to Isaac Blakeney and 3 yards to Max McCaffrey.
“The whole week, I kind of just was feeling good, and they said, ‘We might get you in for a couple of reps,’” Boone said. “The more I could get on balls and throw during practice, the more I felt more comfortable,” he added. “I said, ‘OK, I’m ready to play.’”
Darius Staten had a 7-yard touchdown run for the Midshipmen (3-2), who managed just 73 total yards in the second half. They were denied their first 4-1 start since 2006 and haven’t beaten the Blue Devils since 2007.
“That’s one of the worst days that Navy football’s had in a long, long time,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We got our butts whipped all the way around. We got outcoached, we got outplayed. It’s been a long time since we got beat that bad.”
Jela Duncan had a 5-yard scoring run and Shaquille Powell ran 7 yards for a TD for Duke, which rolled up 435 total yards and pulled away with touchdowns on five of its first six possessions after the first quarter.
Boone and the Blue Devils threw at will against a top-30 Navy pass defense that’s allowing just 205.5 yards passing per game, and the Midshipmen’s seven points were the fewest scored by a Bowl Subdivision team against Duke since Vanderbilt was held to a touchdown in 2008.
Boone was back on the field five weeks after he was hurt in the win at Memphis, and looked quite at ease while improving his career record as a starter to 4-0.
He didn’t take his first hit until Duke’s second possession – it didn’t seem to bother him at all – and he had little trouble moving the Blue Devils up and down the field while completing 16 of his first 19 passes.