DURHAM – On a day that the other two local ACC teams struggled with inferior competition, Duke was not going to join its conference brethren.
The Blue Devils were certainly not close to perfect, but they never let Elon gain momentum, defeating the Phoenix, 52-13, to open the 2014 season. It is the most points Duke has scored in a season opener since 1954.
“It was a good opener,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We do have some players making plays. We’ve got some good football players.
“We weren’t as smooth starting as we could of, but we made up for it.”
Duke made it a point to take control of the game early, and although the Blue Devils had to punt on their second drive, they still managed to score on four of their five first-half drives.
Defensively, Elon was able to create big plays sporadically, but the Duke defense held the Phoenix to 64 rushing yards in the first half and made Elon one-dimensional.
Cutcliffe said he wanted his team to utitlize its physical advantages early in the game and added he was pleased with what he saw early.
“I challenged both of our offensive and defensive lines (to control the game),” Cutcliffe said. “I thought we accomplished that pretty quickly in the game, and then you have to execute at a high level in the skill areas. Once we got to settle in to playing live football, I thought our offense played extremely well.”
Duke’s offense rolled to 567 yards against an Elon unit that did not have the athleticism necessary to stop the Blue Devils. The only times Duke’s offense stalled were self-inflicted issues, mainly dropped passes and misplaced throws.
Senior quarterback Anthony Boone was the catalyst of the Duke offense, staying poised in the pocket and delivering several well-placed throws to receivers. He finished the day with 247 yards, tied a career-best four touchdowns and completed 22 of his 33 attempts.
Senior Jamison Crowder finished the day with seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns, but he had a lot of help from the receiver on the other side.
Senior Issac Blakeney moved to the outside receiver slot opposite Crowder this season, and he made an immediate impact with four receptions for 45 yards and two scores.
Cutcliffe admitted it was a move long overdue for the redshirt senior and said Blakeney makes the most spectacular catches and is the toughest to tackle in practice. Boone added Blakeney’s position opposite Crowder makes him a dangerous target.
“Guys are very scared of what (Crowder) can do,” Boone said. “(Blakeney) is going to be the next best thing right now, and that’s something he has bought into and he’s doing a great job like you saw (Saturday).”
Junior running back Shaquille Powell said the biggest improvement Duke must make on offense is to go at a quicker pace and tempo the coaching staff eventually wants.
“Coach definitely wants to run (the offense) a lot faster than we did (Saturday),” Powell said. “If we go a lot faster than we catch a lot of defenses off guard and potentially score a lot more points.”
Former Southern Nash running back Tracey Coppedge finished with 65 yards rushing for the Phoenix (0-1).
Josh Walfish can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org