Duke Now: Blue Devils can't overcome unlucky bounce

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 18, 2012 

— Up until Saturday, Duke had managed to avoid getting sunk by a fluke play.

Against Wake Forest, the Blue Devils managed to overcome a hit that knocked quarterback Sean Renfree out of the game and resulted in an interception by a defensive end deep in Duke’s territory. In the North Carolina game, the Blue Devils pulled out the win despite a fumble that eluded Ross Cockrell’s grasp and wound up in the hands of Gio Bernard and then in the end zone.

Georgia Tech caught a lucky bounce of its own against Duke in the third quarter when facing third-and-7. Tevin Washington’s pass was knocked out of intended receiver Chris Jackson's hands as Ross Cockrell hit him. The pass, though, ended up in the arms of left tackle Ray Beno, who had been trying to block Kenny Anunike. Beno was able to hold onto the ball and run nine yards for the first down.

It was the first reception of the lineman’s career.

From the sideline, David Cutcliffe recognized that the fluke play was likely a bad omen.

“I’m like, ‘don’t let this one get to me because it’s one of those where it’s like, what is this trying to tell us?’” Cutcliffe said. “Never have I seen that.”

Vernon sets two more ACC records

Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon continued to add his name to the ACC record book. With his first catch of the game, he set a new mark for longest consecutive games streak with at least one reception at 43. And in the fourth quarter, with a five-yard reception, Vernon broke the record for most career receiving yards. It was a mark he had been chasing since the Florida State game, when he needed 94 yards to better the old standard set by Peter Warrick, the former Seminole. Vernon has 3,521 receiving yards over his four-year career.

“When after two games you don’t have it you’re more disappointed in yourself than about the record because, two games you can’t combine to get 94 yards, it’s not very good at our position,” Vernon said. “To finally get that over with is great. My name, as well as Duke’s name, is at the top of the record book. It’s great for the program, it’s great for the University, and I couldn’t be happier to be here.”

After the game, there was a trickle of blood running down his left knee and grass stains dotting both his skin and his pants. Like the rest of the Duke seniors, Vernon has given all he had to give to the program. With one regular season game remaining, Cutcliffe reminded his seniors after the game of all the progress the program has made.

“I told our them that we’re in the midst of a significant season,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s too significant a year to not prepare and play great against Miami. Our seniors are 5-1 in Wallace Wade in the 2012 season. That’s significant.”

Observations:

***Lee Butler left the game in the second quarter after returning a kickoff with 4:28 remaining in the half. Duke announced at halftime that he would not return, and Cutcliffe said after the game that Butler suffered a knee injury that will likely require surgery.

“He has just been a warrior for us five years,” Cutcliffe said. “An extra-ordinary young man.”

***Normally, option teams will make a few mistakes with the football since they throw so many pitches and make quick decisions to do so. But Georgia Tech finished officially with zero fumbles. The only bad pitch was negated by a penalty.

***Duke freshman Ross Martin kicked a 50-yard field goal with a minute remaining in the first half. It was the longest field goal of his career, and it was the first Duke field goal of at least 50 yards since Will Synderwine kicked a 52-yarder at Bobby Dodd Stadium against the Yellow Jackets in 2010.

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