Duke rearranges depth chart at quarterback

lkeeley@newsobserver.comSeptember 7, 2013 

— With Anthony Boone out indefinitely with a broken right collar bone in his throwing shoulder, Duke’s quarterback situation was thrown into flux.

Brandon Connette, a redshirt junior, becomes the starter. Connette entered the game with career marks of 21-for-45 for 253 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. For the three years he has been on the field, he has primarily been Duke’s red zone quarterback, using his legs more often than his arms. Connette had 132 career rushes for 420 yards and 18 touchdowns coming into Memphis.

“He can throw, and he’s going to get more reps,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “He’s the man right now, he’s the starter. We’re going to run our offense. We’re going to run it and throw it and have the balance that we were hoping to have coming into this season. We’ve got to continue to prove that we’re a more balanced team, that we can run and throw the football.”

Connette did both in Saturday’s 28-14 win, going 14-for-21 (.667 percent) for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 31 yards on 14 attempts.

It took until midway through third quarter for Connette to speed up his decision making (he took three early sacks) and start moving the offense consistently.

Behind Connette in the backup role will be true freshman Parker Boehme, the only other healthy scholarship quarterback. If Boone is out for an extended period of time – Cutcliffe said he should know by Monday or Tuesday – the Blue Devils will have to consider using Boehme in certain situations to get him game experience. The plan had been to redshirt him.

“It puts a new role in there regarding him,” Cutcliffe said of Boehme, who traveled to Memphis. “Parker was upbeat, he’s a very confident young man.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Thomas Sirk, who ruptured his right Achilles on April 10, remains out indefinitely. He has not started football activities.

Hot and humid: The Blue Devils did not play a particularly clean, efficient game, as they were flagged six times for 52 yards. There were also a few dropped passes and three turnovers – an Anthony Boone interception that was returned for a touchdown, a Jamison Crowder muffed punt and a Braxton Deaver fumble on a catch that would have clinched a first down.

“I told them this before the ball game, this kind of heat basically makes it a wet ball drill,” said Cutcliffe of the hot, humid, mid-90s environment. “Again, I’m going to look at it closely on tape, we’re trying to maybe make some plays and do extra – we just need to execute and be who we are. We’ve got a lot of good football players on this team. We need all of them to continue to step up so we can get better and better and better.”

Making plays: Three of Duke’s leading defensive players – cornerback Ross Cockrell, linebacker Kelby Brown and defensive end Kenny Anunike – led the way.

Cockrell, who was matched up on Memphis’s top receiver, Tevin Jones, had six solo tackles, one tackle for loss and one credited pass break-up, though he dislodged two balls late. Brown led Duke with seven tackles, and Anunike recorded five, including 2.5 tackles for a loss of 8 total yards.

“We want to be a great defense,” Cockrell said. “We talked a lot about unity last night and coming together as a team, building this program and continuing to make positive steps. Today we did that.”

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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