DURHAM — After Duke’s offense gained a total of 7 yards on its first two possessions Saturday against Troy, the Blue Devils got the ball on their 25-yard line.
The Trojans had just marched down the field in rapid succession to take a seven-point lead. While it was still early, given the way the Blue Devils’ defense had performed recently – allowing Georgia Tech to run for 344 yards two weeks ago and Pitt to pass for 424 last week – there was a sense Duke’s offense couldn’t afford to sputter for too long.
On the first play of its third possession, Duke gave the ball to running back Josh Snead, who burst through the line for a 53-yard gain, positioning the Blue Devils for their first touchdown.
Bolstered by the momentum of that drive, Duke scored three more times in the first half and beat Troy 38-31 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Snead had an important hand in the win, carrying 11 times for a career-high 108 yards.
“Josh Snead was playing amazing today,” said quarterback Brandon Connette, who finished with five touchdowns.
“It was so much fun – it’s nice as a quarterback whenever you just hand the ball and you see the hole that he’s going through. Even when there was just one guy there, most of the time today, that first guy wasn’t tackling Snead, especially in the first half.”
Snead, a junior from Smithfield, said a couple of lower-leg injuries affected his performance earlier in the season. He carried the ball only six times against Memphis for 25 yards and then didn’t get a touch in the Blue Devils’ loss to Georgia Tech.
He had an increased workload last week – 14 carries for 59 yards – before enjoying something of a breakout against the Trojans.
“We’ve got four great backs that can get the job done,” Snead said. “Once you’re called on, take advantage of the opportunity you can get.”
Snead got that opportunity partly because sophomore Jela Duncan left with what appeared to be a hand injury. Duncan returned before halftime.
While the 53-yard carry was the highlight of the day, Snead showed speed up the middle at other times, rushing for 18 yards once and 12 yards twice.
“Josh is an amazing, elusive back,” Connette said. “He’s an explosive back – it’s really fun to watch him play.”
Snead had two stellar outings last year, rushing for 107 yards against Cincinnati and 99 yards in the Blue Devils’ dramatic win against North Carolina.
He said Saturday’s effort will help his confidence.
“It’s getting to where I want to be,” Snead said. “Being able to get to the point where coaches believe in me – it means a lot. It’s something I have been waiting for.”