With Conette and Boone, Duke's two-quarterback system working

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 16, 2013 

— Throughout his career, Brandon Connette has swooped in from the sideline just in time to score a touchdown for Duke. That played a large part in him setting the new school record for rushing touchdowns (29) despite starting just one game before this year.

“Anytime the ball gets within the 5-yard line and you’re not scoring, I guess I get thrown out there,” said Connette, accurately describing the role he’s had for the better part of three seasons.

“I really have to tip my hat to the offensive linemen and especially the running backs and Anthony Boone, the quarterback and the receivers, just how unselfish they are,” he added. “Because at a lot of other places, if a quarterback gets called into the game anytime the ball is near the goal line and gets all the touchdowns, running backs are going to have a sour taste in their mouths. Just the unselfish character that we have here at Duke is unbelievable to me.”

Connette was first forced into quarterback action this year at Memphis by Boone’s broken collarbone, abandoning the “phantom” role he had most of last year (in which he lined up at quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver and even once at safety). In each successive game—Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Troy—he played better and ended his starting run ranked in the top 20 nationally for passing efficiency. And when Boone struggled last weekend against N.C. State, Connette came off the bench to lead Duke on the go-ahead touchdown drive in the 38-20 victory.

Coming into this week, the plan was to use both quarterbacks, with Boone getting the first two series and Connette the next two. Duke scored a touchdown on Boone’s second drive and another on Connette’s final designated drive. That one ended with a beautifully thrown 22-yard pass to Shaquille Powell in the end zone.

“Brandon is a good passer, that’s a misnomer,” Cutcliffe said about the idea that Connette is the running quarterback. “We recruited him as a quarterback, and he can throw the football.”

Miami coach Al Golden agreed.

“I don’t think there was much difference when each was in the game,” he said. “In terms of staying fresh, that was difficult.”

At halftime, with Duke up 21-20, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper talked to both his quarterbacks. Since both were playing well and neither had separated himself, Roper decided to continue using both. Boone did get extended time while Connette recovered from a hit he took, but both continued playing into the fourth quarter.

Connette ran more often than Boone, posting 37 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries, while Boone, after factoring out the 10-yard sack he took to end the first half, ran five times for 21 yards. Boone finished his passing day 11-of-15 for 104 yards, and Connette went 5-for-9 for 81 yards and a touchdown. Connette also had the long pass of the day, a 43-yard pass the hit Max McCaffrey in stride.

Based on its success, expect the two-quarterback system to continue.

“I don’t know whoever said if you’ve got two quarterbacks, it just means you don’t have one,” Cutcliffe said. “But I don’t know if they’ve ever met Brandon and Anthony.”

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

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