Duke football: Boone bounces back, puts Blue Devils on brink of title

bkiser@charlotteobserver.comNovember 23, 2013 

— Duke quarterback Anthony Boone always expects to have a good game – even if the final stats haven’t shown it lately.

That wasn’t a problem for Boone on Saturday, after the 25th-ranked Blue Devils’ 28-21 victory against Wake Forest put them in the drivers’ seat for the ACC’s Coastal Division title.

Boone broke out of a three-game slump by throwing for 256 yards and three touchdowns for Duke (9-2), which can clinch the division title and a trip to the ACC championship game by beating North Carolina in next week’s regular-season finale in Chapel Hill.

“I feel like I’ll have a good day every game, sometimes the ball goes the other way,” said Boone, who also ran for 57 yards, including a 20-yard keeper in the third quarter that set up the Blue Devils’ game-winning score.

“But once you catch a groove, you feel like which guys are locked in and will run a good route.”

Boone, who missed three games earlier this season with a broken collarbone, completed 24 of 29 attempts – his best completion percentage this season – while the yardage was the most since he threw for since 295 yards against Navy on Oct. 12.

Boone threw two touchdown passes to Jamison Crowder, who had 10 catches for 121 yards, and his 4-yard touchdown pass to Max McCaffrey 71 seconds before the half capped a 14-point comeback and tied the score heading into the halftime break.

That’s a far cry from the numbers Boone put up in his three appearances before Saturday’s game. Against Virginia Tech, N.C. State and then-No. 24 Miami – all Duke wins – he was a combined 31-for-61 for 350 yards, with no touchdowns and seven interceptions.

“Anthony has kind of gotten back in his rhythm,” Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said. “He’s healthier, which always helps. It’s not easy to have a throwing shoulder collarbone (broken). To come back from it, we were all kind of like, ‘Wow,’ after the Navy game. But the reality is that it takes time.”

In fact, Cutcliffe said the decision to start Boone came just before the game.

“The reason Brandon (Connette) didn’t play more today is he went in pretty beat up,” Cutcliffe said. “We weren’t sure where that was going to be when we started warming up. We made a decision to play Anthony in the second half, which was obviously a good decision.”

Now, Boone has Duke a win away from its first appearance in the ACC championship game. But he’s not thinking about that game, scheduled for Dec. 7 at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

His eyes are on next week’s game at Kenan Stadium.

“We’re excited about playing in Chapel Hill next week,” Boone said. “That’s what we want to do – win our next game. It just happens to be against Carolina, and it happens to be for some high stakes.

“We’re not looking at it as ‘We’ve got to beat Carolina to go to the championship,’ we’re like ‘We’re going to win our next game.’”

Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: BKiser_CLTObs.

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