Before Saturday, Bobby Campbell was the last freshman quarterback to start a season-opener for Duke.
That was in 1997. It also came in an ACC game, against N.C. State.
The Wolfpack, which had upset Syracuse in an overtime thriller in its ’97 opener, topped the Devils 45-14 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Duke hosts Wake Forest on Saturday, and Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe has had a chance to see quarterback Daniel Jones under fire before starting ACC play. The redshirt freshman passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third Saturday, a tidy, efficient performance in a 49-6 win over N.C. Central.
“It was a good win for us, and a lot of guys made big plays,” Jones said.
That included backup quarterback Parker Boehme, who ran and passed for touchdowns, and bulled and barreled 34 yards on one all-out-effort run in the first half.
But Cutcliffe probably had his mind on Wake Forest by the time he walked off the field after the game. Coaches turn the page quickly, especially with a conference game looming, and Cutcliffe said he was thinking ahead to practices Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We have an opportunity to kind of see what we’re made of,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s not often you have a conference game your second game. I just told them I want to see what we can become.”
For Duke, it’s similar to 2010, when the Blue Devils beat Elon 41-27 in their opener, then faced Wake Forest the next week in Winston-Salem. The Deacons won 54-48, the first of six straight losses for Duke in Cutcliffe’s third season.
A year ago, Duke won 27-21 in Winston-Salem in the final game of the regular season, ending a four-game slide that began with the bizarre 30-27 loss to Miami. Duke led 24-7 after three quarters but the Deacons made it interesting with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes by quarterback John Wolford.
Wolford passed for 338 yards, completing 23 of 35 passes, but also had two intercepted and lost a fumble. He’ll get another shot at Duke this week.
“We’re playing a Wake team that is going to be physical,” Cutcliffe said. “They’ve circled our game. That’s just a fact. We know that.”
Duke had five lost fumbles and 10 penalties against N.C. Central. Several of the dropped balls were on backfield exchanges. Ryan Smith fumbled a punt, and punter Austin Parker also fumbled a snap — two kicking-game mistakes that need to be cleaned up.
The Blue Devils rushed for 308 yards, but Cutcliffe said he’d like to see his offensive front be more physical in the running game. Jela Duncan, a physical runner, did have 115 yards on 15 carries.
“As a coach you always want something better, some edge, and I think there’s another level for us there,” he said.
The Deacons opened their season on Thursday with a 7-3 win over Tulane and had 175 yards in total offense as Wolford was 9-of-17 passing for just 79 yards. Quarterback Kendall Hinton scored the game’s only touchdown on a 1-yard run. Tulane had 280 yards of offense.
“They can run on defense. They don’t give you anything,” Cutcliffe said Sunday of the Deacons. “They’ve got two quarterbacks that can beat you in different ways and their whole offensive line returns.
“I thought at the end of last year they were playing at a high level. We’ll have our hands full.”