Duke had newly renovated Wallace Wade Stadium ready for the 2016 season opener.
The Blue Devils had starting quarterback Daniel Jones ready.
The defense was ready.
For Duke, the “Bull City Gridiron Classic” against N.C. Central again was a chance to get a good look at a lot of players while scoring an easy win. The Blue Devils did that, rolling 49-6 on Saturday in a game where Duke had some blemishes — a few too many fumbles, a botched punt — but nothing serious.
Jones, a redshirt freshman from Charlotte, was highly efficient in his first collegiate game, competing 10 of 15 passes for 189 yards and two scores and running for a third. Showing good touch on his throws, he teamed up with receiver Johnathan Lloyd on a 55-yard catch-and-run and hit tight end Erich Schneider for a 20-yard TD.
Running back Jela Duncan had a 50-yard scoring burst and later added a 3-yard TD run in a 115-yard rushing night, and quarterback Parker Boehme passed and ran for a TD late in the first half as the Blue Devils took a 49-0 lead.
Why Duke won
It was a mismatch. The Eagles rarely had good field position on their first-half possessions while making too many defensive mistakes and having a slew of missed tackles.
Duncan was hardly touched on his 50-yard TD run, and Lloyd had an open field on his long TD reception after a good downfield block.
Duke’s offensive balance was too much for NCCU to handle, and Jones didn’t show any hint of first-game nerves. Nor did the Blue Devils let up when Jones took a seat in the first half and Boehme ran the offense. Boheme had the game’s most entertaining run, bulling and bouncing off defenders for a 34-yard gain.
The Eagles competed better in the second half and got 48- and 34-yard field goals from Brandon McLaren.
What it means
Duke coach David Cutclffe said college teams, unlike the NFL, don’t have any preseason exhibition games to gauge personnel. But facing the Eagles, albeit a team that won the MEAC the past two years and returned 15 starters, all but amounted to one.
The Blue Devils had a lot of players see the field, and Jones wasn’t the only one playing his first college game. Some also were in new positions such as Lloyd, who made the move from the secondary in the spring.
Duke will host Wake Forest next Saturday in an early ACC opener, and Cutcliffe will know a lot more about his team after that game.
416: That’s the number of yards the Blue Devils had in the first half — 214 rushing and 202 passing. Jones was 9-of-13 passing for 182 yards at the half and had two throws dropped.
Duke had 20 first downs in the opening half while holding Central to three (and 71 total yards). It was just that one-sided.