Duke

Thinking less may be key for Duke's Anthony Boone

Duke quarterback Anthony Boone (7) tries to evade Tulane safety Darion Monroe (2) in the third quarter. Duke beat Tulane 47-13 Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham.
Duke quarterback Anthony Boone (7) tries to evade Tulane safety Darion Monroe (2) in the third quarter. Duke beat Tulane 47-13 Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Looking back over the Miami game, one stat jumped out at Duke coach David Cutcliffe.

“We threw 29 incompletions in the game,” Cutcliffe said. “I can’t remember us ever throwing 29 incompletions in 39 years of coaching.”

Quarterback Anthony Boone’s struggles have been one of the most surprising developments this season. Through five games, his completion percentage has dropped each week, bottoming out at 43.1 percent (22-for-51) in the 22-10 loss at Miami last Saturday. His three interceptions have all come in the last two weeks.

Still, Duke (4-1, 0-1 in the ACC) has time to get Boone back on track. The Blue Devils have an open date this weekend, giving them more time to prepare for their Oct. 11 trip to Georgia Tech and to attempt to find some semblance of offensive rhythm.

After every game, Boone, a fifth-year senior, has said the right things, vowing to get in the film room and dissect his mistakes. Cutcliffe has also spoken of his dedication to his craft and his desire to get better.

But maybe Boone is thinking too much.

Case in point: the five false starts and three botched snaps against the Hurricanes, in addition to the inaccurate throws.

“If you’re not careful, if you just hold people too long at the line of scrimmage, sometimes you’re busy, and it can get a little bit dangerous,” Cutcliffe said. “Anthony has a lot of information in his head. He is trying to get everybody on the same page. Sometimes, I think those benefits of doing that don’t outweigh just lining up and playing.

“The older you get, I’ve had to remind all of mine, you’re a quarterback, you’re a player. You’ve got to play the position. And he really has a total grasp of defensive football, of offensive football, he knows everybody’s assignments. You’ve got to trust the people around you sometimes.”

The wide receivers could help Boone out by reeling in more imperfect throws – so far, though, many of those opportunities have been missed. Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney and Johnell Barnes each had one catchable ball at Miami that could have resulted in a major gain, perhaps even one that allowed Duke to seize the momentum in a game that wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter.

Crowder, who leads Duke with 29 receptions for 343 yards, has been dealing with a few injury issues, and he was limited in practice this week. Backup quarterback Thomas Sirk, who missed the Miami game, has not practiced this week as he continues to recover from a virus. That has left the backup quarterback reps for Parker Boehme, and it has given Boone plenty of opportunities to try to simplify his focus.

So far, Cutcliffe has been pleased with the results.

“I think practice has been fun for Anthony,” he said. “We can take a little bit of that off of him.”

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