Duke Now

Thomas Sirk, Duke defense shine in road romp against Tulane

Thomas Sirk (1) of the Duke Blue Devils runs with the ball against the Tulane Green Wave on Sept. 3 in New Orleans.
Thomas Sirk (1) of the Duke Blue Devils runs with the ball against the Tulane Green Wave on Sept. 3 in New Orleans. Getty Images

Long after midnight on the East Coast, Duke wrapped up a 37-7 win Thursday night at Tulane. As the score indicates, it was a strong dominant performance for the defense matched up against an inept Green Wave offense.

Tulane (0-1) scored when quarterback Tanner Lee took advantage of freshman cornerback Jeremy McDuffie, targeting him in man coverage. Wide receiver Devon Breaux beat McDuffie on a 50-50 ball and took it 76 yards for the score. On the ensuing kickoff, Duke’s DeVon Edwards ran 95 yards to the end zone, quickly eliminating the threat of a competitive end to the game.

It was a good opportunity for the Blue Devils to break in several new starters, including quarterback Thomas Sirk. The redshirt junior finished 27-for-40 for 289 yards and two touchdowns, along with 68 yards on the ground (and one fumbled pitch).

Turning point

Midway through the third quarter, a Duke turnover gave Tulane, trailing 16-0, an opportunity to get back in the game. But then the Blue Devils’ defense collectively put a stop to that: Linebacker Zavier Carmichael tipped a Tanner Lee pass, and Edwards might have gotten a finger on it before it bounced off of safety Deondre Singleton’s shoulder – and into a diving Carmichael’s hands at the Duke 22. The Green Wave never seriously threatened again.

Three who mattered

Zavier Carmichael: Duke’s new starting linebacker made the play of the game with his timely interception. The sophomore finished with five total tackles

Jeremy Cash: The All-American safety candidate played like it, flying around the field for five total tackles and one tackle for loss, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. He even downed a punt inside the 10-yard line on special teams. Quite simply, Cash was everywhere, even bouncing around the sidelines firing his teammates up long after most of the fans had gone home.

Carlos Wray: Duke’s lone returner on the defensive line had another key play: After the offense turned the ball over on downs to begin the fourth quarter, Wray came up with a bone-crushing, 8-yard sack on the next play. A three-and-out (and botched punt) ensued.

Three key numbers

1.5 Yards per carry for Tulane rushers (on 22 attempts) with two minutes remaining.

.675 Sirk’s completion percentage. Only once in 2014 did last year’s starting quarterback, Anthony Boone, top that number.

2 Third downs (out of 13) converted by the Green Wave

Highlight reel

Johnell Barnes put the game away with a 29-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that put Duke ahead 23-0. The junior took a swing pass and danced down the left sideline, keeping his balance and evading would-be tacklers.