After opening the season with losses to Richmond and No. 7 Stanford, Duke has won three straight games and entered this week – a bye week – with newfound confidence and a revamped playbook.
The Blue Devils rallied for a 31-27 victory over Florida International last week and showed what they can do with the ACC's third-ranked passing offense (311.6 yards per game).
Duke redshirt junior quarterback Sean Renfree passed for 335 yards, spreading the ball to nine receivers, but finding senior Donovan Varner and junior Conner Vernon for a combined 228 yards.
The tandem caught 15 receptions and now rank fifth on the ACC's list of most career receptions by two teammates – in seasons common to both players. They duo has 316 combined catches, with Varner pulling down 154 and Vernon hauling in 162.
The “Killer V’s,” as they are called, spread the field against FIU and gave Duke the multiple receiver threats observers predicted at the start of the season.
“We know how good the offense can be,” said Vernon, who added that he wished his team was playing on Saturday to capitalized on such feel-good momentum.
The Devils finally looked like the spread passing offense of the past two seasons.
Renfree completed 28 of 43 attempts and threw passes all over the field. He completed a 54-yard bomb to Varner. And dropped another 30-yard pass to Vernon. And found tight end Cooper Helfet in the end zone on a 22-yard play.
Renfree completed bubble screens and hit receivers on slants and tough routes to the outside. There was none of the cautiousness that seemed to haunt the Devils in the season-opener against Richmond.
“We feel we are a team that can threaten defenses deep,” Vernon said. “And we’re going to take those shots. It’s definitely a confidence-builder for us and Sean.”
The Devils next face No. 23 Florida State at Wallace Wade Stadium on Oct. 15. They have a slate of three home games.
Vernon said the Devils about 15 plays each week to their playbook.
"We have lots of plays that we can call," Vernon said. "We can call a play that we learned day 1 or we can call a play we've put in that week. It's a real wide open playbook. We're really starting to open it up."
ACC – Most receptions by two teammates (seasons common to both players)
1. Aaron Kelly (232) & Tyler Grisham (132), Clemson – 364
2. Clarkston Hines (189) & Roger Boone (168), Duke – 357
3. Desmond Clark (177) & Jammie Deese (152), Wake Forest – 329
4. Desmond Clark (172) & Thabiti Davis (145), Wake Forest – 317
5. Donovan Varner (154) & Conner Vernon (162), Duke – 316