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Duke's passing offense surging

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Tags: ACC Now | Duke

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


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Is it me, or does anyone else hate it when an article or broadcaster mentions where a player ranks in a particular stat category without mentioning any of the players ahead of or behind the player mentioned?

How are we supposed to put the stat into context?

They used to mention the higher ranked players. ALWAYS. Now they don't. Why?

So Varner/Vernon rank fifth all time in ACC history for receptions by teammates, OK, who's #4? Or 3, or 2 or 1? Do Varner/Vernon stand a chance of finishing first? 

The whole point of keeping statistics is for statistical comparison, well if you're not going to take the time to make the comparison, what's the point?





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About the blogger

Edward joined the News & Observer staff in 2004. He is a graduate of American University and Johns Hopkins University. He covers Wake Forest football and women's college basketball for the N&O. Edward is a native of Washington, D.C. He can be reached at 829-4781 or