Duke went into the locker room at halftime Memphis tied 7-7, but the Blue Devils’ starting quarterback, Anthony Boone, went back earlier in the second quarter with an upper body injury. He is done for the day.
Boone was replaced by backup Brandon Connette, who struggled to advance the offense on the final two drives of the half. Connette, a redshirt junior, finished the half 3-for-7 for 16 yards and took two sacks.
The Blue Devils (1-0) recorded 176 yards of total offense in the first half, with 61 rushing yards and 115 passing yards, 99 of which came from Boone before he left the game. Duke also committed two turnovers, though, one of which led directly to Memphis’s points.
After the defense forced a three-and-out to begin the game, Duke’s offense moved quickly to open the scoring. A six-play 58-yard drive was capped by a touchdown run by Duke quarterback Anthony Boone. The junior took the snap on third-and-4 from the 23 and ran it up the middle, breaking a few arm tackles on the way to the end zone for the 7-0 lead.
It took Memphis until its third drive to advance the ball down the field, which the Tigers did thanks to two long pass plays. A 32-yard completion from Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch to Mose Frazier started off the drive. Two plays later, a screen pass to Brandon Hayes went for 20 yards. Hayes, though, stepped out of bounds at the 18-yard line, untouched, and had no Duke defenders in between him and the end zone on the right sideline.
The Tigers drive stalled on another curious stepping out of bounds, this time by Lynch, the quarterback, on third-and-11 from the Duke 19-yard line. Lynch scrambled and, again, untouched, stepped out of bounds one yard shy of the first down stick. Duke linebacker Kelby Brown stuffed the fourth-and-1 running attempt for no gain.
The Blue Devils’ offense was moving on the ensuing drive, but on the first play of the second quarter, Boone and wide receiver Jamison Crowder had a mix-up on the desired route, and Boone’s pass was intercepted by Memphis’s Bobby McCain and returned 75 yards for the touchdown. A Jake Elliot extra point tied the game, 7-7.
Duke committed another turnover on its first drive on the second half, this one a fumbled punt by Crowder. Memphis couldn’t convert the opportunity into points, as Duke redshirt senior cornerback Garett Patterson came up with a pass break-up in one-on-one coverage on third-and-7 at the Duke 46-yard line.
Connette entered the game on the next series.