News & Observer staff and wire reports
Stanford had seven points on the board before its offense even touched the ball.
But once quarterback Josh Nunes and the Cardinal took the field, the first-team offense wasted no time, embarking on seven scoring drives, none of which lasted longer than 3:05. Stanford rolled over, around and through Duke, 50-13.
“Bottom line is we didn’t get it done,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said, adding that his team may have been complacent coming off its win against FIU. “There are no excuses.”
After a quick three-and-out on the Blue Devils’ opening possession, Stanford’s Drew Terrell returned Will Monday’s punt 76 yards for a touchdown. The Blue Devils earned just one first down in the first quarter, and were forced to punt on fourth-and-1 on three of their first four drives. During that same time, Stanford built a 13-0 lead.
Duke’s defense, which played 91 snaps last week, the seventh-most in the country, three times limited the Cardinal to a field goal after entering the red zone. The Blue Devils also forced two punts and recorded a sack (courtesy of Kenny Anunike) and interception (from Ross Cockrell) in the first half. Cockrell slid from cornerback to safety when August Campbell left the game with an injury and made a diving grab to snag Nunes’s pass.
“I was just reading the quarterback, he gave me play-action, I came up on the run,” Cockrell said. “Once I saw the play-action, I ran back outside and just read his eyes and broke on the ball.”
But the offense sputtered along, attempting about a dozen screen passes in the first half that went for little or no yardage. Sean Renfree completed 20-of-27 first-half passes, and only had 93 yards to show. Duke recorded a total of four rushing yards in the opening half.
Stanford, which looked like it missed Andrew Luck in last week’s 20-17 win over San Jose State, looked proficient in every way, amassing 373 total yards of offense, including 286 in the air in Nunes’s second career start.
Trailing 23-3 at the half, the Blue Devils attempted an onside kick to open the third quarter. And, unlike in last year’s match where the trickery worked, The Cardinal recovered the ball at the Duke 43-yard line. Four passing plays later, and the Cardinal scored a touchdown that effectively put the game out of reach.
Sean Renfree threw his first of two interceptions on the ensuing drive, and Stanford had a 37-3 lead two plays later.
Backup quarterback Anthony Boone entered the game with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter after Stanford S Ed Reynolds returned Renfree’s second interception for a 70-yard touchdown. With the aid of a few downfield passing play calls, Boone led the Blue Devils on their only touchdown of the game to make the score 43-13.
Boone did throw an interception of his own, and Stanford took the victory formation after recovering a Boone fumble with 1:18 remaining.
“Everyone says put it behind you, but we can’t put this behind us,” Cutcliffe said. “We need to remember this and then we need to correct off of this.”