WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM—You’d think these two teams might have squared off on the gridiron a lot more than they have.
Duke and Tulane were once fellow members of the Southern Conference, and have always been considered among the “Southern Ivies.”
But the Blue Devils will play the Greenies for only the fourth time ever on this warm, sunny afternoon in front of a sparse crowd, although they will square off three more times over the next six seasons.
Tulane, a member of the new American Athletic Conference, brings a 1-2 record into the contest and looks to get some momentum going with a road upset. But 3-0 Duke is looking to go to 4-0 for the first time since 1994, sweep the non-conference portion of its schedule and probably get into the national Top 25s with a win.
Tulane has a special-teams nightmare for three quarters, allowing Duke to turn what might have been a close game into a 47-13 rout.
Duke scores on its first possession on a one-yard run from running quarterback Thomas Sirk, completing a methodical seven-play, 75-yard march at 12:10 with Ross Martin adding the boot.
The Green Wave respond in kind, going 85 yards in 11 plays ending in true freshman Dontrell Hilliard’s five-yard run at 7:03 with Andrew DiRocco on the successful placement.
Back comes Duke with a 10-play, 81-yard march, with Josh Snead going in from two out at 4:11. Martin converts.
And the Blue Devils get their first big break at 2:58, scoring a safety to make it 16-7 when Matt Marfisi’s snap goes far over punter Peter Picerelli’s head and out of the end zone.
Duke tacks on a 31-yard Martin field goal at the end of a seven-play, 56-yard drive with 4:21 left in the half.
Duke makes it 26-7 following Boone’s 1-yard scoring run with 11:45 left in the third period. The key play of that seven-play, 64-yard drive is the first, a 48-yard pass from Boone to Jamison Crowder.
Tulane responds with a 12-play, 93-yard drive with Lazedrick Thompson going in from four yards out. DiRocco’s kick goes awry, leaving the score at 26-13 with 6:57 left in the third.
But the Blue Devils pretty much put it way with 17 seconds left in the third, as Shaun Wilson scores from seven yards out on the fourth play after Teddy Veal fumbles a punt at the Tulane 24.
With 11:52 left in the game Bryon Fields returns an interception 22 yards for a touchdown.
Duke scores one more comical touchdown with 8:43 to play, when Joseph Aleigbe has a 12-yard interception return after Tulane’s Rae Marbley recovers the fumble on a bad punt snap and tries a shovel pass.
Duke’s Jeremy Cash finishes with 11 tackles including 1 1/2 for losses and an interception.
They said it …
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “I believe and know we will be at our best and will have to be as we head to Miami on the road. We’re going to check our wounded and see where we are. We have to be a fresh team Sunday. We have to have a great week, correct mistakes and build on what we’re doing extremely well.”
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson: “Duke was a very well-coached and a very good football team. They ran the ball well on us. The quarterback is outstanding and (Crowder) is going to be, I think, A high-round draft choice. I think their defense played stout today.”
Boone: “No matter what, we find a way to win. We find a way to crunch down in times where we need to crunch down and we find a way when there’s crucial times to get a stop or get points on the board.”
Duke safety Deondre Singleton: “The first four games, we’ve had a lot of success. I think Coach is very proud of us and how we’re playing. We’re not a team that quits, and we’re always going to be good in the fourth quarter. As we say on defense, the fourth quarter is our quarter.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke is likely to make the Top 25 for the first time this season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Crowder’s 48-yard reception.
Duke: Won 4.
Tulane: Lost 1.
Duke at Miami, Sept. 27, TBA
Tulane at Rutgers, Sept. 27, TBA