DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Daniel Jones had a big Duke debut last year in a blowout of North Carolina Central. This time, it was Brittain Brown’s turn to break out – and now the Blue Devils hope the rest of the season goes differently.
Brown rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in his first college game, Jones accounted for three scores and Duke opened the season by routing N.C. Central 60-7 on Saturday night.
Shaun Wilson also had a short TD run and Bryon Fields Jr. returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the highest-scoring performance by a David Cutcliffe-coached team.
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Jones threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in this game – just as he did in last year’s 49-6 rout of Central . Duke went on to lose eight of its final 11 games and missed the postseason for the first time since 2011.
”There was a different energy in the locker room before the game, after the game” this time, Fields said. ”Guys were really excited. We got a lot of guys, a lot of talented guys, a lot of energy on this team.”
The Blue Devils led this one 40-0 midway through the second quarter, scored on their first seven drives, held a 524-158 advantage in total yards and claimed their sixth lopsided victory in six meetings of this FBS-vs.-FCS crosstown series.
Jones finished 19 of 25 for 213 yards with a 54-yard TD pass to Aaron Young, a 24-yarder to Johnathan Lloyd and a 4-yard scoring run.
Wilson and Fields scored for the Blue Devils on consecutive snaps. Wilson capped Duke’s opening drive with his 1-yard score, and on the first play of the Eagles’ drive that followed, Fields jumped in front of Micah Zanders’ pass and returned it for his third career touchdown to make it 14-0.
Isaiah Totten had an 81-yard touchdown run for the Eagles after they fell behind by 40.
N.C. Central: The Eagles – who have won three straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles – fell to 0-10 against FBS opponents since moving to Division I a decade ago, and their average margin of defeat in those first nine losses was 42.4 points. But nothing that happened in this one should keep Central from chasing another MEAC championship.
”The biggest positive I took from it was Isaiah,” coach Jerry Mack said.
Duke: Looks like the Blue Devils have a keeper in Brown, whose redshirt Cutcliffe opted to preserve last year. Brown, who backed up Wilson, took his first carry 24 yards and his second was a 39-yard touchdown during which he showed off another gear while zipping through the Central defense. He cracked triple digits on his first carry of the second half, and finished with a team-leading 10 carries.
”I couldn’t ask for better lanes, better holes,” Brown said. ”I had a good time running out there – really didn’t even have to juke the defenders that much. Just used my speed to run on them.”
A Cutcliffe-coached team had never reached the 60-point mark until now. His previous high came in his next-to-last season at Mississippi, a 59-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe – with Eli Manning under center that day. His Duke teams have hit 55 points three times, most recently against N.C. Central in 2015.
Redshirt sophomore Austin Parker capped Duke’s first drive of the second quarter with a 32-yard field goal. For the Blue Devils, that was a pretty big deal – they made just three field goals during the entire 2016 season, tied for worst in the FBS. It was the first career field goal for Parker, who won the job during preseason camp.
Duke had a couple of scoring plays called back due to penalties. T.J. Rahming’s 76-yard punt return was brought back by a holding flag, and Fields would have had his second pick-six of the night had Mike Ramsay not been penalized for roughing the passer.
N.C. Central: The Eagles get their turn to beat up on a lower-level opponent from the North Carolina Triangle when they play host to Division II Shaw on Sept. 9.
Duke: The Blue Devils play host to Northwestern on Sept. 9 in the first of consecutive home games against Power Five opponents. Baylor visits Wallace Wade Stadium the following week.
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