Fourth quarter (Duke 38, Memphis 14)
The Blue Devils finally started to show some consistency in the running game on the quarter’s opening drive. Duke continued to wear down the Memphis defensive front with crucial runs from Juwan Thompson and Jela Duncan. Duncan, a true freshman, was impressive with his combination of power and speed in his most productive game as a Blue Devil. Even quarterback Sean Renfree got in on the action with a 25-yard scramble to take Duke inside Memphis’ 10-yard line. Renfree capped off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Connette for Connette’s first-career receiving touchdown.
Duke continued to utilize the running game as it ran the clock out against Memphis. The Blue Devils moved 61 yards down the field in seven plays and just 3:41 to extend their lead to 38-14, capping the drive off with a 31-yard screen pass from Renfree to Conner Vernon, who connected for their second touchdown of the evening. Vernon caught eight passes for 120 yards and two scores on the evening.
The Blue Devils pulled their starters for the game’s final drive as Anthony Boone took the final kneel downs for Duke in a 38-14 victory.
Third quarter (Duke 24, Memphis 14): Things settled down just a tad in the third quarter as Duke registered one score and kept Memphis scoreless. The Blue Devils forced a three-and-out on the first possession and moved down field, inside the Memphis five. Renfree fumbled with a Duke recovery on second down, but the Blue Devils were not so fortunate on third down when Juwan Thompson coughed up the rock.
After another Memphis three-and-out, in which Lee Butler returned the punt to the Tiger 35-yard line, Duke found the end zone when Renfree hit Desmond Scott for a 17-yard completion. Scott absorbed contact from two sides and caught the ball in the air, displaying veteran prowess. Duke has the ball on the Memphis 35 to begin the final quarter of play.
Second quarter (Duke 17, Memphis 14): After a scoreless first quarter, Duke began with the ball deep in its own territory and made a costly mistake as quarterback Sean Renfree threw a pick-six, giving the Tigers their first score of the game. On the next possession, Duke needed some help—including a fortunate illegal contact penalty on 3rd down—to keep the drive alive. On a 4th and one in Memphis territory, Renfree found Connette for a 22-yard gain, after which Connette took a direct snap to tie the game at 7-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, the mistakes continued for Duke as it allowed Memphis kick returner Bobby McCain takes it to the Duke four-yard line. The Tigers then punched it in to put their lead back up to seven. When the Blue Devils got the ball back they finally found some offensive punch as true freshman running back Jela Duncan snapped off a 58-yard run to the Memphis six-yard line. But the possession resulted in a field goal with the Tigers holding the lead at 14-10.
After forcing Memphis to punt on the next possession, Duke worked the ball down field and converted for a score to take its first lead of the game as Renfree found wide receiver Conner Vernon on a 37-yard play action. The Blue Devils appeared poised to build on that score after they surprised the Tigers with an onside kick and recovered, but were forced into a three-and-out afterwards. Neither team found anything after that as the half came to a close.
First quarter (Duke 0, Memphis, 0): On Duke’s first possession, it appeared poised for a three-and-out but a fake punt pass from Will Monday to Brandon Connette gave the Blue Devils an extra breath of life. They took advantage of it, rallying for another fourth down conversion to take it into the Memphis redzone, after which a Josh Snead fumble gave the Tigers their first possession of the game.
When Memphis was forced to punt on its first possession of the game, Duke’s Lee Butler muffed the return, giving the Tigers the ball on the Blue Devil 23-yard line. The Tigers then attempted to go for it on 4th and three, but Duke kept them inches short of the first down for a turnover on downs.
The Blue Devils rallied into Memphis territory again on the next drive but were forced to punt. The quarter came to a close with Memphis poised to punt on 4th and 17.
In between quarters, Blair Holliday, his mother and Duke athletic director Kevin White received what was the loudest cheer of the game as they were presented with a check to Holliday’s recovery fund.
Pregame: Welcome to The Blue Zone’s live blog of this evening’s Duke football vs. Memphis action, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium. Make sure to follow along on Twitter @chroniclesports for up-to-the-minute updates and check back here for detailed updates after every quarter.