Photo: Chris Katrenick (15) and Marvin Hubbard III (20)
DURHAM, N.C. – Duke’s “next man up” mantra that now extends to quarterbacks remains perfect to the tune of a 4-0 start.
Backup quarterback Quentin Harris was on his way to leading the Blue Devils to their second straight win in his second start since third-year starter Daniel Jones suffered a broken collar bone two weeks ago. But when Harris limped off the field midway through the third quarter, redshirt freshman Chris Katrenick was called off the bench for his college debut.
He finished the possession with a touchdown pass as the Blue Devils beat N.C. Central 55-13 in the seventh edition of the Bull City Gridiron Classic on Saturday before at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Katrenick, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder from Algonquin, Ill., needed only seven snaps to cover the final 24 yards of the 10-play 55-yard TD possession. He hit redshirt senior tight end Davis Koppenhaver with a 3-yard touchdown toss.
Katrenick led two more scoring drives that were capped by Deon Jackson with a 2-yard run and Nicodem Pierre on a 1-yard score. Katrincik’s final numbers were 5-of-12 passing for 54 yards and one scored. He didn’t throw and interception, he wasn’t sacked and he didn’t turn the ball over on his two carries for three yards.
Harris didn’t return to the game, although he was jogging and cutting on the sidelines after he came off the field.
“Quentin is fine and could have gone back into the game,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “But I told (offensive coordinator) Zac Roper this was too good of an opportunity for Chris right now.”
Harris’ final numbers were 15-of-27 passing for 202 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, giving him six in two games. He ran five times for 34 yards and a 15-yard TD up the middle, but he also fumbled on a fourth-and-1 play. The Eagles’ Jordan McRae returned it 55 yards to trim the deficit to 20-13 with 12:26 left in the second quarter.
Duke’s fourth victory, which followed impressive wins over Army, Northwestern and Baylor, might be enough to crack the Top 25. In the most recent polls, Duke’s 61 points in the Associated Press writers voting equals to No. 28 and 55 points in the USA Today coaches balloting is good for No. 27.
“Being recognized would be awesome, but it’s just one game at a time,” said Koppenhaver, who caught two balls, both for touchdowns, for 20 yards.
The next game up is Virginia Tech (2-1), a Top 25 team before suffering a 49-35 loss to previously winless Old Dominion (1-3). The Hokies entered the game No. 13 in AP and No. 10 in USA Today, so it remains to be seen if voters will give them a mulligan to set up a Top 25 matchup next week at Duke. Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson left the field with an ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter and didn’t return to the game.
“That’s up to the polls,” Koppenhaver said. “I think we won all of our games; we can’t do much else.”
It’s the second straight Duke has started the season 4-0, but last year’s quick start was followed by a six-game losing streak. The Blue Devils needed three final wins –which means they’re now riding a seven-game winning streak – to finish with a 7-6 record.
“It special, but we know last year how fast it went to six in a row,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Johnathan Lloyd, who caught two passes for 24 yards and a 16-yard touchdown with a stiff arm on his way into the end zone. “We can’t let up. We’ve got to be a lot better than what you guys saw today.”
Duke has compiled its second straight 4-0 start despite an injury plagued beginning to the season that began players talking about their “next man up” mentality. It has been the mantra since the opener when returning safety Jeremy McDuffie wasn’t recovered from knee surgery, but he saw his saw his first playing this week.
Starting wide receiver Aaron Young (hamstring) missed his third straight game, while Jones (collarbone), center Zach Harmon (leg) and cornerback Mark Gilbert (hip) were sidelined the second straight week since they were injured at Northwestern.
With the lopsided score, the “next man up” mentality extended to backups, too. Duke used 72 players overall, dipping well into the third-team depth chart at various positions.
Staring sophomore running back Brittain Brown led Duke in rushing with 13 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown, but Hubbard added 20 for 96 yards and Deon Jackson nine for 63 yards and a score. Duke totaled 628 yards with 372 rushing and 256 passing.
On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo led the Blue Devils with 11 tackles, including one for a loss of 2 yards. The linebacker tandem of Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys finished with seven and six, respectively.
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