Passing Game Highlights Scrimmage

The Blue Devils competed in the second spring practice scrimmage of the year on Saturday

DURHAM, N.C. – Wide receiver Donovan Varner caught four passes for 166 yards and one touchdown to highlight Duke's 75-play scrimmage on Saturday morning at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Varner, who is one of 12 players in ACC history with two seasons with 60 or more pass receptions, had catches covering 32, 38, 43 and 53 yards – all from quarterback Sean Renfree, who finished 12-of-20 through the air for 281 yards.

"We did some really good things today," said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. "There was competitiveness on both sides of the ball. Sean Renfree continues to make plays along with Connor Vernon and Donovan Varner. The positive on the defensive side is that you didn't see the offense run the ball consistently in this scrimmage. We played the run much more fiercely. We got off the field a little more consistently on defense. The energy was better. That is extremely important to us."

Backup quarterback Brandon Connette led the Blue Devils with 57 rushing yards on five attempts while completing seven-of-10 throws for 63 yards including a 29-yard touchdown toss to wideout Tyree Watkins. Watkins (60 yards) and Conner Vernon (92 yards) joined Varner with four catches each.

Running backs Patrick Kurunwune and Juwan Thompson scored touchdowns from two and one yard out, respectively.

Duke's first defensive unit forced the lone turnover of the day when linebacker Kevin Rojas recovered a fumble. The Blue Devil secondary combined for seven pass breakups on the day with Issac Blakeney, Ross Cockrell and Tony Foster logging two deflections apiece. Linebackers Austin Gamble and Tyree Glover contributed one tackle for loss each while defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento was credited with one quarterback sack.

"I think that if you asked Coach Petri, he would be extremely pleased with what he's seen from the defensive front in the last week," Cutcliffe said. "Coming back from break, you kind of wondered where we'd be and we've made some progress. He's had a good week of practice with those guys and it showed today."

Kicker Will Snyderwine booted three field goals during the scrimmage session, connecting on kicks of 38, 43 and 45 yards out.

"I thought our spring work in the kicking game has been good, but I thought today we really showed some punt return ability," noted Cutcliffe. "I like what we're doing in the punt game. In the live work beforehand, Alex King was exceptional. Paul Asack as a backup punter was exceptional. Will Snyderwine just put on a show. He was kicking into the teeth of the wind and making 50-yarders. He is absolutely hitting the ball well."

Duke will return to the practice field on Tuesday, and the annual Spring Game is set for Saturday, March 26 at 3 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium.


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