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College Football: A day for backups in Durham
U.Va.’S SIMS GETS THE CALL; WILL DUKE COUNTERPART BOONE ALSO START?
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
One quarterback will definitely make his first career start when Duke and Virginia face off in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest Saturday in Durham, N.C.
Virginia sophomore Phillip Sims was named the Cavaliers’ starter earlier this week. He’s replacing Michael Rocco.
VIRGINIA (2–3) at DUKE (4–1)
WHEN: Sunday, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
RADIO: WGRQ-FM 95.9
But if Duke senior Sean Renfree can’t play because of an elbow injury suffered in last Saturday’s 34–27 win over Wake Forest, sophomore Anthony Boone will make his first start, as well.
Renfree is listed as questionable on Duke’s injury report. Head coach David Cutcliffe said regardless of who plays quarterback for the Blue Devils (4–1, 1–0 ACC), their style of play remains the same.
“We have an offensive system,” Cutcliffe said. “Anthony Boone has been taking the No. 2 reps all fall camp, all during the season to this point. We’re running the same offense whether it’s Sean, whether it’s Anthony or whether it was [third-stringer] Brandon Connette.”
The Blue Devils are off to their best start since 1994. They’ve defeated the Cavaliers (2–3, 0–1) the past two times Virginia has visited Wallace Wade Stadium.
However, Duke’s task may become tougher if Renfree can’t play. He’s fourth in the ACC in passing efficiency and sixth in passing yards per game.
Boone replaced him in the fourth quarter against Wake Forest. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 54 yards and also ran for a 4-yard touchdown.
“One of the things I noticed on the sideline when Anthony had to step up and play, the other players didn’t bat an eye,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s why we’ve always played backup quarterbacks in situational roles if they’re good enough.”
No matter who lines up under center for Duke, their top target will likely be wide receiver Conner Vernon. The senior has 232 career receptions, equaling former Clemson standout Aaron Kelly’s ACC record.
Virginia coach Mike London said Renfree and Vernon are well-versed on Duke’s pass-happy system because it seems like they’ve been there “forever.”
“It matters when you have an older, experienced quarterback and some receivers that have been around the system that [Cutcliffe’s] teaching,” London said. “What you see is that they’re executing their offense at a very high and efficient level.”
London said Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils “playing with a lot of energy.”
He’s hoping his team can get some momentum going today, as well. The Cavaliers have lost three straight games, but two were against nonconference opponents.
Sims said earlier this week that he’s not going to try to do too much. Still, there’s no denying the Cavaliers need a spark.
“I feel we have very good talent on this team. We’ve just got to put it together,” Sims said. “We’ve shot ourselves in the foot sometimes with penalties and things like that. We can’t continue to do that. That’s not how you win college football games. Hopefully we’ll remedy that and put on a good show on Saturday.”
Virginia senior defensive end Billy Schautz will miss today’s game with a lower extremity injury. Junior wide receiver Tim Smith is doubtful (lower extremity). Senior left tackle Oday Aboushi (upper extremity), defensive tackle Will Hill (medical) and safety Brandon Phelps (upper extremity) are probable.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526