DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke's running backs are doing all sorts of unusual things these days: They're breaking records one week, and returning interceptions for touchdowns the next.
Fourth-string running back Joseph Ajeigbe's bizarre pick-six on a punt was the defining play of the Blue Devils' 47-13 rout of Tulane on Saturday.
"I don't think anyone thought he would score THAT way," receiver Jamison Crowder said.
Bryon Fields had a conventional interception return for a score, and Anthony Boone, Josh Snead, Thomas Sirk and Shaun Wilson each had touchdown runs to help the Blue Devils (4-0) extend their best start since the 1994 team opened with seven straight wins.
Boone finished 15 of 27 for 181 yards and his second-quarter interception was Duke's first turnover of the season. Wilson was responsible for giveaway No. 2 with his late fumble.
Boone said the Blue Devils "weren't at our best at all" and "pretty average." But it has been a while since a Duke team could play that poorly yet win by 34 points.
"Somebody once told me that all the good teams always find the lucky breaks," Boone said. "That's kind of what happened today. We got the lucky breaks. We executed sometimes, but sometimes the ball just fell our way."
Crowder caught six passes for 119 yards for the Blue Devils, who held just a 437-375 advantage in total yards.
Lazedrick Thompson rushed for 124 yards, and he and Dontrell Hilliard had scoring runs for the mistake-prone Green Wave (1-3).
Tanner Lee was 14 of 35 for 160 yards but was intercepted three times — including Fields' late pick-six. The Blue Devils turned Tulane's five turnovers into 21 points.
"Our kids are just a lot of young kids playing right now," Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. "And we're making a lot of mistakes."
The Green Wave's special teams — and by extension, the offense — had major problems on all sorts of fourth downs. The problems started when regular long snapper Michael Lizanich was unable to play, Johnson said.
Backup Matt Marfisi snapped the ball well over punter Peter Picerelli's head and through the back of the end zone, giving Duke an early safety.
Then came the play of the day: After another poor punt snap was muffed, Tulane freshman linebacker Rae Juan Marbley scooped up the ball and let it fly. Ajeigbe was there to grab it out of the air and return it 12 yards for the final score.
Cutcliffe said he hadn't been around a stranger play.
"Love seeing the pressure and the energy and the effort," the coach said. "We kind of created that ourselves."
The Green Wave also missed an extra point, and they went for it — and failed — twice on fourth downs in obvious field-goal range.
"I just (didn't) know if we could do the operations well enough" to snap long, Johnson said. "We may as well go for it and try to hit paydirt, and if we don't, our defense could hold them."
Yet Tulane pulled to 26-13 on Thompson's 4-yard scoring run midway through the third, and on its next possession drove to the Duke red zone before a 7-yard pass on fourth-and-8.
Tulane forced Duke to punt but Green Wave returner Richard Allen fumbled it, and David Reeves recovered for Duke at the Tulane 24. Four plays later, Wilson scored from 7 yards out to make it 33-13.
Fields then followed two possessions later with his 22-yard interception return for a TD.
Wilson, who rushed for a school-record 245 yards last week against Kansas, finished this one with 70 yards on just seven carries while remaining as the third man in a four-man rotation that also included Snead, starter Shaq Powell and Ajeigbe.
Ross Martin kicked a 31-yard field goal for Duke and kicked six extra points to become the school's career scoring leader with 243 points.
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted on Sun, September 21, 2014
by JOEDY McCREARY, AP Sports Writer