DURHAM, N.C. — Amid a flurry of first-half penalties and blown coverages throughout the game, the Navy football team proved little match for Duke in a 35-7 loss on an overcast Saturday afternoon in front of an announced 23,749 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Midshipmen (3-2) fell for a third consecutive time to Duke, which got career highs of 295 passing yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Anthony Boone. The junior completed 31 of 38 attempts after being questionable to play because of a broken collarbone Sept. 7.
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, meanwhile, had one interception and a fumble a week after a masterful performance in beating Air Force, 28-10, to claim the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. The sophomore finished with 31 rushing yards on 16 carries and completed 6 of 13 passes for 89 yards to drop to 9-4 as a starter. He left the game with seven minutes remaining.
Fullback Chris Swain led Navy with 61 rushing yards on 13 carries, and slotback Marcus Thomas added 56 yards on three carries. No other Navy player had more than 31 yards.
“We got our butts whooped all the way around,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Got outcoached, got outplayed. It’s been a long time since we got beat that bad in every phase.”
Ahead by seven at halftime, the Blue Devils scored on their first two series in the third quarter to all but settle the outcome. Both drives covered 72 yards, with the first yielding an 18-yard touchdown pass from Boone to wide receiver Isaac Blakeney.
Running back Jela Duncan’s five-yard touchdown six minutes later expanded the advantage to 28-7, ensuring Navy would miss its chance to move to 4-1 for the first time since 2006.
Duke amassed 435 yards, converted 10 of 16 third-down attempts and owned nearly a 10-minute margin in time of possession.
“I thought the first couple drives we did all right, stopping them, getting them off the field,” Midshipmen senior linebacker D.J. Sargenti said. “Then after we had trouble getting them off the field on third down.”
The Blue Devils (4-2) struck first, capping an 80-yard drive with Boone’s 27-yard scoring pass to Blakeney over the middle with 9 minutes 35 seconds remaining until halftime. Duke twice converted on third down to extend the possession, including Boone completing a 17-yard pass to Jamison Crowder on third and seven.
Navy needed just five plays to tie the score on its ensuing series, which began at its own 25. After DeBrandon Sanders ran for nine and seven yards, Marcus Thomas carried for 47 yards around the right side, and two plays later, Darius Staten was in the end zone from seven yards.
Duke converted three third downs on its next possession, marching 62 yards on 11 plays to move ahead 14-7 on Max McCaffrey’s three-yard catch on a fade to the left corner.
A lengthy drive for Navy followed, but after reaching the Duke 6-yard line, Reynolds was sacked and fumbled. The Blue Devils recovered with seconds left until intermission, and Navy went into the locker room having committed four penalties covering 30 yards after entering with the fewest penalties per game in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“Like Coach said, we just didn’t play very well at all in all aspects of the game,” Reynolds said.