The Duke Blue Devils will be playing in their first bowl game in 18 years tonight when they kick off the Belk Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Despite losing their last four games of the season, Duke is excited about the position they are in with a chance to win their first bowl game in nearly 52 years. To do so, they’ll need an exceptional effort from their senior quarterback Sean Renfree.
On the season, Renfree completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,755 yards with a career-high 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions, a career-low. He was named the winner of the Tatum Award, given to the ACC‘s top senior student-athlete. He was a consistent leader for the Blue Devils as they enjoyed unfamiliar success this season.
Renfree led with poise all season, including in the rivalry game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Trailing by four with three minutes to play, the senior QB led his team down the field and found Jamison Crowder for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to give Duke the 33-30 win. The victory was the first over the rival Heels since 2003 and made Duke bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994.
But since winning that elusive sixth game, Duke has dropped four straight games. The fault for that, however, doesn’t land on Renfree, but on a suddenly porous defense. Over the last four games, Duke has allowed 49.5 points and 593.3 yards per game, including a 52-45 loss in the regular season finale against the Miami Hurricanes.
The quarterback position, on the other hand, has only gotten better down the stretch. In the last four games, Renfree has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception while rushing for a score as well. He capped off the season with his best performance of 2012 against the Hurricanes, throwing for 432 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yard scoring strike to Crowder.
If Duke hopes to pull off the upset against Cincinnati, though, Renfree will need to find yet another level. The defense hasn’t shown themselves capable of shutting down opposing offenses, so it will be up to Renfree to lead Duke to a scoring barrage to overcome the defensive lapses sure to hurt the Blue Devils’ tonight.