Sirk leads Duke to dominant victory at Tulane

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Thomas Sirk produced 357 yards from scrimmage and passed for two touchdowns in his first start, and Duke beat Tulane 37-7 in the opener for both teams on Thursday night.

Directing a read-option offense, Sirk hit 27 of 40 passes for 289 yards, rushed 15 times for 68 yards, was not sacked and did not throw an interception. Sirk converted nine of the 17 third-downs he faced as Duke racked up 530 yards to Tulane’s 271.

The Blue Devils possessed the ball for 36:01 and could have won by more if Tulane’s defense hadn’t recovered two fumbles, made a fourth-down stop and forced three field goals.

Duke led 23-0 in the fourth quarter before Tulane finally scored on Devon Breaux’s 76-yard reception from Tanner Lee. But DeVon Edwards returned the next kickoff 95 yards to put Duke right back up by 23 points.

Johnell Barnes scored a 29-yard touchdown for Duke on a receiver screen from Sirk. Shaquille Powell scored on a 3-yard shovel pass from Sirk. Zach Boden added Duke’s final TD on a 1-yard run.

Lee finished 24 of 42 for 246 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Tulane. Breaux finished with four catches for 92 yards. Tulane rushed for more than 200 yards at Duke last season, but with the same backfield was unable to manage more than 25 net yards rushing in the rematch at home.

The resilience of Tulane’s defense kept the Green Wave within two possessions for three quarters, but even when Lee and the offense showed signs of developing a rhythm, Duke came up with a big defensive play to derail the threat.

Duke was threatening to make it a three-possession game in the third quarter, but safety Darion Monroe’s fumble recovery on a sloppy pitch by Sirk deep in Tulane territory temporarily prevented the Blue Devils from expanding their 16-0 lead.

Tulane quickly drove across midfield. But Blue Devils linebacker Zavier Carmichael made a diving interception of Lee’s tipped pass at the Duke 22.

Duke out-gained Tulane by more than double in the first half, but managed only Powell’s touchdown and two field goals by Ross Martin.

With Duke stacking defenders close to the line of scrimmage and daring Tulane to throw, the Green Wave struggled to sustain drives early. When Tulane finally drove inside Duke’s 30 in the second quarter, Lee’s quick pass on fourth-and-2 was tipped near the line of scrimmage and fell incomplete, ending the Wave’s first scoring threat.

Tulane was primed to get the ball back in good field position and down only 10-0 late in the first half, but an offside penalty on a punt gave Duke a first down. The Blue Devils converted the Green Wave blunder into a sustained drive and a short field goal as time expired to go into halftime up 13-0.