Spring Football: Confident Lewis looks good for Duke
DURHAM ó Thad Lewis has spent three seasons as Duke’s starting quarterback, so he is familiar with his role.
Now for the first time, he is familiar with his offense.
Lewis shined in Duke’s annual spring football game Saturday, completing 17 of 23 passes for 257 yards as his Blue team fell to the White team 24-17.
Lewis, who completed a career-high 62 percent of his passes last season in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s attack, will get to play under the same coordinator two years in a row for the first time.
“I’m very comfortable,” Lewis said. “Last year I was probably guessing out here in the spring game, and Coach probably held back some plays. … Now that I’ve been in the system two years in a row, it’s just fun to go out there and play without thinking.”
Lewis also can play without worrying about his job status.
Coach David Cutcliffe, who led the Blue Devils to a 4-8 record in 2008 and its first win over an ACC opponent since 2004, told point guard Greg Paulus he needed to find another school if he wanted to restart his football career as a quarterback. Cutcliffe also moved quarterback Zack Asack to safety, leaving Duke with just two scholarship passers.
Cutcliffe’s decisions looked sound Saturday. Redshirt freshman Sean Renfree completed 15 of 24 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns to lead the White team, and Lewis added two 1-yard touchdown runs in the first half for the Blue.
“It makes you feel good,” Lewis said. “It just lets you know the kind of trust and belief that the coach has in me and Sean. It just helps you continue to work hard and do the things you’re doing.”
Renfree completed just three of his first nine throws, but he put together a string of 10 consecutive completions that included 17-yard touchdown passes to wide receiver Matt Pridemore and tight end Danny Parker.
The Blue Devils spent spring practice trying to make more big plays on offense, and their passing attack delivered plenty of production in the game. Sophomore Donovan Varner led the receivers with six catches for 116 yards.
Renfree had eight completions of at least 15 yards, and Lewis tallied seven such throws. Both quarterbacks took advantage of short passes into the flat, which Duke’s receivers turned into bigger gains with runs after the catch.
“Coach says take what the defense gives you, and obviously layoffs worked great for us today,” Renfree said.
The White team, which led 21-14 at halftime after a 1-yard touchdown run by Tony Jackson late in the second quarter, featured the Blue Devils’ second-team offense and first-team defense. The Blue team fielded Duke’s first-team offense and second-team defense.
Both sides were sharp, with neither committing a penalty in the first half. Neither offense turned over the ball, with the game’s lone giveaway coming on a muffed punt.
“We’re certainly not a great football team, but we’re a good football team,” Cutcliffe said. “I thought they played like one today. I think you saw some really good execution.”