DURHAM (AP) — After Brandon Connette scored four touchdowns in the first half, Duke’s quarterback found it more difficult to move the ball down the field after halftime.
Fortunately for the Blue Devils, Troy’s quarterback could say the same thing.
“I look at the game kind of as an offensive shootout in the first half and a defensive stand in the second,” Connette said. “Luckily, we were able to win the first half and win the second half.”
In a game where much of the offense came before halftime, Connette threw three touchdowns passes and ran for two more to lead Duke to a 38-31 win over Troy on Saturday.
Connette, a junior from Corona, Calif., had 324 yards passing and 55 rushing. The five touchdowns are a career high for Connette, who threw for four scores in last week’s 58-55 loss to Pitt.
Josh Snead also had 108 yards rushing for the Blue Devils (3-2), who snapped a two-game losing streak with the victory. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder also had 149 yards receiving for Duke, one week after a 141-yard receiving effort against Pitt.
Corey Robinson had 354 yards passing and two touchdowns for Troy (2-3), which lost its third in a row. Jordan Chunn added two touchdowns on the ground.
A holding penalty negated a 56-yard touchdown reception by Troy’s Chandler Worthy with 9:37 remaining that would have given the Trojans the lead.
“I don’t always like how they call things, but it was a good play by Chandler, and we got some blocks,” said Troy coach Larry Blakeney. “It’s frustrating. It’s real frustrating to be that close.”
Duke’s defense struggled in recent weeks, yielding 344 yards rushing in its loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago and 424 yards passing to Pittsburgh last week.
While the unit had its troubles against the Trojans, it only allowed three points in the final 28-plus minutes, forcing a number of three-and-outs and only allowing one play longer than 20 yards during that span.
“We didn’t change up any schemes,” junior linebacker David Helton said. “We didn’t really change up anything. . We just made a decision that we’re not going to let them get any more yards.”
Before the defense buckled down, the Blue Devils built two separate 14-point leads before allowing Troy back in the game.
After Chunn scored on a 1-yard run shortly before halftime, Robinson connected Wilson Van Hooser for a 40-yard touchdown reception to tie the score at 28 with 13:15 left in the third quarter.
Duke converted on three different third-and-longs on its next drive, retaking a seven-point lead when Connette spun his way into the end zone from 4 yards out with 9:46 remaining.
The Trojans pulled within four points — 35-31 — when Will Scott hit a 37-yard field goal with 12:44 remaining in the game.
But the Blue Devils’ defense stiffened from there, and Troy’s best offensive play — the 56-yard reception by Worthy — was called back.
Duke’s Ross Martin kicked a 34-field goal with 31 seconds remaining to give the game its final score. Troy got the ball on its 22-yard line with a chance to drive for a game-tying touchdown, but the Trojans’ last-second attempt at a Hail Mary was intercepted.
“There’s a lot of great things going on with this football program and this particular team,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe. “This team is 3-2 the hard way.”
Troy had only 186 yards of total offense in its 62-7 loss to Mississippi State last week.