- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
There were some schools in the ACC -- such as Virginia and NC State -- that had trouble finding one quarterback this season.
And then there’s Duke -- which legitimately has two.
A two-quarterback system is often scoffed at, rarely works, and is in place only because there’s no star on the roster to single-handedly orchestrate the offense. That’s not the case at Duke, where starter Anthony Boone and his backup, Brandon Connette, are responsible for 40 of Duke’s 47 offensive touchdowns this season.
Somehow, they’ve managed to put team ahead of self and avoid anything resembling a quarterback controversy. Instead, their shared role has become the center of Duke’s offensive identity.
While Florida State quarterback and ACC Player of the Year Jameis Winston has stolen the position’s spotlight this fall, Boone and Connette have worked together to get Duke to the exact same place as the Noles -- Saturday’s ACC championship game.
"The reason why it works is mainly because of the character we have in the quarterback room, the unselfishness is unbelievable," Connette said. "At a lot of schools where you have two quarterbacks who are capable of playing at such a high level, sometimes there can be some animosity in the room, somebody thinks he should be starting over the other one. The great thing about our room is nobody really cares who's starting, who's getting more playing time, things like that. All we really care about is getting the win."
Together they've gotten 10 wins this season -- the most in school history.
Boone and Connette have helped Duke's offense make a seamless transition into the first season without 2012 veteran Sean Renfree. Boone is 10-0 in his career as Duke's starting quarterback, including 9-0 in 2013. Connette has scored three game-winning, fourth-quarter touchdowns this season. Connette has been more of a short-yardage, third-down, goal-line situation quarterback, but the coaching staff clearly isn't afraid of letting him run the offense for a few series. He has earned the nickname "The Phantom" on the team for his ability to play just about any position. Connette said he doesn’t care how he's used -- as long as he sees the field.
"I can do everything," he said. "Obviously I like to be on the field, that’s why I came to Duke. I came to Duke to play. I like being a part of success, so whatever role I have to play for us to be successful is a lot of fun for me. Last week I got my first catch. To be able to do things like that every single week is just rewarding and a lot of fun for me."
Not to mention the rest of the offense.
With Boone and Connette sharing time, Duke's offense ranks fifth in the ACC in scoring at 33.7 points, is tied for fourth with 24 rushing touchdowns, and fifth with 23 passing touchdowns. Both quarterbacks have thrown for more than 1,000 yards.
"Well, I think they've created roles for each other, and they understand what each guy is going to do," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. " I think now both of them are throwing it and running it pretty equally. So I mean, they're very tough guys to defend, and it gives them two different guys, and each guy is fresh."
Boone started Duke's first two games but suffered a broken collarbone in Week 2 against Memphis, opening the door for Connette to throw nine passing touchdowns in his three-game stint as the starter. Boone returned against Navy and has directed Duke to six consecutive wins. Boone has been at his best when it has mattered the most. Against Wake Forest and North Carolina, he completed 75 percent of his passes for 530 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
"That's just a testament to the players around me, the offensive line doing a great job of pass protecting and running the ball and being able to have our two-headed monster with me and Brandon," Boone said. "Just the guys around me really helped me with the success that we're having and that I'm having."
It's not often that two quarterbacks are better than one, but for Duke, this season has been twice as nice.