Duke’s game plan in the opener against NC Central was simple.
“We came out strong,” running back Brittain Brown said. “We wanted to break their back, break their soul. No hope.”
Brown, a redshirt freshman who made his college debut early in Duke’s 60-7 victory over the Eagles at Wallace Wade on Saturday, was one of the reasons why Central lost hope early.
With Duke already leading 14-0, thanks to a Shaun Wilson touchdown run and a Bryon Field’s interception return, Brown lined up in the backfield midway through the Blue Devils’ second offensive possession.
Brown got the ball for the first time in college on a first down play at the Duke 37.
“It was just running behind my offensive line,” he said. “We ran a pin & pull (a sweep play that many teams have adopted in recent years). I just ran behind them. They opened up a lane, and I just shot through it.”
Twenty four yards later, Central was finally able to bring Brown down. After a Daniel Jones incompletion, Brown got the ball again and ran 39 yards to the end zone.
“It was kind of back-to-back,” Brown said of gaining 63 yards on his first two touches. “I couldn’t ask for better lanes or better holes. I just had a good time running out there. I didn’t even have to juke the defenders that much—just use my speed to run on them. On the touchdown, I was kind of weaving around defenders. There was a lot of space to run in the open field.”
Brown found the end zone, a place he hadn’t been in close to two years.
“It’s been awhile,” he said.
Brown redshirted last season, after arriving at Duke as a three-star prospect.
“It was tough, but it had to be done,” Brown said. “I knew I had to do it for the betterment of the team. They wanted me for these next four years. I came to terms with it. I got stronger. I got into the playbook, so I’m better mentally, and I’m fine with it now.”
Still, sitting and watching the Blue Devils struggle to a 4-8 record wasn’t easy.
“Not playing football for a year. I hadn’t done that ever, in my entire life,” he said. “So, when I got back out there, I wanted to run (ticked) off.”
Mission accomplished. Brown gashed Central for 120 yards on 10 carries, the sixth-highest rushing total by a Duke back in David Cutcliffe’s 10 years as head coach.
“Brittain Brown really showed up,” Cutcliffe said. “Since he’s been here, he’s really run hard. His change of direction … he’s a big guy. I think he surprises people with his foot quickness. His short-space quickness is really good. I thought he played well from a body lean and foot quickness perspective.”
Brown’s heroics helped the Blue Devils break NC Central’s spirit early. It also gave him the chance to show how much he’s improved over last year. At least, he thinks he’s improved.
“I’m not sure,” Brown said, “because I didn’t get to play that much last year.”