Duke receiver Conner Vernon had a record-setting performance in a 46-26 win over FIU last week. Vernon caught 10 passes for 180 yards and became Duke’s all-time leader in pass receptions with 208, passing the previous mark of 207 held by Donovan Varner. Vernon now needs 25 receptions to set the ACC career record.
I had a chance to catch up with him this week as Duke prepares to play No. 25 Stanford. Here is what he had to say.
Did you ever think you would have a chance to set the school record out of the gate in Week 1?
Conner Vernon: It wasn’t on my mind at the time. I didn’t know I was that many receptions away from it until late in the game when somebody told me you only need one more catch for the school record. I think they passed that on to Coach (David) Cutcliffe, and that’s when he threw me back in there for that last catch.
So how did you feel when you got that last catch?
CV: It was good. It felt great to know how many great receivers have played at this university, and just to have my name at the top was a moment I’ll remember forever. It was a surreal moment.
Do you have the ball?
CV: Yes, they let me keep the ball. I have it at my house here in Durham.
Coach Cutcliffe told reporters after the win he felt really encouraged by the overall performance. Did you feel a different vibe out there among the entire team?
CV: Absolutely. We worked real hard this summer just trying to get guys right. We had a lot of young guys having their first snaps out there, that’s something we worked a lot on, trying to get them game ready. And it was not only the amount of points we scored, but scoring in every phase of the game. We knew how good this team was and we showed that on Saturday.
You also had 12 players listed on your injury report and still managed to win by 20. What does that say about your team?
CV: It goes to show the depth that we have on this team. We were missing a couple starters, and we love to have them out there, absolutely. But it’s not something we want people to feel sorry for us about because we knew the guys behind them were very good, and they showed us what they can do out there.
So now that you won big, how do you avoid complacency against Stanford this week?
CV: Just go out like we did in Week 1, take it one week at a time. That’s something we preached a lot this offseason, and going in with the expectation of winning. That’s something Coach has put on his players and staff, we’re going to go in with the expectation of winning. Something he also told us last week was to let loose. Your biggest worry can’t be about making a mistake. Just go out there and play football and have fun.
You obviously have a long trip. How do you best prepare for that intangible this week?
CV: Just take it as another game. Stanford is a great team and they have the track record to show for it. They came down here last year, and in the second half we didn’t come out to play. Going over there, I can’t really describe what it’s going to be like. I’ve never had to play a game with the time difference, so I don’t know how much I’m going to feel about it. I know we leave on Friday and just kind of take it all in and enjoy the moment. A lot of guys haven’t been out West. I’ve been to California but never to the San Francisco/Bay Area so I’m looking forward to seeing that and looking forward to taking it in. It’s a neat experience and hopefully we can come out with a win and it will be that much better.
So what do you do for an encore performance?
CV: Hopefully, just from a player perspective, whenever my number is called just make plays. That’s what I did on Saturday, whenever (Sean) Renfree came my way, I did my best to make the play.