Sixteen seconds. That’s all it took for senior cornerback Leon Wright to call ‘game over’ against Army on Sept. 12, 2009, at historic Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y.
After watching the Black Knights jump out to an early 10-0 lead 17 minutes into the game, Duke responded with back-to-back touchdowns to take advantage with 7:44 remaining in the third quarter. Army would make things interesting with a 31-yard field goal with just under four minutes to play in the period to pull within 14-13 heading into the final frame.
Eight seconds into fourth quarter though, sophomore Donovan Varner pulled down a 31-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman Sean Renfree to extend the Blue Devils edge to 21-13.
The defenses then took over, forcing three punts and a failed fourth down conversion over the game’s next four drives. With the clock winding down and the contest still a one score affair, Wright stepped into the passing lane on fourth down and intercepted Carson Williams at the Duke 49-yard line and returned it 51 yards for the touchdown.
The St. Petersburg, Fla., native wasn’t finished for the day, however, as he recorded his interception return for a score on the Black Knights’ first play of their ensuing drive. Wright returned this pick 33 yards into the end zone to ultimately put a stamp on Duke’s win with just 1:32 remaining in the contest.
Wright became the first player in NCAA history to record interceptions for touchdowns on consecutive snaps from scrimmage. In addition, he became the first player in school history to register two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game. The last Duke player at that time with two interceptions in a single game was Adrian Aye-Darko against Miami in 2008 and the last player to return an interception for a touchdown was Jabari Marshall against Virginia that same year. Wright’s 51-yarder was the 15th-longest interception return for a touchdown in Duke history, while his 33-yard effort increased the Blue Devil advantage to 35-13. Army accounted for the final margin of 35-19 with a touchdown on the game’s final snap.
The Duke defense forced four turnovers overall on the day with the two interceptions along with two fumble recoveries. Ironically, Wright recorded one of those fumble recoveries as well to help the Blue Devil cause early in the second period.