BDN’s Boston College at Duke Football Preview

Boston College is looking to shut down the Duke recieving corps - BDN Photo, Rick Crank

The Blue Devils (3-6, 1-4 ACC) host an unfamiliar ACC opponent on Saturday in Boston College (4-5, 2-4 ACC). The game will be televised on, but tickets are still available from the Duke Ticket Office for local fans. The festivities will begin at 9:45 AM with the Blue Devil Walk, and the game will kickoff at 12 noon in Wallace Wade Stadium. BDN breaks down the ACC matchup between two teams riding 2-game winning streaks after struggling early.

Duke in Week 10

The Blue Devils outlasted the Virginia Cavaliers, 55-48 in a thriller last Saturday in Durham. Keith Payne scored for UVA with 2:28 remaining to give the Cavaliers a 48-47 lead. Sean Renfree led the Blue Devils on an impressive comeback drive, including a clutch 4th and 18 conversion to Donovan Varner to put the Blue Devils into field goal territory with under a minute remaining. The role of hero was played by Desmond Scott, who had fumbled earlier in the 4th quarter. With 40 seconds remaining, the sophomore took the handoff for a 35-yard diving touchdown run along the Duke sideline. The Duke defense managed to hold off the Cavaliers in the final 40 seconds to seal the 55-48 victory. Defensively, Duke gave up over 600 total yards to Virginia, as QB Marc Verica, RB Keith Payne and WR Dontrelle Inman all had big days for the Cavaliers. CB Ross Cockrell hauled in two interceptions and S Walt Canty added a third, as the Blue Devils won the turnover battle 3-1. For Duke, the QB tandem of Renfree and Brandon Connette scored four touchdowns on the ground while adding 259 yards through the air. TE Cooper Helfet led the Duke receivers with a touchdown and over 100 yards receiving.

Boston College in Week 10

The Eagles traveled to Winston Salem and came away with a 23-13 win over Wake Forest last Saturday. Boston College jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after an interception and a 26-yard touchdown run by RB Montel Harris. The game was dominated by the Boston College defense, which forced 5 turnovers on the day and held the Demon Deacons to just 69 yards rushing. Harris continued his All-ACC caliber year with a big day on the ground, which included 36 carries for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns. Freshman QB Chase Rettig was 12/16 for 133 yards with 2 interceptions. The Eagles finished the day just 3/12 on 3rd downs and also had an extra point blocked, but the defense was able to contain the Demon Deacons.


The Duke offense seems to have hit its stride the past two weeks, moving the ball with relative ease both through the air and on the ground, but will face a stiff test on Saturday against the Boston College defense. The Eagles are loaded with playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, led by All-American LB Mark Herzlich. Sophomore LB Luke Kuechly leads the nation in tackles with 125, for an average of 13.9 per game. Senior Alex Albright anchors the defensive front and ranks among the ACC leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. Junior CB Donnie Fletcher and sophomore CB Jim Noel have hauled in 9 interceptions between them. Overall, the defensive unit leads the country with 17 interceptions, and ranks 3rd in the country against the run, giving up just 82 yards per game on the ground.

Offensively, the Eagles have relied heavily on junior RB Montel Harris, who leads the ACC in rushing and ranks just outside the top 10 nationally at 113 yards per game. His workload has increased of late, carrying over 35 times in each of the last two games, both Boston College victories. At QB, the Eagles are less established, with a true freshman in Chase Rettig starting under center. For the season, the freshman has thrown for 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions with a 53% completion percentage in 5 career starts. His favorite targets on the year have been fellow freshman Bobby Swigert and Johnathan Coleman. The key for the Eagles has been the play of their offensive line, and with multiple starters expected to miss Saturday’s game, they will have to piece together a unit to block for Harris and protect their freshman signal-caller. In all, Boston College ranks last in the conference in points per game and last in 3rd down conversions.

This is a matchup that pretty much features strength against strength and weakness against weakness. The Eagles rank last in the ACC in scoring offense, but Duke ranks last in the ACC in scoring defense. Duke has struggled to run the ball this season, while the Eagles are third in the country in defending the run. Boston College has given up some yards through the air, but has also pulled down 17 interceptions; interceptions have really cost the Blue Devils in their losses this season. Boston College should be able to have success running the ball against a porous Duke defense, but the Blue Devils should also be able to move the ball through the air against the Eagles.

Keys to the game for Duke:

  1. 1. Sean Renfree vs. the BC defense: Boston College will try to pressure the Blue Devils into turnovers, and the sophomore QB cannot add to the Eagles’ NCAA-leading interception total.
  2. 2. Montel Harris vs. the Duke defense: Duke will have to find a way to slow down Harris enough to force BC into passing situations, where they rank last in the ACC in 3rd down conversions. Duke will look for big plays from the likes of Abraham Kromah, Kelby Brown, Charlie Hatcher, and Matt Daniels to keep Boston College’s dynamic rusher under wraps.
  3. 3. Special teams: Duke should have an advantage on special teams, where BC ranks near the bottom of the conference in kick and punt returns. Big plays on special teams will take some pressure off the Duke offense and good kick coverage will leave the Eagles with a long field.


Boston College will look to get out to an early lead against the Blue Devils and then rely on their stingy defense to force turnovers and keep the Blue Devils out of the end zone. Duke will have its hands full trying to contain Montel Harris, and will have to pressure Rettig to force stops on 3rd down. If Renfree and the Blue Devils can continue to roll offensively, it may be difficult for the Eagles and their young QB to keep up.

Duke 31
Boston College 30