John Roth takes on the BDN Staff in this weeks prognostications

Talk about digging a hole for myself!  I’ve always prided myself on my prognostication skills, winning many contests and pools over the years.  Going into this week I am an embarrassingly 7 games out as Bob Green has taken a significant lead on the pack.  This weeks guest picker is John Roth who is the man behind the scenes for the Duke Radio and Coach Cutcliffe shows.  Roth is also the author of the Encyclopedia of Duke Basketball, a fabulous book that is a must for reference, so check it out sometime!  John will try and close the 4 game deficit for the guest pickers and as always we pick the nation’s ten toughest or closest match ups each week.

1. Bob  Green
2. Andrew Slater (-3)
3. Guest (-4)
4. Patrick Cacchio (-5)
5. Mark Watson (-7)

Mark Watson – The key to the game for Duke on Saturday is to simply be opportunistic.  Duke needs to win the battle of turnovers and succeed in the red zone.  I don’t think you will see the Devils attempt many field goals unless it’s a chip shot, so look for Duke to try and control field position throughout the day. This is a good opportunity for the Blue Devils to gain another win on Homecoming.  Look for the defense to make a big play. If Duke can keep their collective focus they’ll come out with a much needed win for the program.  The real question is can they close on a team if they get the lead.  Duke 34, Tulane 20.

Bob Green - Sean Renfree will pick up right where he left off last weekend by connecting on short passes and throwing the ball down the field.  With Duke still shorthanded at running back, the Blue Devils offense will utilize the short pass in lieu of a traditional running game to move the chains and sustain drives.  I’ll be looking for Renfree to complete passes to six different Blue Devils with two receivers recording eight or more catches against the Green Wave.  Duke 35, Tulane 21.

Patrick Cacchio - The Blue Devils are 10 points favorites for Homecoming this year, but this game is likely to be closer than that. The Green Wave are a balanced and talented football team that will challenge Duke in all phases of the game. Duke will have to put together another dominant offensive effort to emerge victorious Saturday, and Sean Renfree seems up to the task. Tulane will put up some points on the Duke defense, but will be unable to keep up with the potent Blue Devil passing game. Duke 35, Tulane 31.

Andrew Slater -Both programs come in after enervating road wins, the Blue Devils will look to sustain that winning momentum on Homecoming weekend. Both programs feature pass happy offenses, with quarterbacks that have been successful at spreading the wealth amongst their receiving corps. For Duke, they need to keep the ball away from their former linebacker Trent Mackey, who led the Green Wave with 124 tackles last season, and DB/PR Derrick Strozier, who already has two interceptions on the young season. The Duke defense stood strong last week on the road against Boston College, pitching a shutout in the second half. They’ll need to shut down an offense averaging 33 points per game this season. Tulane appears to have an edge in special teams. Cairo Santos has made 15 of 20 career field goals and 45 of 46 PATs, while their punter, Jonathan Ginsburgh, is sixteenth in the country in punting average, including three kicks of more than fifty yards and three punts that landed within their opponents’ twenty yard line.  Duke 28, Tulane 24.

John Roth- Duke’s defense has been better than expected so far and got a confidence boost from pitching a second-half shutout last week, forcing BC to punt on every possession before the final drive. The defense needs to continue its improvement this week against a Tulane team that has averaged 48 points per game in its two wins. With its physical line and big QB, Tulane has scored on 10 of 12 trips to the red zone, 8 TDs vs. 2 FGs. The guess here is that Duke’s D buckles down in the red zone, with Tulane getting its 16 points on 3 FGs and one TD. Offensively Duke has piled up some passing yardage and last week controlled the ball for 20 minutes in the second half, but it still has not been effective enough in finishing possessions with points. The absence of a field goal game obviously hasn’t helped. Look for the Blue Devils to take another incremental step forward offensively with four TDs this week in evening their record at 2-2.   Duke 28, Tulane 16.

Duke takes on the Tulane Green Wave on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN3

BDN previews Duke’s Homecoming Game with Tulane

Duke takes on the Tulane Green Wave on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN3

Fresh off a hard-fought ACC road win at Boston College, Duke welcomes the Tulane Green Wave to Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday. Historically one of the weaker BCS programs, Tulane enters the game off to a 2-1 start to their season after a 49-10 blowout of UAB last Saturday. As we mentioned last week, the Blue Devils have embarked on a crucial three-game stretch heading into their off week October 8. Duke was able to do enough to win against BC, and will now have to put together another strong effort to knock off a much-improved Tulane team.

Duke QB Sean Renfree will have to continue his strong play against Tulane

KEYS FOR DUKE

  1. B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!: Duke’s redshirt-junior quarterback silenced his critics last week with a record-setting performance against a physical Boston College defense. Despite taking numerous hits, Renfree dominated the game, spreading the ball around to Duke’s receivers and finishing 41/53 for a career-high 368 yards. The Duke offense is difficult to defend when Renfree is given time to spread the ball around the field and be aggressive throwing the football. Tulane’s defense is headlined by former Blue Devil LB Trent Mackey and Iowa transfer DE Dezman Moses, but has allowed over 340 yards of total offense to opponents. Much like they did last week against BC, Duke will need to spread the ball around the field and minimize Mackey’s impact on the game. Expect another aggressive passing offense and big days for Renfree, Donovan Varner, Conner Vernon, Brandon Braxton, Jamison Crowder, and Cooper Helfet.

    Former Blue Devil LB Trent Mackey anchors the Tulane defense
  2. Dominate along the defensive line: Tulane’s offense is potent and incredibly balanced, having picked up 27 rushing 1st downs and 28 passing 1st downs through three games. The Green Wave average33 points per game and are led by sophomore RB Orleans Darkwa (47 carries, 151 yards, 3 touchdowns) and redshirt-junior QB Ryan Griffin (54/79, 718 yards, 6 touchdowns). Griffin’s favorite target has been redshirt-senior WR Joe Kemp, who averages over 4 receptions per game, but redshirt-sophomore WR Wilson Van Hooser and freshman WR Justin Shackelford are also dangerous weapons with big-play potential. For the Blue Devils, the key to disrupting the Tulane offense will be the play along the line of scrimmage. Duke must continue to do a good job stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, and should build off of last week’s performance at BC (shutting out the Eagles in the 2ndhalf). Redshirt-junior DE Kenny Anunike has managed to stay healthy and has been an important contributor early this season, leading the team with 5 tackles for loss, including 4 sacks. Senior safety Matt Daniels and sophomore LB Kelby Brown have been very effective against the run, and will have to continue to play at an extremely high level against a talented Tulane offense. With the Blue Devils’ secondary a little banged up this Saturday, the defensive line will have to bring pressure to slow the balanced Green Wave offense.

    Duke is still looking for its first FG of 2011. -BDN Photo
  3. Minimize costly mistakes: The Blue Devils committed 9 penalties for a total of 79 yards last Saturday against Boston College. In addition, they had a punt blocked, missed a field goal, and sent a kickoff out of bounds. Duke has to sort out its kicking woes if it hopes to continue to win football games, and continued mistakes could cost them this week against a hungry, confident Tulane team. With Will Snyderwine again questionable to play on Saturday, the Duke coaching staff may have a difficult decision to make regarding freshman Will Monday if Jeff Ijjas and Paul Asack continue to struggle. Against a team like Tulane, Duke should be able to win the special teams battle, with freshman Jamison Crowder and senior Lee Butler both capable of big plays in the return game. The Blue Devils may not have to play flawless football to win Saturday, but their margin for error is still very small; minimizing drive-killing penalties and kicking miscues has to be a primary area of improvement for this team.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

Tulane +3, Duke -2

The Green Wave have forced a total of 6 turnovers through 3 games, including 5 interceptions, led by redshirt-sophomore CB Derrick Strozier with 2 and LB Trent Mackey with a 39-yard pick-6. Offensively, Tulane has fumbled the football 7 times, but lost only 2; Duke has fumbled the football 4 times and lost 3.

Sacks

Tulane 10, Duke 4

Tulane has done an excellent job of getting after the opposing QB through their first three games, led by sophomore DT Julius Warmsley with 3 and junior DE Austen Jacks with 2.5. Duke’s pass rush has been a one-man show thus far, with DE Kenny Anunike picking up 4 sacks on the year. The Blue Devils’ offensive line has allowed 8 sacks on the year, while the Green Wave have given up just 4.

3rd Down

Duke 40%, Tulane 35%

The Blue Devils were impressive on 3rd down last Saturday against Boston College, converting 53% of their opportunities. The Green Wave have converted just 15 of 43 3rd down opportunities. Both teams allow opponents to be successful on 38% of 3rd downs.

Explosives

As we say every week, explosive plays come down to playmakers making plays. Last week, the Blue Devils’ offense came up with 3 explosive plays of >20 yards, including 2 touchdown strikes to WR Conner Vernon. The Duke offense should continue to be aggressive and find the end zone on Saturday.

Rushing TDs

Duke 5, Tulane 5

This is a dead heat. Both teams have scored 5 TDs on the ground and allowed 5 TDs on the ground. Duke has to run the ball more effectively in the red zone to avoid settling for field goals.

Field Goals

Tulane 2/4, Duke 0/6

Speaking of field goals, will this be the week that Duke makes its first field goal of the 2011 season? In what may be a high-scoring game, the Blue Devils will have to put points on the board and cannot afford more empty trips to the red zone (6 empty trips already this season). Tulane’s Cairo Santos has made both FG attempts from within 40 yards, but is 0/2 from beyond 40 yards on the season.

Penalties

Duke 16-131 yards, Tulane 18-159 yards

Duke has typically been a disciplined football team under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, but their few penalties this year have been particularly costly. The Blue Devils will have to play smarter football on Saturday to avoid putting themselves in a hole against the Green Wave.

PREDICTION

The Blue Devils are 10 points favorites for Homecoming this year, but this game is likely to be closer than that. The Green Wave are a balanced and talented football team that will challenge Duke in all phases of the game. Duke will have to put together another dominant offensive effort to emerge victorious Saturday, and Sean Renfree seems up to the task. Tulane will put up some points on the Duke defense, but will be unable to keep up with the potent Blue Devil passing game.

Duke 35, Tulane 31

5 Questions with Duke RB Juwan Thompson

Blue Devil Nation caught up to Duke starting running back Juwan Thompson -
The backfield has been depleted by injury.  Does it get tough taking most of the snaps?
Sure.  It’s hard taking 50 snaps and you need some help.  Desmond (Scott) has been out there but in no contact drills yet.  He’s been cleared and Josh has been too but he hasn’t been out there doing much with us yet.
How do you feel the running game has done to date this season?
We’ve been doing fairly well.  If the pass is open we will go to it, but we can check to a run if there is pressure.  We’ve been getting yardage on the runs averaging 4.5 to 5 yards on the run.
Was there a little extra bounce in the step of your teammates this week in practice coming off an ACC win?
Yeah.  The win uplifted us in practice and everybody felt better coming off of a win than a loss.  At the end of the day, it’s a new game for us, each week is a new season for us but at the end of the day we have to put it behind us and get ready for the next opponent.
You were close to breaking a big one versus Boston College.  Can you speak to that?
We felt we could get more from outside runs in the second half and so we did some little zone runs, go outside and I slowed down a little bit.  I thought I was going to shoot free but it closed and a few guys up front had trouble with slips from playing on turf.
How important is it to win this weekend and try and even the record to 2-2?
It’s very important. We have the opportunity to get this win if we go out there and execute like we’re supposed to.  Tulane plays more of a man game on defense, so we’ll draw it up.  It’s getting better for me out there.  Everything is slowing down for me, so just getting that understanding has been good for me.

Duke Blue Devil Andre Dawkins, “Dre, All Day”

It’s a sweltering summer evening inside McDougald Gym on the campus of North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Fans pack the arena to cheer on local college stars and current professional players during the annual North Carolina Pro Am, an extremely popular event. Andre Dawkins’s team is up next and once the game starts it takes no time to hear the P.A. announcer bellow in a loud voice, “Dre, all day!” as Dawkins drains back to back three pointers.

“I like the nickname, Dre all day. It’s my Twitter handle and is a nickname that I have had for a long time. The dad of one of my childhood friend’s came up with it. I’m not sure where he got it from, but it stuck and I like it,” Dawkins told BDN on that late August evening.

After Dawkins drained the aforementioned three point shots, he turns and runs back up court and you can see a ton of confidence in his body language. There is little doubt that Dawkins has improved his game in the off season and that allowed him to start during the China / Dubai trip.

As it turns out, Dawkins performances during the Pro Am were no anomaly. Dre racked up points by the bushel scoring 35 one night, 24 of those coming in the second half. “I tried to get easy baskets instead of forcing the issue,” said Dawkins who nails three pointers with the same ease as a grown man dunks on a Nerf goal.

Dawkins had three consecutive 30 plus point games before slumming at a mere 25 points one evening, only to come back and hit 31 in the next game.

“The first night I was hitting a lot of threes in the first half but in the last game I concentrated more on getting to the basket,” said the rising junior.

When asked if he was ready to step up his game this season, Dawkins stated, “I hope so, we lost a lot of scoring from last season so there will be opportunities.”

Perhaps no player on the Duke roster has been through what Dawkins has. His sister’s untimely passing was something he had to deal with as a true freshman. In fact, Dawkins had enrolled in Duke a year early after graduating early by going to summer school. And for those who may not remember his recruitment, Dawkins was a huge Duke fan before the offer ever came.

Dawkins emotions were evident after the tragedy and he realizes that as well. His confidence would sway with a hit or missed shot and it was clear to read that on his face. “This year if I miss a few shots I have to come back just as confident,” said Dawkins. He continued by saying “I have been working everyday on ball handling and trying to get in real good shape and be aggressive on both ends of the court.”

The sharp shooting swing man is now one of the older players on the Duke roster and he is aware that young guys will look up to him and learn from his experiences. “It’s been going really well for them to date with the newcomers and I show them what I can. Guys are learning our system and we try to get better each time out.”

He also said that the coaches expect him to step up as well, “I know what all the coaches expect and it helps a lot to understand the expectations.”

When Dawkins smiles, he can light up a room. The smile is genuine. One will quickly notice that his braces are gone this season and that in some sense relates to the maturation of his game.

Once the dust settled at the Pro Am, Dawkins was one of the leading scorers in the event, if not the top one overall. More importantly, his team went undefeated until the last day of the regular season, but he missed the playoffs preparing for the Fiendship Games in China. “It’s just a comfort level. I’ve played with a lot of the guys on the team before and they know to look for me in my spots. It just felt good out there,” stated Dawkins on his overall play.

Next up for Dawkins was the China-Dubai trip where the Blue Devils got some early preparation for the coming season. Once the trip concluded, Dawkins showed again that he was more than capable of scoring in bunches. You can bet that other ACC teams payed close attention and they’ll certainly concentrate on trying keep him from going off on them.

I asked Dawkins after the trip about his confidence and improvement and he replied, “Yeah, I do have more confidence. It comes from a lot of hard work over the summer and as you work hard you gain confidence. I feel like I have gotten a lot better and plan to show that this year.”

That said, you may not hear the announcer in Cameron Indoor Stadium exclaim, “Dre, all day,” with a booming voice which echos throughout the rafters, but that doesn’t mean Andre won’t be lighting the competition just as he did this summer.

Looking at the Stats: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Duke notched their first win of the season on Saturday with a 20-19 victory over the Boston College Eagles to improve to 1-2 on the season. The victory was Coach David Cutcliffe’s third conference road victory and 13th overall win at the helm of the Blue Devils.

With three games in the books, season statistics start to have meaning by showing trends so here is a look at where Duke is shining and where they are in need of improvement. Even though this article is titled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there is no more relevant starting point than the ugly.

The Ugly

Duke’s performance in the Red Zone has been abysmal! In fact, Duke is ranked 120 out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams having ventured into the Red Zone 10 times with a success rate of 40 percent. Duke has missed three field goals, thrown an interception, turned the ball over on downs, and had time expire to end the 1st half on the six unsuccessful possessions.

The need to solve the Red Zone woes cannot be overstated. The Blue Devils must capitalize and come away with points at a much, much higher percentage on future trips into the Red Zone.

Equally troubling is Duke’s 0-6 performance on Field Goal attempts. A healthy Will Snyderwine back on the field should solve this problem. However, until Snyderwine is able to resume the kicking duties, Duke could be looking to try to convert fourth down into first down when in field goal range.

Enough discussion on the ugly stuff…

The Good

Defensive End Kenny Anunike leads the ACC in Sacks with four and is third in Tackles for Loss with five. An inability to pressure the quarterback has been a concern for the Blue Devils’ defense so Anunike’s performance the past two games is an exciting development and a statistic worth watching closely the next couple of weeks.

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, Matt Daniels is fifth in the ACC in Tackles averaging 10.3 per game and Kelby Brown is 17th with 6.7.

A known strength of the Blue Devils offense is talent and depth at the wide receiver position. All three of Duke’s starting wide outs are ranked in the ACC Top 10 in Receptions per Game. Conner Vernon is tied for third with 6.7, Donovan Varner is number six with 6, and Brandon Braxton is number seven with 5.7. Additionally, Vernon is tied for fifth in Receiving Yards per Game averaging 97.3.

Combining the Blue Devils’ wide receiver talent with quarterback Sean Renfree, results in Duke being ranked 25 of 120 nationally, and five of 12 in the ACC, in Passing Offense averaging 296.67 yards through the air per game.

Renfree set Duke’s single game completions record in the game against Boston College. His 41 completions this past Saturday surpassed Thaddeus Lewis’ previous mark of 40 completions set in 2009 against N.C. State.

Another noteworthy performer is true freshman Jamison Crowder who is ranked fourth in the ACC in Kick Returns averaging 21.2 yards per kick. Crowder has displayed good speed and looked good running the ball so fans should keep an eye on him because he has a good chance to break off a couple of long returns before this season is over.

Lee Butler is fourth in the ACC in Punt Returns averaging 7.7 yards per return.

The Bad

At 18.3 points per game, Duke is 11th in the ACC in Scoring Offense. With the arsenal of weapons available on offense, this is a statistic which must improve and a statistic everyone associated with the program expects to improve. Simply stated, Duke is too talented on the offensive side of the ball to continue to struggle scoring points.

Finally, the Blue Devils have failed to consistently run the ball in their first three games and are currently rank tied for 10th in the ACC at 96.3 yards per game. The struggles can be partially attributed to injuries sustained by Desmond Scott in the first game of the season and Josh Snead during preseason, but Duke needs to show improvement in the running game as the season progresses.

Juwan Thompson has been impressive averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the season but he needs help sharing the running responsibilities. The pending return to action of Desmond Scott in the next week or two will certainly provide Thompson the support he requires as Scott has been Duke’s leading rusher the past two seasons.

Moving Forward

The next two weeks will be critical as Duke faces non-conference foe Tulane (2-1), in Wallace Wade Stadium, followed by a trip to Miami to face the Florida International Golden Panthers (3-0). The expectation is Duke will build off the road victory over Boston College and play inspired football against the last two non-conference opponents this season. The objective is to reach Bye Week with a 3-2 record and then focus upon the tough ACC schedule in October and November.

Blue Devil Nation will be all over the action providing Duke Fans complete football coverage including an updated look at the statistics after the trip to play FIU.

Ryan Kelly and Miles Plumlee named as Duke Captains

DURHAM, N.C. – Senior Miles Plumlee and junior Ryan Kelly were named team captains for the 2011-12 men’s basketball season, head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced on Tuesday. Both players are first-time team captains. “Miles and Ryan have really grown in our program and worked hard to put themselves in this position,” Krzyzewski said. “They have both been able to develop under some outstanding captains over the past couple of years and have prepared themselves to lead this year’s team. We are looking forward to watching them continue to emerge as leaders on and off the court.” Plumlee has played in 101 games with 41 starting assignments in his three seasons at Duke.

He is averaging 4.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game with a .532 field goal percentage (173-of-325). The Warsaw, Ind., native averaged 4.8 points and 4.9 rebounds a year ago while helping the Blue Devils to a 32-5 record and a third straight ACC Championship. Plumlee was named second team All-ACC Tournament after averaging 8.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in Charlotte. He had 14 offensive rebounds in Duke’s three wins, while also shooting .579 (11-of-19) from the field. “Being named co-captain is something really special to me,” Plumlee said.

“I have played under a lot of great leaders, I’ve seen what they’ve done for me and now it’s my turn. I want to really step up and do that for the young guys this year. It just commemorates a lot of hard work for me. I’m really proud of the accomplishment and I want to make the most of it.” Kelly, a two-time ACC All-Academic Team selection, is averaging 4.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 72 career games (27 starts) for the Blue Devils. He came into his own last season, contributing 6.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while playing in all 37 contests and making 27 starts. Kelly, a native of Raleigh, had nine double-figure scoring games and tied for ninth in the ACC in blocks as a sophomore. He made 18 consecutive field goal attempts, including seven straight three-pointers, in a four-game stretch (Jan. 15 – Jan. 27), with the 18 straight made field goals ranking as the second-most in Duke history. “It’s a huge honor to be voted to this position by my teammates and the coaching staff,” Kelly said. “It’s something I aspired to be when I came to Duke. I’m going to use it to help my team and do whatever I can to lead. We’re obviously going to ask for leadership from all the players on the team, but I look to be somebody who all of my teammates can look to and say ‘He’s always playing his hardest, and we can always count on him.’” The Blue Devils open the season on Friday, Oct. 14 with Countdown to Craziness. Duke will then play exhibition games against Bellarmine (Oct. 29) and Shaw (Nov. 2 ) before opening the regular season on Friday, Nov. 11 against Belmont.