Duke stumbled out of the gate flat as a pancake and returned to their turnover plagued ways in a 34-20 loss to Virginia. It's as if Duke returned to the way they played before the Notre Dame win.
It was a forgettable day for freshman quarterback Daniel Jones whose interceptions killed drives. He ended the game with five passes picked and fumbld in the end zone where the Cavaliers recovered the ball for their final score.
Duke rolled up 25 first downs to the Cavaliers 16, but they just could not find the end zone often enough. It was simply that kind of day for Duke which falls to 0-2 in the ACC 2-3 overall. The loss all but assures the Blue Devils of having to turn things around quickly or finish in the divisions cellar.
Much like the earlier game against Wake Forest, Duke had their chances to take a solid lead but failed to do so early on. The score was 20-10 at the half, but Duke should have been in the game or no less than tied.
It didn't help that the Duke secondary was scorched for 336 yards and three touchdowns by Kurt Benkert. The Cavaliers also were successful all too often on third down where they went 11 of 21.
After gaining momentum and confidence back against Notre Dame a week ago, Duke finds itself back in the doldrums. The team should be in desperation mode for a win next weekend against Army. But to win, some how, some way, they have to protect the football and find the end zone.
Lastly, the MVP of this game was a punter. Virginia kicker Nicholas Conte kept the Blue Devils pinned back all day long. That just goes to show you how important special teams can be.
The only bright spots for Duke were A.J. Reed going 2 for 2 in the field goal department as he continues to come around. It is also worth noting, that Duke was in the game until the end despite seven turnovers. I suppose the game was closer than the final score, but that is nothing to hang your hat on.
The Duke vs Army game kicks off at 3;30 next Saturday.
The Blue Devils are coming off a season saving win over Notre Dame as they seek to ride that momentum to a win over Virginia. Duke will be facing a team that has improved as the season has progressed and one that can put points on the board. In fact, a season ago, the Cavaliers blistered the Duke defense for 42 points.
In last seasons loss, Duke came out flat as a pancake. They simply cannot afford to do so tomorrow. There are challenges as well in that the injury bug as been brutal of late. Already, two team captains in Thomas Sirk and DeVon Edwards are out for the year Then came the news this week that Tinashe Bere would join them and starting running back Jela Duncan would sit as well.
The aforementioned losses limit Duke more in what they can do. That means pressure on the Blue Devils freshman quarterback Daniel Jones and the defense on the whole. What Duke showed in the win over the Irish, was that this is a more talented team, albeit young at many positions.
To lead Duke to a Homecoming Day win, the Blue Devils will need Jones to be his best. They will also need to continue to have success running the ball which opens their offense up. Defensively, Duke needs to remain aggressive and watch out for big play threats on the corners. This is a game where a veteran secondary needs to show up early and often.
It would seem that the signs point to this being a high scoring and competitive game. Virginia had won 17 of 19 games between 1989-2007. Once Cutcliffe arrived, Duke has gone 6-2. It is worth noting that Virginia is coached by a personal friend of Cutcliffe in first year coach Bronco Mendenhall.
I feel Duke knows it has to be aggressive in this game on offense. I think the defense will bend but not break, Look for Duke to keep their momentum and win their first ACC game 35-24.
There were very few people who gave the Duke Blue Devils a shot versus Notre Dame in South Bend. In fact, Duke was a 20 point underdog and coming off two lack luster losses.
But on Saturday, Duke Gang as they are call themselves regrouped to stun Notre Dame 38-35 and even their season record at 2-2. It was a day when pretty much everything went right and that in itself was a far cry from the two losses on the season.
Duke won the battle of turnovers 3-1 and they had 3 sacks to the 1 for the Irish. When they needed a stop on defense there was an interception, quarterback rush or deflected pass. And it was a field goal which actually won the game.
But there was more, including big plays and playmakers both which have been missing. A just tuned 19-year-old quarterback in Daniel Jones tossing the ball for a big Touchdown pass to senior Anthony Nash was like a bolt of lightning. After falling behind 35-28, Duke used three plays and a 64 yard scamper down the sidelines electrified the Blue Devils sideline to tie the game.
This was a day when Duke fell behind 14-0, lost their kickoff specialist DeVon Edwards, possibly for the season. Yet Duke showed off depth as Shaun Wilson set the day in motion for Duke with his 96 yard touchdown return.
Duke would later add a solid drive where Jela Duncan ran for 18 yards and a score. Duncan led all rushers on the day 121 yards and Duke out gained the Irish 208 to 153 yards on the day which reflects on the offensive line.
While we are on the offensive front, they allowed just one sack and protected Daniel Jones. That allowed the first year quarterback to throw for 24 of 42 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. He did have an interception which was one of the few mistakes the Blue Devils committed on the day. In fact, the team has one single penalty.
And then there was the game winning field goal from AJ Reed who had missed three field goal attempts and an extra point coming into the game. On this day, he was on the mark and can now build on the fact he hit a game winner on the road against Notre Dame.
In fact, the Duke staff can build on this game after a great effort and the team can as well. The seniors will have some bounce in their step, while a lot of young players grew up and more confident.
Just when everybody had written Duke off, they played their way back into the season. In the process, they gave their fans hope and will now come home looking to get on the winning side of things.
You cannot count the ways in which this win helped Duke Football. The team knew they were better than their showing to date and the staff stepped it up too,
Now that they know what they are capable of there is a need for consistency. Today, Duke showed resiliency and won a big road game against a storied opponent. The got better. They played with heart. They played with focus. And the program which has gone to four consecutive bowl games. got their mojo back.
DURHAM, N.C. – Duke redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones and junior return specialist Shaun Wilson claimed ACC Player of the Week honors following the Blue Devils’ 38-35 win at Notre Dame this past Saturday.
Jones, a 6-5, 210-pound native of Charlotte, N.C., earned ACC Rookie of the Week accolades after completing 24-of-32 (.750) passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and one interception while rushing for an additional 19 yards on five attempts against the Fighting Irish. He engineered Duke’s game-winning 10-play, 44-yard drive, which culminated in AJ Reed’s 19-yard field goal with 1:24 remaining in the game. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Jones threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Nash to tie the game, 35-35, with 6:47 left.
Wilson, a 5-9, 180-pound native of Charlotte, N.C., returned four kickoffs for 163 yards including a 96-yard return for a touchdown to garner ACC Specialist of the Week honors. In place of injured three-time All-America kick returner DeVon Edwards and with Duke trailing, 14-0, in the opening quarter, Wilson returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to jumpstart a 28-7 spurt as the Blue Devils claimed a 28-21 advantage at halftime. In addition, he added 66 rushing yards on 13 attempts.
Duke will host Virginia on Saturday at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. and tickets may be purchased online at www.GoDuke.com/FootballTix or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at919-681-2583.
Flash back to the preseason and most felt Duke and Note Dame would come into the game with no less than 2-1 records. In the case for the Irish, some felt they would likely be 3-0 as they were ranked in every top ten prognostication that could be found. What we will have in reality in South Bend this Saturday where the game kicks off at 3;30 on NBC are two 1-2 teams reeling from rocky starts.
The Irish have lost to two good teams while Duke has lost to two average teams at best. A critical conference loss at home to Wake Forest signaled that Duke would experience some serious growing pains for the first time in years. Last weeks loss to Northwestern was another error plagued effort leaving the Blue Devils in desperate need of something positive.
The one thing Duke can do to better it's chances of getting back in the win column is to cut down on turnovers. Most of those have come from freshman playing key roles. That means, it may be hard to expect different results with ''Touchdown Jesus,'' staring over young men not even twenty years of age,
What Duke can hope for is to find some positives and somehow play loose. Duke is in no way considered a good bet to win in this game as they were in previous outings. Perhaps that will allow them to play with less pressure on their backs.
Duke can compete if their defense can force turnovers and the offense has to find the end zone. The Irish has been vulnerable against the pass early on but against solid competition, The real key though, will simply be not to beat yourself. Duke has done that early on as one of the nation's leaders in turnovers.
With a shaky kicking game and a young man barely 19 years old in Daniel Jones at quarterback, asking for a win is a tall order. What Duke can hope for is to iron out some of the kinks to develop much needed momentum.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, obviously back on the road against an extremely talented team, as I look at their roster. So many guys we're very aware of from the recruiting process, and guys from all over the country. The common thread is incredible ability. Brian Kelly is an incredible offensive mind. They've got an outstanding kicking game, an outstanding defense. They've played a tough, tough schedule. We have our hands full in South Bend.
I'll take questions.
Q. To kind of go off what you were saying about Brian Kelly, giving him credit for the offensive mind he has, just to go a little further with that on what you can say about him as a coach and how he's led Notre Dame.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he's a positive energy force, just a great program. Every aspect of what they do, they do extremely well. Recruiting, as I mentioned, all three phases, I think he's very creative. Offensively they use formations well. They use their people well. They remain physical all while using the entire field. I think he does as good a job as anybody in the business offensively.
Q. And then as far as your team offensively, just what you've been able to take away from these last few weeks where obviously you've been able to put some things together offensively that don't always turn into points, just what you're taking away at this point.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, we're consistently inconsistent. We have some weapons. We've got some people that at times are playing extremely well. There's two things we're hunting, consistency and taking better care of the ball. If we can accomplish those two things, we have a chance of having a really good offensive football team. We've got some ability.
Q. Did you expect the offense to be better than it is, or did you kind of figure, okay, with the quarterback change, it's going to take a while to get everybody in sync?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, there's a lot of change, and offensively we have a new offensive line coach, a new tight end coach, a new coordinator, that brings you to a new quarterback coach. That we knew, and then you lose your starting quarterback in camp, and so we're playing obviously a very young quarterback. But we're young in some other places.
So you knew that you needed to perform at an extremely high level to be successful, and at times we've done that. We're encouraged. We're far from discouraged. We're encouraged. But obviously we're not playing well enough to win games. We believe we can do that.
Now, the opponent we're playing this week is very difficult for a veteran offense to play against, a very multiple defensive team, a very experienced defensive coordinator. So he's going to try to cause a lot of problems for Daniel. We've got to manage him, manage the people around him, and put our players in position to hopefully be successful a larger percentage of the time than what we've been.
It's a great challenge this week and a chance for us to grow. If we go play well, we always have a chance.
Q. I wanted to ask you about DeVon Edwards, not as a kick returner as he's famous for, or even a defensive back, but the fact that as a 5'9", 180 guy as he's listed, he's fifth in the ACC in sacks and he's very close to ranking in the all-time top 10 in sacks in Duke history. Can you talk about the unusual circumstances of a player like that playing safety and how he's that effective as a pass rusher?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I went and watched DeVon practice basketball when he was in high school, and the thing that impressed me most, he was a 5'9", 180-pound scoring machine, great shooter, but you know what he was, he was their leading rebounder. He had a way to get the ball. He had a fierceness about getting to a ball that went up on the basket. He has the same fierceness when he comes after a quarterback. Jim Knowles uses him in unique ways because of this tenacity, this fierce ability. I think he's one of the best football players in the country, and it doesn't get said near enough.
With all of the things that he does for his team, I don't know if there's a bigger MVP anywhere. You know how big a fan I am of DeVon's. He slices, he ducks, he fakes, he cuts. He's strong, pound for pound, unbelievably strong. So when he does get his hands on the quarterback, they're going down, although this one this week is really big. But he is a fierce competitor.
Q. It seems very odd to look at the ACC stats and see that Duke is leading the league in sacks. It's obviously been a weakness, and it's obviously something you've had to generate with blitzes and other things rather than straight-up pass rush, but can you talk about the pass rush and how you've created that this year?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, it's a combination of Jim Knowles and certainly Ben Albert. I think Coach Albert has made a big difference with our defensive front. I think actually that's going to continue to get better. We've got some young talent there. We're trying like crazy to recruit more young talent. Ben is a great teacher of pass rush. We work very hard at good against good in that regard, and I just have seen it coming. We even did some scrimmages in August where our quarterbacks were live as much as anything just to see what kind of pass rush we could generate.
Between scheme, between a willingness to take risk to some degree, and then the technique and energy that Ben puts into the defensive linemen rushing the passer, I think we've reaped some of the benefits.
Now, the biggest challenge will be this week. Nobody hardly gets near this young man unless you're just a beast because their offensive front at Notre Dame is outstanding, I mean outstanding. They all look like they could be NFL football players to me.
Q. Dave, there's a lot of tough places to play just within the ACC, and you've played some other tough places, too, but do you say anything about one of those kind of legendary atmospheres like Notre Dame, the Golden Dome and so on, et cetera, or do you just let the guys experience it when they walk in there?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I'm going to talk with them a little bit about it, just the uniqueness of coming down the tunnel with two teams in one tunnel and the history there. I mean, they know enough about it, but they need to hear from me a little bit more about what to expect.
Once the game is being played, obviously crowd noise is an issue when you go on the road in big stadiums, but once the game is being played, I think once you are over that novelty, you just play in football.
Hopefully we're mature enough to handle that. We're working on it. You know, maturity of a team is one of the important aspects of it, and that's something certainly we're having to work with with this particular team.