Category Archives: Duke Football

Copyright Lance King Images

Recap: Duke 51, Pitt 48

Copyright Lance King Images
Copyright Lance King Images

Much like a year ago, Duke and Pittsburgh engaged in a thrilling shootout, with some strange twists and turns along the way. Only this year, it took double overtime to decide the winner. And this year, it was the Blue Devils who emerged with the victory.

After totaling 56 points in the first half, the two teams combined for just 3 points in the 3rd quarter, setting up a wild finish at Heinz Field. With the game tied at 38 and just 2 seconds left on the game clock, Coach Cutcliffe called two timeouts to ice Pitt’s Chris Blewitt. The strategy worked, as the kicker missed wide left on a potential game-winning 26-yard field goal attempt.

In the first overtime period, both offenses kept the ball on the ground, as Duke’s Anthony Boone ran in a 12-yard touchdown, only to be matched by Pitt’s James Conner, who muscled in from 14 yards out.

But in the second overtime, the Duke defense dug in its heels, forcing a 42-yard field goal, giving the ball back to their offense with a chance to win the game. Facing 3rd and short from the 5 yard line, Thomas Sirk pounded it in behind center Matt Skura for the win.

Prior to overtime, the story of the day was Pitt’s James Conner, who entered the day as the ACC’s leading rusher and ended with a career high 263 yards on 38 carries. Jeremy Cash and the Duke defense were dominated by the Pittsburgh offensive line for much of the afternoon. The Panthers controlled the clock through the game, winning time of possession 41:08 to 18:52.

Two key second half sacks managed to stop some of the bleeding for the Blue Devil defense. The first came from Dwayne Norman on a 3rd down safety blitz on Pitt’s first drive of the second half. Duke went on to hold the Panthers scoreless in the 3rd quarter. With the Panthers driving and looking to take a 4th quarter lead, Dezmond Johnson, in his first game back from injury, took down Chad Voytik in the red zone, ultimately forcing a field goal to tie the game at 31 with 13:22 to play. But with the calendar turning to November, DeVon Edwards again came up big for the Blue Devils; “Mr. November” brought the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards for the touchdown to put Duke up 38-31.

In the first half, the only thing that could stop either offense was itself. Both teams scored touchdowns on 4 of their 5 first half possessions. The Panthers opened the game with a 9-play drive that stalled at the Duke 30-yard line and ended with a fumbled snap on a field goal attempt. For the Blue Devils, their drive stalled early in the second quarter after an offensive holding penalty. Outside of those two miscues, the two offenses rolled for just under 600 total yards and 56 total points in the first half alone.

As the first half was winding down, the Blue Devils found themselves trailing 28-21 with just 1:17 left in the 2nd quarter, but Anthony Boone orchestrated an efficient 10 play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie the game as the two teams headed to the locker room. Boone finished the day 23/31 for 266 yards and 4 total touchdowns in one of his strongest outings of the season. Jamison Crowder had a monster game, totaling 9 catches for 165 yards and 2 scores, passing Clemson’s Sammy Watkins to take over 2nd place in receptions in ACC history. And it was Thomas Sirk who played hero for the day, finishing with 2 touchdowns on his only 2 carries of the game.

Duke remains alone atop the Coastal Division and travels to Syracuse to take on the Orange next week at 12:30PM on the ACC Network.

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Duke at Pittsburgh Preview

DSC_0088Duke at Pitt
12:30 PM ET
Saturday, November 1
Pittsburgh, PA
TV: ESPNU
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 92 and XM Ch 194

Duke in 2014: 6-1
Pitt in 2014: 4-4

DUKE INJURIES

PROBABLE – Jamal Wallace (DT)
OUT – Johnathan Lloyd (CB), Trip McNeill (OL)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Braxton Deaver (TE), Taariq Shabazz (DE)

PITT INJURIES

QUESTIONABLE – Aaron Reese (OL), Luke MacLean (DL), Terrish Webb (DB), Tyrique Jarrett (DL)
OUT FOR SEASON – Artie Rowell (OL), Ejuan Price (DL), Zach Poker (LB)

Duke and Pitt last faced each other on September 21, 2014 in a game Pitt won 58-55 at Wallace Wade Stadium. In their last game out, two weeks ago, Duke beat Virginia 20-13, while Pitt lost to Georgia Tech 56-28 last Saturday afternoon.

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

Duke must contain the Pitt running game and force the Panthers to throw the ball. Running back James Conner is the ACC’s leading rusher at 135 yards per game. Quarterback Chad Voytik has rushed for over 100 yards in a game twice this season gaining 114 in a victory over Florida International and 118 in a victory over Virginia Tech.

Pitt is a less effective football team when forced to pass. Voytik has thrown six interceptions and been sacked 15 times this season. He appears uncomfortable in the pocket. The more he has to throw, the better for Duke; however, Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd is an All ACC quality talent so the defense must know where Boyd is at all times.

When Pitt’s offense is in passing situations, look for Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles to dial up the heat by bringing a linebacker or safety on a blitz. The key to the game will be Duke’s ability to contain the Panther rushing game to force those obvious passing situations. It is imperative Duke’s defensive line hold their own along the line of scrimmage.
Establishing a lead is another path to forcing Pitt to throw the ball more than they desire.

Establishing better field position than your opponent is often a game within the game with Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe leaning hard on Punter Will Monday and Kick-off specialist Jack Willoughby to pin the opponent deep in their own territory. Forcing Pitt to play on a longer field than Duke plays on will be another factor in a Blue Devil victory.

Finally, on offense, Duke will need to establish the running game to open up the play action pass. Maintaining balance has served Duke well so far in 2014 and it will be important again this Saturday in Pittsburgh. In two conference victories, Duke ran an average of 39 running plays and 32 pass plays. In the Miami loss, Duke threw the ball 51 times, while rushing 25 times.

This is definitely a new era in Duke football. In a game preview, offense was discussed last after both defense and special teams. The days of having to outscore the opponent in order to have a chance to win are in the rear view mirror.

HOW DUKE CAN LOSE

Turnovers and penalties are events all football teams must avoid each and every week. Everyone saw turnovers destroy Pittsburgh last week against Georgia Tech. Duke leads the ACC with a +8 Turnover Margin and is also ranked number one in Opponent Penalties at 66 yards per game. Facing a tough Pitt team on the road, this is not the week to regress toward the mean. If Duke does not perform strongly in these two areas on Saturday, the Blue Devils will lose.

Failure to get off the field on 3rd down is another concern. Pitt is fifth in the ACC in 3rd Down Conversions being successful 44.4 percent of the time. When the Panthers go for it on 4th down, their success rate increases to 62.5 percent. The ability to hand the ball to a talented, 250 pound running back propels Pitt to success in these situations. If Duke’s defense fails to consistently stop Pitt on 3rd and 4th down, the Blue Devils will lose.

With weather conditions predicted to be cold with a 70 percent chance of rain, valuing the football will be paramount to victory.

WHY DUKE WILL WIN

Duke will win by because they are a more consistent team and a more explosive team. Consistency will come via ball security and discipline; explosiveness via playmakers such as Jamison Crowder and Jeremy Cash. This will be a hard fought football game, but in the end Duke will prove to be more than Pitt can handle.

BOTTOM LINE

This game will be won by the team which plays better on the defensive side of the ball. Duke’s defense will stop Pitt’s offense more times than Pitt’s defense will stop Duke’s offense.

Duke 34, Pitt 20