Tag Archives: Cooper Helfet

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 espn3.com, 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.

Analysis

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.

Prediction

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

Stats Update: Duke runs over Virginia

I remain convinced a team must successfully run the ball to consistently compete to win. After rushing 45 times for 142 yards in the win at Navy, Duke followed up by rushing for 230 yards on 45 attempts with six rushing touchdowns in Saturday’s 55-48 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers. So far in 2010, through nine games, Duke is averaging 132.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 85th out of 120 Football Bowl Series teams. Last season, Duke finished 120th in rushing.

On Saturday, Desmond Scott rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries including the decisive 35 yard touchdown scamper on a toss sweep. Brandon Connette was Duke’s second leading rusher gaining 78 yards on 12 carries, followed by Sean Renfree who gained 22 yards on 10 carries. Connette and Renfree each scored two rushing touchdowns.

Wide Receiver Donovan Varner was the fourth Blue Devil to score a rushing touchdown when he went in motion out of the slot, received an inside hand-off from Connette on a QB option, and darted off tackle for nine yards into the end zone. Varner gained 14 yards on two carries.

Improvement in the ground attack is a positive indicator Duke continues to progress toward turning the football program into an ACC contender.

It is no coincidence Duke has a plus five (+5) turnover margin in their three victories while being minus 14 (-14) during the six losses. Turnovers kill a team’s ability to win games. Duke remains last in the ACC in turnover margin at minus nine (-9) so if they are to extend their current two game winning streak they must value the football.

With all the success Duke has had running the ball recently, make no mistake, the Blue Devils remain a pass oriented offense. Duke is third in the ACC in passing offense averaging 261.3 yards per game. Sean Renfree has passed for 2270 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

Conner Vernon (5.4), Donovan Varner (5.2) and Austin Kelly (4.4) are first, third and eighth in the ACC respectively, in receptions per game. With Austin Kelly out for the game and Conner Vernon injured returning a kick-off, tight end Cooper Helfet stepped up and caught seven passes for 126 yards against the Cavaliers. Helfet has 20 catches in eight games this season for a 2.5 receptions per game average. He was named one of the ACC players of the week for the second consecutive week.

On Duke’s game winning drive, Donovan Varner converted the critical first down when he caught a 26 yard pass on fourth and 18.

The kicking game is another phase of the game where Duke is excelling. Will Snyderwine is ranked number three in the ACC in scoring (kick) with 72 points. He has made 15 field goals out of 16 attempts plus all 27 extra points attempted.

Duke has attempted six onsides kicks this season and been successful four times.

Lee Butler averages 9.5 yards per punt return, which is fifth in the ACC. His longest return this season is 33 yards and he returned one punt for 26 yards in this week’s victory.

Desmond Scott is sixth in the ACC in all purpose yards with 957. Scott has rushed for 489 yards, gained 260 on kick returns, and caught 22 passes for 208 yards this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Abraham Kromah ranks second in the ACC in tackles per game at 10.1. Kelby Brown is eighth with 7.6 and Matt Daniels is tied for eleventh with 6.9.

Injuries are starting to mount and could become an issue over the last three weeks of the season so I’m awaiting Thursday’s injury report with trepidation. Duke seeks to extend their winning streak to three games when the Boston College Eagles visit Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.

Stats Update: Sean Renfree has record setting performance in win over Navy

Sean Renfree (right) and Conner Vernon (left) were key performers in Duke's win over Navy.
Duke beat Navy 34-31 on the strength of a record setting performance by Sean Renfree and a strong first half by the entire offense; however, the defense played great and acknowledging true freshman linebacker Kelby Brown’s 12 tackles, along with Abraham Kromah’s 11 tackles, and Matt Daniel’s huge tackle on 4th down is appropriate. The defense dominated Navy for three quarters and provided many key performances in the victory.

The Top 8 Statistics in Duke’s Win over Navy:

1. Sean Renfree set a single game pass completion percentage record with his 28-30 (93.3%) performance. Renfree didn’t set just a new Duke record or an ACC record, he set a new NCAA record, for games with a minimum of 30 passes thrown, by besting Steve Sarkisian’s 31-34 (91.2%) performance for BYU against Fresno State on November 25, 1995.

2. Zero turnovers for the Blue Devils. Multiple turnovers doomed Duke in losses against Wake Forest (four), Army (Five) and Miami (seven). The importance of not turning the ball over cannot be overstated. Entering the game, Navy was ranked tied for fourth nationally in turnover margin, while Duke was ranked 119th.

3. Two for two on onside kick recoveries. Navy attempted two onside kicks in the 4th quarter but first Conner Vernon and then Cooper Helfet foiled Navy’s attempts by successfully catching the ball for the Blue Devils. Navy’s offense was hitting on all eight cylinders in the 4th quarter and these two key plays by Vernon and Helfet prevented the Midshipmen from gaining extra possessions.

4. Duke’s vaunted receiving corps earned their accolades: five receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown by Conner Vernon, seven receptions for 69 yards by Cooper Helfet, five receptions for 57 yards by Donovan Varner, five receptions for 49 yards by Desmond Scott, four receptions for 23 yards by Austin Kelly and two receptions for 26 yards by Brandon Braxton. Fifteen of Duke’s 21 first downs were achieved on pass receptions.

5. The defense dominated Navy’s triple option offense until the 4th quarter. Kelby Brown recorded 12 tackles including three solo and Abraham Kromah had 11 tackles with five being solo. Patrick Egboh was credited with 1.5 sacks.

6. Time of possession. Duke mounted multiple long drives and controlled the ball for 36 minutes and 57 seconds. The drives included: 10 plays for 68 yards resulting in a field goal, 14 plays for 76 yards resulting in a touchdown, 10 plays for 45 yards resulting in a touchdown, eight plays for 64 yards resulting in a touchdown, 10 plays for 70 yards resulting in a touchdown, and 12 plays for 60 yards resulting in a field goal.

7. Conversions on 3rd and 4th down. Duke was two for three on 4th down and 8 for 15 on 3rd down. Converting on these plays allowed the offense to mount multiple sustained drives, which kept Navy’s offense off the field.

8. Duke rushed 45 times for 142 yards and six first downs. Desmond Scott was the leading rusher with 42 yards including a key 17 yard run during Duke’s opening drive. Quarterbacks Sean Renfree and Brandon Connette combined to rush for 61 yards and three touchdowns.

Duke TE Cooper Helfet wants the ball in his hands

Cooper Helfet took the time to strike a pose for Blue Devil Nation on Photo Day - Rick Crank, BDN Photo
DURHAM – It didn’t take long for Cooper Helfet to prove Coach David Cutcliffe right when he was labeled a playmaker.  During yesterdays press conference, Cutcliffe stated that playmakers are guys who want the ball and the brash and confident Helfet fits that mold.  BDN took time to chat with the Duke tight end and here is what he had to say via BDN Audio -

Just press play -