MIAMI- BDN was on the scene to take in Duke’s 31-27 victory at FIU tonight. Here’s our Rapid Reaction.
Thriller in The Cage
Duke and FIU put on a show under the lights tonight in South Florida. Both teams excited fans with explosive plays and great effort. The game was evenly matched throughout. Both offenses had the upper hand early, but the defenses rallied to keep things in check heading into the 4th quarter. Just when the Golden Panthers thought they had the game in hand with a 27-17 lead, Duke senior Donovan Varner stepped up for a 54-yard completion followed by a 6-yard TD run by Juwan Thompson. There was palpable excitement in the stadium over the closing minutes, as Duke rallied to a 31-27 lead and the Blue Devil defense came up with a clutch goal line stand to force a turnover on downs. Duke’s offense picked up the crucial 1st down to seal the victory on a 16-yard run by Jamison Crowder.
The two offenses combined for 330 yards of offense and 31 points in the 1st quarter alone. Both defenses were on their heels and had no answer for their opponents’ dynamic receivers. Sean Renfree was 12/14 for 173 yards and 2 TDs in the 1st quarter; his favorite receiver was Conner Vernon, who had 5 catches and 76 yards in the opening period. T.Y. Hilton slipped past the Blue Devil defense for a 63 yard touchdown to get the Golden Panthers on the board.
After the blazing start, the pace of the game slowed in the 2nd quarter. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles threw several looks at the Panthers in the first half, including several blitzes and even a package with 3 down linemen and 6 defensive backs at one point. The adjustments did enough to disrupt the Golden Panthers, holding them to just a FG in the 2nd quarter. After putting up 17 quick points in the 1st quarter, Duke’s offense was halted by the FIU defense in the 2nd quarter and continued into the 3rd. Fortunately, Knowles’ defensive adjustments were enough to keep the Golden Panthers at bay and keep the Blue Devils in the game heading into the 4th quarter.
Running game struggles
The Blue Devils could not get anything going on the ground against the Golden Panthers, finishing with just 49 yards rushing. Desmond Scott returned for his first game action since week one, and Josh Snead saw his first game action of the season. FIU’s speedy defense was able to consistently hit the Blue Devil backs near the line of scrimmage and prevent big gains.
All-hyphen team comes up big
The turning point in the game came with 7 minutes remaining, as Duke’s Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo sacked FIU QB Wes Carroll, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Anthony Young-Wiseman at the 9 yard line. Juwan Thompson added his second TD of the 4th quarter on the next play, walking in untouched to give Duke the 31-27 lead. The two hyphenated defenders stepped up when the Blue Devil defense most needed it. DeWalt-Ondijo’s first career sack was a big one for Duke. Later in the game, it was the Blue Devil pass rush that ultimately forced a turnover on downs to seal the victory.
Off week ahead
The Blue Devils will enjoy their off week with their record now at 3-2 and sitting at 1st place in the ACC Coastal Division. Duke will have plenty of time to rest and regroup for a tough FSU opponent on October 15.
Sean Renfree 28/43, 335 yards, 2 TDs
Conner Vernon 8 receptions, 117 yards, 1 TD
Donovan Varner 7 receptions, 111 yards
Juwan Thompson 13 carries, 33 yards
Walt Canty 13 (8/5) tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass break-up
Matt Daniels 9 (5/4) tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Will Snyderwine 1/1 FGs, 4/4 PATs
The Blue Devils will look to make it three in a row on Saturday as they travel to FIU to take on the Golden Panthers. The matchup will be televised on ESPNU at 7PM ET and will also be FIU’s Homecoming Game. Duke evened their record at 2-2 last week with a convincing win over Tulane behind impressive performances by QB Sean Renfree and the Blue Devil defense. Renfree finished with 278 passing yards and 1 touchdown, and added 2 rushing touchdowns as well. The Blue Devil defense held the Green Wave without an offensive touchdown for the first three quarters and allowed just 2.5 yards per carry for the game. Despite numerous injuries, including the loss of ACC sacks leader DE Kenny Anunike for the season, Duke dominated the game, controlling the ball for 36:12 while building a 48-13 lead by early in the 4th quarter.
FIU is one of the youngest programs in the FBS, having played its first season in just 2002. The Golden Panthers are coming off their first winning season in 2010, which saw them claim a Sun Belt Conference co-Championship and a Little Ceasar’s Pizza Bowl victory. When the Golden Panthers take the field, all eyes are on Heisman Trophy candidate T.Y. Hilton, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and one of the most exciting players in all of college football. Hilton lines up at wide receiver for the FIU offense, but also handles the punt and kickoff return duties. This season, Hilton helped FIU to a fast 3-0 start to the season, including over 200 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns against Louisville in week 2. A hamstring injury limited Hilton in week 4 against Louisiana-Lafayette, and the Golden Panthers dropped to 3-1 after a 36-31 defeat to their Sun Belt Conference rival. The Blue Devil defense will have a stiff test on Saturday night as they try to slow the speedy Hilton and the Golden Panthers.
KEYS FOR DUKE
1. Contain T.Y. Hilton
When you face a talent such as Hilton, the key is to minimize his impact on the game, both offensively and on special teams. The probable return of CB Ross Cockrell should help the Duke defense keep tabs on the speedy Hilton, who is utilized in a variety of roles in the FIU spread offense. With Hilton as his favorite target, redshirt-senior QB Wes Carroll has completed over 61% of his passes and thrown for 3 touchdowns. After injuries to Hilton and Carroll forced FIU to rely heavily on RB Kedrick Rhodes in week 4, expect the Golden Panthers to try and get their passing game back on track against Duke. Paul Asack and Alex King would be wise to try and avoid good return opportunities for the always dangerous Hilton.
2. Match FIU’s speed
Relying heavily on the fertile South Florida recruiting grounds, Head Coach Mario Cristobal has built this FIU team around speed, headlined by Hilton, but exemplified up and down the roster. The Golden Panthers are balanced on offense, averaging 198 yards passing and 138 yards rushing per game. Defensively, FIU ranks fifth in the country with 15 sacks per game and has also recorded 7 tackles for loss. On special teams, Hilton averages over 33 yards per kickoff return, good for 4th in the nation. Under David Cutcliffe, Duke has made a deliberate effort to improve their team speed, and it will be put to the test in all phases against a FIU team capable of making explosive plays all over the field.
3. Protect Sean Renfree
Renfree has played outstanding over the past two weeks, spreading the ball around the field to his deep group of receivers and leading Duke to a top-20 passing offense in the country. The Duke offensive line has allowed 8 sacks so far on the season, but Duke fans have seen Renfree sustain several other hard hits. Against an athletic FIU pass rush, the Blue Devil offensive line will have to provide Renfree enough time to deliver the ball down the field to South Florida natives Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner. If Renfree is able to establish a rhythm with his receivers against a FIU secondary that allowed 363 passing yards to Louisville, the Blue Devils will be in good shape.
FIU +2, Duke -3
What a difference a year makes. The Blue Devils have significantly cut down on their turnovers from a year ago and find themselves playing better football as a result. The Duke defense is still struggling to turn opponents over, but have managed to force a few key miscues. With a redshirt-senior QB in Wes Carroll, the Duke defense likely will again have difficulty winning the turnover battle on Saturday.
FIU 15, Duke 7
The Duke offensive line will have its hands full as they try to protect Sean Renfree against one of the top 5 pass rushes in the country. FIU’s defensive speed will particularly challenge the Blue Devils with their blitz packages, as they will try to penetrate Duke’s pass protection. With Brian Moore still sidelined, Duke will need another strong effort from redshirt-freshmen Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield.
Duke 46%, FIU 29%
Duke’s success on 3rd down has been a big part of their #7 national ranking in time of possession. The Blue Devils have converted 28/61 3rd down opportunities while holding opponents to just a 38% conversion rate. Conversely, FIU has struggled to sustain drives, picking up just 14/49 3rd downs while allowing opponents to be successful on 35% of their opportunities. Both 3rd and 4th down conversions have been key to their current 2-game winning streak, and they’ll look to continue that success on Saturday.
T.Y. Hilton is explosive, and FIU’s speed can burn opponents. If Hilton is allowed to make plays for the Golden Panthers, it will be a long night for Blue Devil fans. Duke, of course, has playmakers of their own. If it is to be a happy homecoming for Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner, Duke will have to continue to get them the ball down the field. Freshman Jamison Crowder showed a glimpse of his explosiveness last week with a punt return touchdown that was later voided by penalty. With Crowder and Hilton in the return game, there will be explosive athletes on both sides of the ball in all phases on Saturday.
Duke 10, FIU 9
Coach Cut says, “When you run out of room to throw the football, find a way to run the ball in.” Despite the loss of QB Brandon Connette, RB Desmond Scott, and RB Josh Snead, the Blue Devils have been successful rushing the football in the red zone in their past two contests. In fact, Duke was able to convert all 7 of their red zone chances against Tulane, including 2 rushing scores for Sean Renfree and 2 more for Juwan Thompson. With the possible return of Scott and/or Snead, the Blue Devils will have plenty of weapons to punch it in on the ground. For FIU, Kedrick Rhodes has been the primary threat on the ground, but the always-dangerous Hilton can run it in from anywhere.
FIU 5/6, Duke 2/8
Welcome back, Will Snyderwine the All-American. After a disastrous start to the 2011 season, the Blue Devils’ kicker got back on track with a 40-yard FG against Tulane. Though he is still nursing an ankle injury, Duke fans should be able to breathe a small sigh of relief when the Blue Devils line up for a field goal. FIU’s Jack Griffin has been perfect from inside 50 yards so far in 2011.
Duke 20-168 yards, FIU 21-183 yards
The Blue Devils continue to clean up their act, but are far from playing error-free. Against an energized and veteran FIU team, Duke will have a very small margin for error on Saturday, meaning that penalties could be costly. The Blue Devils will have to match the Golden Panthers’ speed with good fundamentals and avoid ill-advised penalties.
ESPNU was wise to televise this game, as it should be both entertaining and competitive. Both offenses feature explosive talents that are likely to put up points on the board. The Blue Devil defense is playing with renewed confidence after two victories, while the Golden Panthers will look to fight back from a disappointing conference loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Uncle Mo is on the Duke side, and it should be enough to carry the Blue Devils into their off week at 3-2 behind another strong performance by Sean Renfree.
Duke travels to Boston College for their ACC opener on Saturday at 12:30 PM ET on the ACC Network. Both teams are off to a disappointing 0-2 start to the 2011 season, and one will have the opportunity to turn things around on Saturday.
Boston College fell in week one to Northwestern at home, 24-17, and then traveled to Central Florida for a lopsided 30-3 defeat last Saturday. The Blue Devils have seen a similar share of disappointment, losing a close game to Richmond in week one and then Stanford 44-14 in week two. Both teams have been plagued by injuries and have struggled to score on offense, ranking at the bottom of the ACC in scoring.
The Eagles will be without star RB Montel Harris for the third straight game, and the Eagle offense hasn’t looked the same without him. With a banged up offensive line and without a go-to wide receiver, Chase Rettig has struggled at quarterback, completing just over 50% of his passes so far this season. Andre Williams has been the lone bright spot, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 86.5 yards per game, but he’s been unable to shoulder the entire offensive load himself.
Defensively, Boston College is known for its physical play, epitomized by leading tackler Luke Kuechly at linebacker. With a depleted secondary and a shorthanded defensive line, however, the typically stingy BC defense has allowed 27 points per game, including 231 rushing yards per game. On the season, the Eagles are -2 in turnover margin, and are allowing opponents to convert 41% of 3rd down opportunities. In particular, the 2nd half has been unkind to the Eagles, as they have been outscored 35-7 after intermission.
While a few starters will return this week, the Eagles will need to put together a much better effort in all three phases to begin to approach the preseason expectations for this team. Given BC’s struggles, the Blue Devils have an excellent opportunity to leave Chestnut Hill with a 1-0 ACC record if they can put together 60 minutes of good football.
KEYS FOR DUKE
Control the line of scrimmage. Boston College’s struggles have mostly been the direct result of losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. With injuries hampering BC’s offensive and defensive lines, this will be an excellent opportunity for the Blue Devils to demonstrate their improvement at the line of scrimmage. Duke needs to do a better job protecting Sean Renfree and consistently opening holes for the Duke running backs. If BC is able to consistently get after Renfree, Duke will continue to struggle to score points. The young Duke defensive line was able to unsettle Heisman favorite Andrew Luck for a few series last weekend. They will have to duplicate that effort and bring consistent pressure at QB Chase Rettig, forcing him into poor throws and turnovers.
Establish Juwan Thompson early. Duke is facing a team that is allowing 231 rushing yards per game to opponents so far this season. With Desmond Scott and Josh Snead still sidelined, the powerful sophomore is left to carry the load for the Duke ground game. He’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the ground, and against a suspect BC defensive line, he should be ready to have a career day for the Blue Devils.
Turn Renfree loose. Duke has moved the ball well at times this year, but has failed to open things up with offensive explosive plays. Establishing Thompson on the ground should open things up for Duke’s talented receiving corps, who should be salivating over a depleted BC secondary. BC’s linebacker’s are the biggest matchup problem for the Duke offense, led by Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis. If BC is forced to use them against the run, the middle of the field should open up for Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Cooper Helfet. If Duke is to win this game, Renfree will have to hook up with one of his receivers for his first passing touchdown of 2011.
As you might expect for two winless teams, the statistics are pretty similar, and pretty ugly. Neither team has had much success making plays to win games. With BC’s injuries and offensive struggles, the Blue Devils appear to have more playmakers, and that could be the difference on Saturday.
Duke 3, Boston College 3
Duke already has three fumbles on the young season, while Boston College has thrown three interceptions. QB Chase Rettig can be pressured into poor throws if Duke is able to bring a consistent pass rush. The BC defenders are capable of delivering the hard hits that have forced the Blue Devils to put the ball on the ground. Simply put, the team that wins the turnover battle will be tough to beat Saturday.
Duke 2, Boston College 2
Neither defense has been able to get after the quarterback consistently so far this year. What’s worse is that both offenses have done a poor job taking care of their own quarterback. Duke has allowed 7 sacks already in 2011, while Boston College has given up 6. Duke’s offensive line will need to drastically improve its pass protection, or Sean Renfree will again find himself repeatedly on the ground. With their injuries up front, Duke’s defense must take advantage of the Eagles’ shaky blocking.
Duke 33%, Boston College 31%
Another dismal statistic for both sides. Both sides are converting around one-third of third-down opportunities while allowing opponents to convert over 40%. Luke Kuechly is the difference maker on 3rd down for BC, and Matt Daniels has been that guy for Duke. With two struggling offenses, the team that is able to sustain drives will find itself in good shape in the 4th quarter Saturday.
Explosives comes down to playmakers. Lee Butler made an explosive 77-yard INT return for a TD last week, but it wasn’t enough. Duke needs to open up the field on offense and get Vernon, Varner, Helfet, and Thompson into open space. Jamison Crowder and Lee Butler both have the potential to add explosives on special teams. For BC, it all starts with Andre Williams. He has to consistently break tackles and move the chains if the Eagles are to have more success on offense.
Duke 4, BC 2
Neither team has had much success putting points on the board, but when they do, it’s usually on the ground so far this year. Duke has had three different players score on the ground, and Juwan Thompson will be looking to pick up his first on Saturday. Andre Williams is the primary threat for BC, and expect the Duke defense to key in on him.
Duke 0/4, BC 2/4
With Will Snyderwine questionable, expect Duke to gamble more on 4th down than in the past. The kicking game is a complete question mark for the Blue Devils. BC would like to be more consistent, but they certainly have the edge in this matchup.
Duke 7-52 yards, BC 11-73 yards
Duke continues to play disciplined football, though a few of their penalties have come at inopportune times, especially on offense. This is a statistic that the Blue Devils will have to win if they want to become a winning football program.
Two winless teams with the lowest scoring offenses in the ACC will meet on Saturday, but only one will emerge a winner. The BC offense has looked lost without Montel Harris to hand it off to 30+ times a game. Duke’s offense has moved the ball, but failed to score. The historically stingy BC defense has given up yards and points this year, while the Duke defense has performed better than expected, but inconsistently. In the end, Duke has too many offensive weapons for the depleted Eagles’ defense, and the Blue Devils’ defense should put together another strong showing against a struggling BC offense. Sean Renfree gets back on track and into the end zone in this one, and Juwan Thompson will have a third straight solid game on the ground.
Duke (0-2) travels to Boston College (0-2) this Saturday for their 2011 ACC opener. The two winless teams are off to disappointing starts, but have a golden opportunity to begin to turn things around this week. The Eagles fell to Northwestern 24-17 in their season opener and then traveled to UCF for a 30-3 defeat. Similarly, the Blue Devils suffered a close loss to Richmond in week one and then a humbling defeat at the hands of Stanford last week. The two teams’ struggles are predominantly on the offensive side of the ball. QBs Chase Rettig and Sean Renfree are both still looking for their first TD pass of the season. Early season injuries have plagued both teams at various positions, most notably at running back, where BC has been without the ACC’s leading rusher in Montel Harris, while the Blue Devils have had two of their top three running backs sidelined.
There were high hopes for the Eagles this season, with a new offensive coordinator, a 2nd-year starting QB, an All-ACC running back, and one of the league’s toughest defenses led by All-American Luke Kuechly. What has gone wrong? To help us preview the Blue Devils’ ACC opener, BDN welcomes back BC insider A.J. Black from BC Interruption.
BDN: Duke and Boston College both have stumbled out of the gate this season. Duke has been plagued by offensive red zone struggles, while the defense has performed better than expected at times. What has gone wrong for the Eagles? What is the mood within and around the program?
What has gone wrong? Basically everything has gone wrong for BC already this season in the span of two games. Injuries, bad coaching, issues with the kicking game, issues with the offense, and a non existent defense have all shown their ugly heads. The game against Northwestern was plagued with terrible defense, and the UCF game was marred by bad football all over. The mood is ugly around here especially after that abysmal showing against UCF on Saturday. Fans are already calling for Frank Spaziani’s head, which usually doesn’t happen until conference play starts.
BDN: We certainly wish OC Kevin Rogers well during his medical leave of absence. How will his absence affect the struggling BC offense? Interim OC Dave Brock has experience coordinating the offense at Kansas State; do you expect him to stay the course or make changes to jump-start the offense?
Boston College is fortunate to have an internal candidate with experience to jump right in and take over the offense. Dave Brock was the guy who recruited Chase Rettig here, so he has some repore with the young quarterback. Will there be major changes? I doubt it. I’m pretty certain that Dave Brock will continue with the current gameplan that BC has run, probably more on the line of what you might have seen when the Eagles played Northwestern.
BDN: The typically stingy BC defense ranks last in the ACC against the run and 2nd to last in total defense. Injuries in the secondary certainly haven’t helped, but with All-American LB Luke Kuechly alongside freshman All-American LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, expectations were higher. What has led to the success of opposing offenses against the Eagles in the first two games?
I don’t think the problem is Luke Kuechly. Other than the one play where UCF QB Jeff Godfrey absolutely trucked him last week, he has been the same old tackling machine as he has in the past. The issue is the defensive line. Last year BC had Alex Albright and Damik Scafe who provided just enough pressure to highlight the talent of the BC linebackers. This year Kaleb Ramsey has been out, and the rest of the line is getting blown off the ball. If Ramsey can come back, I expect BC’s defense to improve.
BDN: In his Sunday conference call, Head Coach Frank Spaziani emphasized the need for the BC coaching staff to do a better job with helping the team manage its weaknesses. What adjustments would you like to see the coaching staff make on the field?
Better play calling. One of the biggest critique’s of the Frank Spaziani era is the vanilla play calling on the offensive side of the ball. If I can watch the game at home and guess what play they are going to call, I’m guessing trained defensive coordinators must have a field day game planning. He needs to mix it up. Try more screen passes, passes to the tight ends, and different looks from the wide receivers.
BDN: The ACC’s bottom two scoring offenses will meet on Saturday in Chestnut Hill on the ACC network. The Eagles opened as 7.5-point home favorites. How do you think the two teams match up and who will emerge with their first win of the 2011 season?
I am very worried about this game. As a BC apologist I of course will pick BC to win but I think it will be a close one just like the game last year. Sean Renfree probably will pass at will against BC’s defense, and it is going to be up to the Eagles offense to start to click. I expect a sloppy game on both ends of the ball for both teams, and BC will sneak away with a 24-20 win.
BDN: While we respectfully disagree with your pick, we’re always glad to have you stop by!
David Cutcliffe is now two games into his fourth season as Head Coach of the Duke Football program, and with the Blue Devils opening the year 0-2, fans are asking whether progress has in fact been made. Progress, however, is a relative term, and one can easily see progress or a lack of progress depending on the context.
Start with the big picture. Where was Duke football in 2007 and where is it today in 2011? The Blue Devils opened the 2007 season 0-2 with losses to Connecticut and Virginia. In 2011, they are again 0-2 with losses to Richmond and Stanford. Just as they were in 2007, Duke is again expected by most to finish at or near the bottom of the ACC. At face value, progress has not been made, and it’s a reasonable argument.
The opposition to that argument is that building a winning football program doesn’t happen overnight. Since Coach Cutcliffe’s arrival, there have been substantial improvements made off the field. Overall, attendance is up and there is a new-found enthusiasm for football at Duke. The University and its boosters have made a substantial investment in the program, both from a coaching and a facilities standpoint. Duke has a veteran group of coaches and football facilities better or equivalent to every other ACC school. Improvements to Wallace Wade Stadium are in the works, though that will require a significant investment and better production on the field.
Speaking of on the field, let’s look at the early return on the University’s investment. So far in 2011, the wins aren’t there, so let’s look at the talent level. In 2007, Duke had 1 returning All-ACC player on the roster in Eron Riley. In 2011, Duke returns 3 players who have been awarded All-ACC honors in Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Will Snyderwine. Looking at the makeup of the roster itself, the 2007 Blue Devils entered the season without a single redshirt-sophomore, junior, or senior. In 2011, Duke has 18 redshirt-sophomores, 10 redshirt-juniors, and 7 redshirt-seniors on the roster. The team is developing the kind of depth and experience that is needed to compete week in and week out over the course of a college football season. Based on an informal eye test, the Blue Devils are still an undersized football team, but that is slowly changing. Each recruiting class appears to get a little bigger and a little faster, and recruiting as a whole appears to be paying dividends, with young players like Juwan Thompson (leading rusher), Laken Tomlinson (starting OL), Kelby Brown (2nd leading tackler), and Jamison Crowder (10th in ACC in all-purpose yards) all producing an immediate impact on the field.
Let’s step away from the big picture and take a deeper look at Duke’s 2 losses. A loss to Richmond was inexcusable and a big step in the wrong direction for this team. The mistakes made in that game appeared to be “the same old Duke;” missed FGs, fumbles, and consistently inconsistent play throughout the game. It certainly felt as if we had all traveled back in time to the Carl Franks era of Duke football, a period defined by mistakes and winless seasons. The Blue Devils appeared to be playing not to lose, highlighted by the overly vanilla and poorly executed game plan. Those around the program simply shook their head and thought, “Duke should be better than that. This shouldn’t be a bad football team.”
A week later, Duke welcomes #6 Stanford and Heisman favorite Andrew Luck to Wallace Wade Stadium. Most Duke fans, and even some media members, fear a repeat of last year’s disaster against Alabama, where the game was seemingly over for the Blue Devils before the ball was snapped. Sure enough, the Cardinal came out and caught Duke off guard with a trick play, ultimately driving the field for an opening touchdown and 7-0 lead. Here we go again. Instead, Sean Renfree leads Duke on a 9-play, 70 yard drive on their first possession to set up a FG. Will Snyderwine, last week’s goat, comes in and misses yet another chip shot FG. Here we go again. Instead, Duke’s much-maligned defense makes the Heisman contender look uncomfortable for the next 4 possessions, coming up with 2 sacks, and 3 QB hits. Senior safety Lee Butler caps off the improbable start with a 76-yard interception returned for a TD. Duke recovers an onside kick after the PAT, and Wallace Wade is rocking with belief. The Blue Devils appear to be the aggressor and Duke is ready to compete with the #6 team in the country.
Of course, that didn’t last long, as things quickly turned on the Blue Devils and they were unable to sustain their early momentum. The offensive line stumbles and the Duke drive stalls to close the half. Andrew Luck then returns to his Heisman-caliber form and leads the Cardinal to a 17-7 halftime lead. The 2nd half is dominated by Stanford, with the lone bright spot being a late 4th quarter TD drive engineered by redshirt-freshman QB Anthony Boone. The final score is a lopsided 44-14, and unanswered questions still abound about the state of the program.
Was that momentary flash – when we all started to believe – was that real?
Who is this Duke team? Are they the team that disrupted the Stanford offense and drove the length of the field with ease to open the game? Are they just the same old Duke, characterized by mistakes and missed opportunities?
Has progress been made? It is clear that significant improvements and investments have been made made off the field, but that hasn’t yet translated into wins, the ultimate measuring stick. It’s been an uphill battle, but Duke must continue to persevere and get better every day – on the field, in the coaching box, and on the recruiting trail. You either get better or you get worse. What will it be for you, Duke Football?
The Blue Devils are entering the most crucial part of their schedule, with 3 very winnable games leading into the bye week. Many of our questions about Duke will be answered, beginning with this week’s trip to 0-2 Boston College, followed by a homecoming game against Tulane and then a trip to surging Florida International. The Blue Devils must emerge from these three games with at least a 2-3 record, and should be capable of entering their bye week at 3-2 if they work hard to improve their red zone efficiency. After opening 0-2, 3 straight wins would be strong evidence that progress has, in fact, been made.
The Blue Devils secured a commitment from the nation’s top high school kicker over the summer in Ross Martin of Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Martin told BDN earlier this summer that Duke has “always sort of been my dream school, because of the combination of world-class academics and D1 ACC football.” With the impending graduation of senior Will Snyderwine, Martin will have an immediate opportunity to contribute to the Blue Devil program in 2012, but first, he has big goals for his senior season at Walsh Jesuit. Since BDN last spoke with Ross, he has been named an Under Armour All-American, and nailed a game-winning 29-yard field goal in his season opener.
Ross checked in with BDN this week to update Duke fans on the start to his season:
Week One Game Summary: Our season opener against the Louisville Leopards ended in a thrilling finish, as I drilled a last second game-winning field goal as time expired to seal the win for the Warriors. We were down 26-24 with 2 seconds on the clock when I hit a 29 yard FG to win the game 27-26 as time expired. I also made my only other field goal attempt from 42 yards to take the early lead 3-0 in the first quarter. I kept Louisville pinned back all night with my kickoffs and punts, as they never started any drives from beyond their own 20 yard line. I earned the team award for special teams player of the week and was selected as Player of the Game by WHBC who provided local televised coverage of the game.
Week Two Game Summary:Our second game was another big rivalry game vs. St. Vincent St. Mary. Falling behind early by a score of 28-3 the Walsh Jesuit Warriors engineered a great comeback and fought back with passion to pull within two points of the Saints with the Warriors falling in a tough loss 48-46. I earned the team award for special teams player of the week.
Week Three Game Summary:Last night we hosted the defending State Champions, Columbus Bishop Watterson. It was another tight game going down to the last few seconds with us connecting on a 15 yard pass for a touchdown with 35 seconds remaining to take the lead 26-24, which was also the final score of the game. We now have a record of 2-1 on the season. I was 2 for 3 on field goals, hitting from 35 and 34 yards, and the one that I missed was on a mishandled snap that was laying flat on the ground instead of standing upright. On the season I’m now 5 of 6 on field goals with conversions made from 42, 35, 34, 29, and 27 yards. I also went 2 for 2 on PAT’s last night and am now 10 for 10 on the season and extending my high school career streak to a perfect 54 for 54. In addition, I had another great night of punting for the Warriors with an average of 48 yards on 4 punts and a long of 61 yards.
PAT’s: 10 for 10 (Extending perfect HS career streak to 54 for 54)
FG’s: 5 for 6 (42, 35, 34, 29, 27)
KO’s: 10 of 12 for touchbacks
Punting: Average Distance: 42 yards / Long: 61
Thanks for checking in with us, Ross! Enjoy your bye week and good luck against Lake Catholic on September 24!
BDN will have periodic updates from Ross and his future 2012 Duke classmates throughout the season.