Tag Archives: Donovan Varner

Duke travels to Atlanta to face the Ramblin' Wreck this Saturday.

Blue Devils will host Georgia Tech for Senior Day

Duke will host the Ramblin' Wreck on Senior Day this Saturday.

Duke (3-7, 1-5 ACC) will look to turn their season around on Senior Day this Saturday when they host Georgia Tech (7-3, 4-3 ACC) in Wallace Wade Stadium. While many Duke fans may be tempted to look ahead to basketball season, there are two final chances to watch the Duke senior class with the most wins since 1995 take to the gridiron. This Duke senior class is headlined by All-ACC stars Matt Daniels and Donovan Varner, but also includes 18 other tremendous student-athletes who will leave the Blue Devil Football Program in a much better place than they found it four years ago. Thank you, seniors!

GAME INFO

Georgia Tech at Duke

12:30 PM ET, Saturday, November 19

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network; Sirius XM Radio (Channels 94 & 193)
TV: ACC Network – Tim Brant (Play-by-play), Dave Archer (Analyst) and Mike Hogewood (Sideline)
Internet: GoDuke.com; theACC.com

KEYS FOR DUKE

1. Win the line of scrimmage: Broken record time, but seriously. Football is won and lost in the trenches, especially against the Georgia Tech option offense. The Yellow Jackets bring in the top rushing offense in the ACC, averaging just under 320 yards per game. It’s a five-headed monster for Georgia Tech on the ground, led by Tevin Washington, who averages over 70 yards per game, along with 4 other players who average over 30 yards per game in David Sims, Orwin Smith, Embry Peeples, and Roddy Jones. While fans can argue the merits of the Georgia Tech offense, the bottom line is it is effective and will challenge the Duke defense for 60 minutes. If the Yellow Jackets’ big, physical linemen are able to control this game, it will be a long afternoon for the Blue Devils. Conversely, with an offense that is difficult to get off the field, the key for Duke will be getting into the backfield and forcing fumbles. With the number of pitches in the option offense, the Yellow Jackets are prone to putting the ball on the ground (GT has 23 fumbles on the year) and Duke will have to capitalize (GT has lost just 8 fumbles overall).

Tevin Washington leads an explosive Georgia Tech offense

2. Explosive plays: Georgia Tech brings in one of the most explosive offensive units in the conference, averaging over 36 points per game and nearly 6 yards per carry on the ground. WR Stephen Hill is the top threat through the air, though his production has dropped off in ACC play. Still, the Yellow Jackets’ offense leads the ACC in yards per play both on the ground (5.8) and through the air (11.6). Those are scary numbers for a Duke defense that is banged up across the board. With key injuries to the defensive line and in the secondary, and the potential absence of both starting linebackers, Duke will need to find several unsung heroes on defense. Expect Matt Daniels to be used heavily against the run, as the Blue Devils will have to gamble and hope that Ross Cockrell can handle Hill in single coverage.

3. Duke on offense: Which Duke offense will we see on Saturday? Will they put together a full 60 minute effort? Georgia Tech is allowing nearly 25 points and over 360 yards of total offense on the season, so opportunities will be there for the Blue Devils to score points. The Blue Devils had the Yellow Jackets on the ropes a year ago in Atlanta, but a costly turnover killed their upset hopes. If Duke can take care of the football and put together 60 minutes of offense, they could find some redemption on Saturday.

Thank you, seniors! -BDN Photo

WHAT TO WATCH

1. Special seniors: It was alluded to in the opening, but bears repeating. This will be the last home game for a Duke senior class that has won 15 games over the past four years. Kyle Hill will watch his Senior Day from the sidelines, ending an impressive streak of 46 straight starts on the Duke offensive line. The remaining seniors will put forth an inspired performance as they look to end their careers with a big upset win in Wallace Wade Stadium. The Blue Devils will graduate 20 student-athletes from the program on Saturday: Paul Asack, Matt Daniels, Jeff Faris, Guillermo Freile, Ryan Hall, Charlie Hatcher, Cooper Helfet, Kyle Hill, Jay Hollingsworth, Jeffrey Ijjas, Alex King, Jon Needham, Danny Parker, George Pearkes, Kevin Rojas, Preston Scott, Will Snyderwine, Josh Trezvant, Donovan Varner, and Johnny Williams. Thank you, Seniors!

2. More records: Last week, Duke fans watched as senior WR Donovan Varner became the all-time school receptions leader. Varner will look to add to that record over his final two games, but will also look to set a new school record with a catch on Saturday. Last Saturday, Varner caught a pass in his 35th consecutive game, tying Scottie Montgomery for the all-time Duke record. Also on Saturday, Varner and Vernon will look to become Duke’s top all-time receiving duo if the pair haul in 5 catches.

3. All-American: Senior Matt Daniels has put together an impressive career at Duke, topped off with an outstanding senior campaign. The quarterback of the Duke defense, Daniels is 2nd in the country in pass break-ups, passes defended, and tackles by a defensive back. Throughout his career, whenever the Blue Devils have needed a stop, it seems that Matt Daniels is there. He has been a tremendous leader for this program and will almost certainly be playing on Sundays next year.

PREDICTION

A year ago, the Blue Devils faced three option offenses, but this season, just one. The option offense is difficult to prepare for and with a plethora of injuries on both sides of the ball, Georgia Tech will represent a significant challenge for Duke. Duke should have success moving the ball against Georgia Tech if they stick to an aggressive gameplan; expect another big day for Duke’s “Killer V’s.” An emotional pair of seniors in Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will try to will the Blue Devils’ defense to an upset victory, but the explosive Yellow Jacket offense will still find its way into the end zone.

Georgia Tech 35, Duke 24

Stats Update: Blue Devils Shine in the Red Zone

With wins over Tulane and Florida International, Duke heads into their Bye Week with a 3-2 record riding a three game win streak. In the two wins, the Blue Devils racked up 868 yards total offense and scored 79 points, while allowing Tulane and Florida International to combine for 886 yards total offense and 54 points.

Vast Improvement

Seeing as Red Zone performance was prominently featured in “The Ugly” section of this season’s first stats article, it seems appropriate to address the team’s success at the top of this update. Duke scored on all 10 Red Zone possessions in the last two games. Eight of the ten scores were touchdowns. Juwan Thompson ran for four touchdowns of 20, 9, 6 and 1 yards. The ability to successfully run the ball in the Red Zone is a development, which should pay huge dividends in the future.

Duke made all four field goals attempted in the two games. Will Snyderwine made three successful kicks and Jeffrey Ijjas was successful on one kick.

While Duke has shown vast improvement in these two areas, it is worth noting they still rank last in the ACC in these categories due to the bad start so it is important for the team to maintain improved performance.

Key Team Accomplishments

Obviously, the most relevant team accomplishment the past two weeks was winning the games. In the final analysis, the final score is the most important statistic.

Passing Offense improved from 297 to 311 yards per game. Duke is now ranked three of 12 in the ACC (up from number five) and 19 of 120 nationally (up from number 25). Numbers for Total Offense are also impressive with Duke’s 409 yards per game ranks six of 12 in the ACC and 56 of 120 nationally.

The ability to sustain long drives results in Duke being ranked two of 12 in the ACC and number 17 of 120 nationally in Time of Possession at 32 minutes and 56 seconds per game. Against Tulane, the Blue Devils reeled off touchdown drives of 18, 12 and 9 plays; while against Florida International they had an 11 play drive which ended with a field goal.

Duke’s four touchdown drives in the FIU game were short drives of 1, 3, 4 and 5 plays.

Even though Duke achieved success running the ball in the Red Zone the past two weeks, overall Rushing Offense remains a concern. At 97 yards per game, Duke is 11 of 12 in the ACC and number 108 nationally.

Key Individual Accomplishments

Conner Vernon leads the ACC in Receptions per Game. His 6.8 receptions per game place him at number 23 in the nation. Vernon is also third in the ACC in Receiving Yards per Game at 101.

Matt Daniels leads the ACC in Passes Defended. His 1.8 passes defended per game place him at number five in the nation. Additionally, he is sixth in the ACC in Tackles with 48.

Sean Renfree is third in the ACC in Passing Average per Game. His 272.2 passing yards per game place him at number 25 in the nation.

Jamison Crowder is sixth in the ACC in Kick Return Average and ninth in the ACC in All Purpose Yards. He is averaging 21.8 yards per kick return and 127.4 all purpose yards per game.

Alex King is fifth in the ACC in Punting averaging 41.2 yards per punt.

Donovan Varner is seventh in the ACC in Receptions per Game at 5.8.

Moving Forward

The next three games will be played in Wallace Wade Stadium so Duke will have home field advantage accompanying momentum gained during the current three game win streak. It is time for the Blue Devils to step up and record a signature victory in order to make the rest of the ACC sit up and take notice. The first opportunity will be on October 15th against the Florida State Seminoles.

Duke QB Sean Renfree had another big game against FIU -BDN Photo

Duke players discuss the Blue Devils’ comeback win at FIU

MIAMI- BDN has complete postgame coverage of Duke’s thrilling 31-27 victory over FIU. It was a happy locker room and the Blue Devils will carry their good vibes into the off week with a tough FSU team looming October 15.

Donovan Varner

Sean Renfree

Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo

FIU hosts Duke on October 1 for a Homecoming night game in Miami

BDN Previews Duke’s week 5 trip to FIU

FIU hosts Duke on October 1 for a Homecoming night game in Miami

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.

FIU's T.Y. Hilton is one of the top players in all of college football

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.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

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.

Sacks

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.

3rd Down

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.

Explosives

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.

Rushing TDs

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.

Field Goals

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.

Penalties

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.

PREDICTION

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 31, FIU 27

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