Duke emerged the victor in Chestnut Hill this afternoon with a 20-19 victory over the Boston College Eagles. It was an up-and-down game for both sides, but the Blue Devils were able to persevere.
Miscues in the kicking game were the story for both teams, highlighted by Nate Freese's 23-yard FG try off the left upright with 43 seconds remaining. Freese also had a costly missed extra point earlier in the game. Duke had more than its fair share of kicking struggles, headlined by a blocked Alex King punt, a missed 33-yard FG by Jeff Ijjas, and a kickoff out of bounds by Paul Asack. Duke may have come away with the victory, but the question marks in the kicking game persist, and one has to wonder how long Duke can leave freshman Will Monday on the sideline if Will Snyderwine remains injured.
Killer V's back on track
After an inconsistent start to the season, Duke's dynamic receiving duo returned to their All-ACC form on Saturday, finishing with 18 catches and 194 receiving yards combined. Both took a few hard hits from the BC defense, but managed to secure the football and move the chains. Junior Conner Vernon had two impressive TD catches and finished with 6 catches and 112 yards. Senior Donovan Varner had his best game of the season and a career-high 12 catches. Brandon Braxton added 9 catches for 60 yards and tight end Cooper Helfet finished with 6 receptions for 59 yards. Juwan Thompson had 104 all-purpose yards, and overall, the Duke offense racked up 465 yards of total offense.
Renfree gets his mojo back
The story of the day for the Blue Devils, however, was the play of Duke QB Sean Renfree, who finally put up the kind of numbers Duke fans have come to expect from the redshirt-junior. Despite hit after hit from Luke Kuechly and the BC defense, Renfree stood strong and finished with 40 completions, 359 yards, and 2 touchdowns. His 1 interception came on a tipped pass that certainly could have been caught. Perhaps most importantly, it was Renfree, and not redshirt-freshman Anthony Boone, who pushed his way far enough into the end zone for the go-ahead 1-yard TD in the 4th quarter. This definitely was a performance for the second-year starting QB to build on.
Duke fans have seen their share of close losses over the years, and it certainly seemed like this was shaping up to be another heartbreaker. Instead, the disappointment falls on Boston College, who squandered their opportunity to win in the final seconds. The Blue Devils, however, made things difficult on themselves with numerous costly mistakes. In addition to the kicking woes, the Blue Devils were whistled for 9 devastating penalties for 79 yards. At least three of those penalties negated first downs for the offense, and a personal foul on the final BC drive nearly cost the game. The Blue Devils will have to eliminate these costly mistakes if they hope to play winning football. Fans and players should enjoy this victory today, and carry the good vibes into next weekend against Tulane. Starting tomorrow, however, it is back to work for #dukegang.
Are you ready for some more football, Blue Devil Nation? Alright, I'll concede that Mark Watson's Peach Jam coverage has been out of this world this week, and things are really heating up for Duke basketball. So once you’ve had a chance to read and re-read all of that great coverage, get ready for a little Duke football. Duke football season is fast approaching, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. So get on board! Season tickets and new 3-game ticket packs are on sale now at GoDuke.com, or through the Duke Ticket Office at (919) 681-BLUE.
To preview the 2011 Duke football season, BDN is teaming up with other college football insiders to give an in-depth look at Duke's opponents. We kicked off our series earlier this month with a look at Richmond and Stanford, and continue this week with Duke's ACC opener at Boston College.
Duke fell to the Eagles in 2010 in Durham, 21-15. If it wasn't for a late goal line stand by LB Luke Kuechly and the BC defense, the Blue Devils may have pulled off the upset behind one of their better defensive efforts of the year. What should we expect from the 2011 matchup? We brought in BC insider BCHysteria of BC Interruption to help us preview the 2011 Eagles.
BDN: When looking at Boston College, we have to start with their defense. The defense loses senior leader Mark Herzlich this year and returns only 5 starters. We know how good All-American LB Luke Kuechly is, but who else is expected to step up for the Eagles, and what question marks remain heading into August?
There are a few names that you will need to know going into the 2011 season. First of all Kevin Pierre Louis is coming off a fantastic season where he logged in 93 tackles. Mix him in with Kuechly and BC should have a very dynamic linebacking corps this season. Another player that you should look out for is corner back Donnie Fletcher, who led the Eagles in interceptions last year. I expect big things out of him this season. One of the biggest questions for the Eagles has to be their defensive line, which is filled with unknowns. Max Holloway led the team last year in sacks, is returning, along with Kaleb Ramsey, but the rest remains one giant question mark. Who will step up on the line?
BDN: After an inconsistent 2010, there were mixed reports regarding the BC offense coming out of spring practice. With nine starters returning, including the dynamic rushing duo of Montel Harris and Andrew Williams along with a more experienced QB in Chase Rettig, what changes do you expect to see in the offense under new coordinator Kevin Rogers this fall?
Reports have come out that Rogers isn't going to be tweaking the offense that much from the style they played last year. Meaning a pro style passing game, with a few wrinkles here and there, but he's not going to suddenly turn the style into an Option style. During the spring game he did show some different looks like 5 WR sets which we did not see last year. I think what frustrated BC fans last year was a stale, predictable game plan and with Gary Tranquill gone, we hope to see that change this year. Hopefully that means much more success through the air and more points on the board.
BDN: After making two straight ACC championship games in 2007 and 2008, the Eagles seemed to take a small step back the past two years. With a tough road schedule in 2011, what are the expectations for the 2011 season? Which games are the most crucial on the Eagles' schedule?
That is the million dollar question haunting BC fans right now. We have watched the Eagles continue to step backwards (mostly on offense), but with Rogers will this change? BC has a very tough schedule this year starting with two solid out of conference opponents in Northwestern and UCF. Those two games could easily dictate the tempo of the season. Another important stretch for BC will be their October slate which includes Clemson, VT, Maryland and Wake Forest. If BC can take at least two of those, they will be in good shape to at least a bowl. So basically if BC starts off slow, they could easily finish 5-7, but if they turn it around like I hope they will 8-4 might be a possibility.
BDN: Due to the new ACC scheduling, Duke and Boston College have been relative strangers in recent years. Duke last traveled to Chestnut Hill in 2006, and the Eagles have won the last 4 games in the series, though Duke did give the Eagles a scare in Durham last fall. What are your predictions for this year's matchup in Chestnut Hill? What does BC need to do against the Blue Devils to prevent an upset?
Last year was one of the scariest/frustrating games for BC fans. BC basically handed that game to Duke. If BC wants to win this year they are going to need to contain David Cutcliffe, last year Sean Renfree had his way against the Eagles secondary in the 2nd half. BC also has to not be stupid with the ball, Montel Harris' fumbled twice in the red zone. He is a much better running back than he showed in that game, and if he can hold on to the ball I expect BC to control the tempo of the game. I dont need to tell you, but Duke's defense was putried last year, if BC's offense can turn around their equally putrid offense, they should win.
BDN: With a stingy defense and a new-look offense, Boston College will be a tough early season matchup for the Blue Devils. How do you expect teams to try and attack the Eagles' defense this season? What will be the best way to slow Montel Harris and the Eagles' offense?
BC's defensive achilles heel has always been through the air. If you can get the ball in the air, and avoid the pressure you can beat the BC corners. This may change this year with a new look secondary, led by Fletcher, but keep your eye on highly recruited DB Albert Jean Louis. He is a hard hitter, who may keep opposing QB's from looking his way. Montel Harris can be stopped, and many teams found that out last year. Just frustrate Rettig, force him into a few bad decisions, and Spaz will hand the ball off incessantly to Harris. Harris wears down rather easily, and when D's know what’s coming, they can load the box up and stuff him. Happened most of last season.
On Saturday, Boston College will make their first trip to Wallace Wade Stadium to face the Blue Devils. With both teams riding two game winning streaks, Blue Devil Nation and Boston College Interruption exchanged questions to get reacquainted. Our answers can be found at the BC Interruption blog.
BDN: Many predicted Boston College to finish near the top of a seemingly wide-open Atlantic division this season. What were your expectations heading into this season for Frank Spaziani's 2nd year, and how would you evaluate the season thus far? What went wrong during the 5 game losing streak, and what has been the difference the last two weeks?
BCI: Many predicted BC to finish near the top of the Atlantic Division this year, true. And because we are homers, we figured BC would actually win the Atlantic Division heading into the season. Things seemed to line up perfectly for the Eagles. We got back our All-American ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich, who missed the entire 2009 season battling Ewing’s Sarcoma. We had four home games to start the season, and an extra week to prepare for our Coastal Division rivals Virginia Tech. From the Coastal Division, BC drew both Duke and Virginia. The pieces seemed to be in place to have a run at the Division title with a record of 9-3 or 10-2.
This season has been a big disappointment. While BC can still eke out 3 more wins to finish the season 7-5, I don’t think anyone really expected us to have that record when the season began. Certainly we didn’t expect to go through a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season as recent history has certainly been kind to the Eagles.
The difference the last two weeks was a combination of things. One is the schedule lightened up a bit. The other is that BC finally settled on a quarterback after giving Dave Shinskie the keys to the offense for the first three games of the season.
BDN: After helping Boston College to 8 wins in his first year, Dave Shinskie has been replaced by freshman Chase Rettig. Can you elaborate on the quarterback situation and give us a brief scouting report on Rettig's college career so far?
BCI: The short of it is that the BC coaching staff thought Dave Shinskie would at least be serviceable this year and that they could save Chase Rettig, arguably the future of the program, for another year by redshirting him. Through the first three games of the season, it became very clear the neither Shinskie nor Mike Marscovetra was the long-term answer for BC.
BC started Chase Rettig after the 19-0 loss to Virginia Tech, against Notre Dame on Saturday night in primetime. Basically, the coaching staff through Rettig to the fire on a week where we had a non-conference game before we entered into a stretch of five ACC Atlantic Division games that would quickly decide whether the Eagles would compete again for an Atlantic Division title. We liked what we saw from Rettig in the Notre Dame game. That is, the few snaps he took before leaving that game with an ankle injury.
Rettig didn’t play the following week at N.C. State, but did get his next start at Florida State. Rettig has played well and is slowly progressing as the week’s go by. It also helps that the competition has lessened as the Eagles have progressed through the season.
As Rettig gets more and more in-game experience, he’ll continue to develop with the offensive line and our very young, inexperienced receiving corps. He’s shown some progress and glimpses of brilliance at QB, but other times he’s certainly played like a kid who was playing high school ball last fall.
BDN: Montel Harris is obviously having an All-ACC caliber year, leading the conference in rushing yards. His workload has seemingly increased as the season has progressed, with over 30 carries in each of his last two games. How much of the offensive load is he carrying and how can anyone slow him down?
BCI: Montel Harris is indeed carrying a bulk of the offensive load. I think the combination of very tall offensive linemen and a small, shifty running back has been very successful for BC. By the time opposing linebackers spot Montel, he’s usually already broken through the defensive line, allowing him to gain 4-5 yards a run. Harris has good football instincts and can find the gaps in the line, though BC has been less effective spreading the field and running around the corner and much more effective running north-south.
Early in the season, the Boston College offensive line struggled to establish the run (or the pass, for that matter). They’ve just started to put things together. When the O-line is on their A-game, it becomes very difficult to stop Montel. The only hope opposing defenses have is to stack the box, try to take away the run and ask Rettig to beat you through the air.
BDN: Boston College is seemingly always among the defensive leaders in the ACC and the country. With talented and physical players like Albright, Kuechly, and Herzlich, how much of the success to you attribute to personnel and how much is scheme? How would you characterize the general defensive philosophy these Boston College teams seem to embrace?
BCI: There are two things that I think has made the BC defense so successful over the years. One thing is consistency. Spaziani is a great defensive mind and has been on the Heights for 13 seasons now. While he’s now HC, he still very much has his hands on the defensive side of the ball, and our new defensive coordinator Billy McGovern has been afforded the opportunity to work with Spaz for many seasons now.
Spaz has been able to build up one of the best defenses in the country over the past decade and I think that brand equity has been huge on the recruiting trail. There are clearly some inherent disadvantages to college football recruiting at a school like BC or Duke, and I think the fact that Spaz has established BC as a very strong defensive team has been huge for the program in recruiting.
The other thing I would point to is BC’s recruiting pipelines. Like I said, a BC or a Duke isn’t going to recruit the best athletes on the defensive side of the ball, but BC has been able to establish some very nice pipelines that continue to bring in very good defensive players. The Cincinnati / Ohio pipeline is one that Tom O’Brien worked to establish in the early 2000s that is still paying off to this day. (That’s where BC found tackling machine and sophomore LB Luke Kuechly). I think BC’s annual game against a MAC opponent and the ties to Catholic high schools in the area have helped develop this pipeline, too.
As for whether or not the success is a result of personnel or scheme, I think it’s a bit of both. Spaz and the Eagles D employs a ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ mentality. They give up the short-yardage plays but rarely give up the HR play. Eventually, the offense is going to get tripped up on third downs and be forced to punt. It’s been successful for over a decade now, and has been the most successful against the run. The Eagles defenses continue to rank in the Top 25 (and Top 10 this year and the past few years) in rushing defense.
BDN: Duke and Boston College last met in 2006, which is the only time the teams have played since the 1920s, so these teams do not know each other well. What do you expect to see on Saturday from Duke and Boston College?
BCI: I pretty much expect a repeat of last Saturday’s BC performance. Establish the run and control the tempo of the game on offense with a heavy dose of Montel Harris. I don’t think OC Gary Tranquill will ask Chase Rettig to do too, too much, daring the Duke front seven to stop the run first.
I think BC will get a couple of touchdowns on the ground with Montel and will probably score some points on defense too (BC is tied with Florida for a nation-best 17 interceptions on the season). I think Duke will put up more points than Wake Forest did, but I don’t think it will come anywhere close to the point total you guys have put up against the bottom tier of the ACC (read: Wake Forest and Virginia). If pressed for a final score, I’ll say BC wins 31-20.
The Duke basketball and football teams both play in what will be a busy weekend ahead for Blue Devil fans and both games should prove to be quite interesting. In this weeks edition of Monday Musings we'll take a look at the week ahead, offer thoughts on the programs and of course there is our Cheerleader of the Week.
Where were the students?
On a crisp Autumn day in Wallace Wade Stadium, the Duke football team was going back in forth with Virginia in what was an exciting offensive showdown where the Blue Devils came out on top 55-48. At the start of the game, there may have been 50 students max in the stands and some in the press box thought that number would grow and it did, by maybe 100 and I do mean maybe 100 more. Meanwhile the football team played with a lot of heart and won a thrilling victory in the last minute of the ball game and they deserved better support. Despite the lack of students, the ones who there in faith were shown appreciation as the team and Coach went over to celebrate their victory. I have attended games for a long time and the students were not born for some of them. With that in consideration, I can tell you that I have never seen such lack of support as was witnessed this past Saturday. We live in a day when Duke practically has to bribe and coddle the student body to get them to show up at what should be a traditional gathering. And the scary part is there seems to be no obvious solution. If you are a student and reading this, how about supporting Duke against Boston College for a win would give the Devils a three game winning streak and their second straight ACC win. It'd be a lot easier to accomplish if there were more support.
Meanwhile, Duke opens the men's basketball season
During the ACC Media Day in Charlotte, North Carolina I asked Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski if it were hard to put last season behind him, thinking his answer might be yes. Nah! He's beamed in and ready to embark on the 2010-11 season where the Blue Devils will this time start the season where they left off, that being number one in the country. Duke will miss graduated seniors Brian Zoubek, who attend the exhibition win over Cal Poly, Jon Scheyer who by the way suffered a really devastating eye injury since and Lance "Hustle Bunny," Thomas. But the Blue Devils reloaded with guy named Kyrie Irving, a really talented, sometimes dazzling point guard, Josh Hairtson and Tyler Thornton to go with the returning cast which features All Americans in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. The first victim will be Princeton this coming Sunday in a game televised by ESPNU which starts at 5:00. Duke will then turn right around and take on Miami of Ohio on Tuesday. Do you think the aforementioned students will be in Cameron for the opener?
Before the tip off to the basketball season, Boston College invades Wallace Wade
In the pre-season I picked Boston College second in their division [and I wasn't alone] for there was a lot of returning talent on the team. The Eagles stumbled early on, but they are now talking bowl and winning out and they are licking their chops thinking they'll take care of business starting with Duke. Does it seem like it's been a long time since the schools played? Well, it has for Duke has played them one time since their conference arrival, a 28-7 loss in 2006. Anyhow, this is a key contest for both schools in many ways. Duke wants to close out the season with some momentum while Boston College wants to atone for early season woes. The Eagles have won two straight ACC games with their latest victim being Wake Forest, a team which Duke lost a heartbreaker to.
Duke Basketball will be tested early
This seasons edition of the men's basketball team will face several early tests in November and early December. Not that we want to overlook some teams but games with Marquette, Gonzaga or Kansas State, Oregon on the road for Kyle Singler's homecoming all in November. And December brings the #2 Michigan State into Cameron and a rematch with Butler in East Rutherford, N.J. That's two top 10 teams and two top 25 teams and two just outside of the rankings in short time.
And there will be great catastrophes and rumors of ...
This past weekend an ESPN Insider speculated on a certain Duke guard transferring. Not long ago, the media giant started running rumors across the ticker. Rumors set forth tremors in fan bases and the sky is falling crew just know there has to be something to every little whim, right? Well, of course they do and that fuels other fans paranoia more often than not. The mere fact that some rumors are proven to be true seems to justify each and every one be examined under a microscope, despite the fact that the majority of them, like 90% or better are just bunk. I mean opposing fan bases are constantly planting stuff about one another on the wild, wild west like world wide web. This especially holds true on the recruiting front where a certain anonymous poster can say something and it ripples through message boards like fire in a dry forest.
And if you run a web site, you will find that no matter how ridiculous some of them are, you are expected to acknowledge each and every rumor to the tune of numerous questions and the aforementioned "Chicken Little" fans. Oh, and they can be justified for this poster on so and so's board got one right. Folks, I am here to tell you that people have selective memories. If you are in my position, they only remember the very few things I have gotten wrong. Heck, sometimes people even say I gave them a guarantee from lack of comprehension and again, they read what they want to and can reconstruct what you say to fit their selective views. So facts? What are they and do people even care anymore?
The BDN staff starting having to address rumors from other message boards, so much so that we started a separate "rumors," board for unsubstantiated blurbs in an effort to keep fact and fiction apart. Our policy is if there is something out there we'll let you know asap, but if not, or it is another ridiculous rumor we simply will not address the issue and that serves as a message there is nothing to it. But just as some want to remember your misses and or supposed misses others want to just see rumors as being true, by not only overlooking but avoiding some of the facts. When ESPN starts running rumors over the ticker wire, it just opens the flood gates for others to do so and we hope they reconsider before they to have to start a separate rumor central area like we have done. Our motto has long been we deal in fact not fiction and we'll stick by that by stating if what we say is speculation it'll be clear to you and when we are emphatic about say a recruiting or other tidbits, you can take it to the bank.
In closing, thanks for your continued support and visiting the Blue Devil Nation for we all make up that nation. Have a good week ahead, support the Blue Devils and check back in next week for another edition of Monday Musings and of course the Cheerleader of the Week.
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Duke will take to the court for the first time in the 2009 ACC Tournament where they will face Boston College in the nightcap. The Blue Devils will try to avenge a loss in Chestnut Hill when they take on Boston College. The Eagles had little problem defeating Virginia 76-63 to make it into the quarter final match up.
The Eagles shot lights out from the free throw line going 31 of 36 for 86% in their first round win. They also saved their legs playing nine players, but part of that was due to foul trouble. Tyrese Rice exploded on the Blue Devils in the second half in the teams last outing and with him going just 1 of 7 from the field against Virginia, you can bet he will wake up against the Devils. It's worth noting that Rice did go 7 of 8 from the free throw stripe.
One of the players who led the Boston College comeback win in the first meeting was Rakim Sanders. The athletic swing player must be contained. He killed the Wahoo's on several occasions and his ability to get to the rim and get his shot off can cause problems.
Duke will likely counter Sanders with Gerald Henderson. "G" was as good as any player in the conference down the stretch, but he struggled in his last game out against North Carolina. Duke will need Henderson to return to form on the offensive end.
Joe Trapani had one of his best games of the season versus Duke in Chestnut Hill. He's versatile and has to be watched inside and out. Kyle Singler will be counted on to slow him down, but we all know that the Duke defense switches at will and while he will start out on Trapani, help defense is the key.
Much has been made of Singler tiring down the stretch, but his last outing showed no signs of fatigue. Singler, along with Scheyer and Henderson are Dukes most consistent players and Duke fares well when all of them play well on the same night.
The return of Nolan Smith will certainly help with depth, but he will likely be a bit rusty. Duke got little production from the bench in the UNC game, so all eyes will be on Paulus, Zoubek and company.
Zoubek could play a big role, especially when Josh Southern is in the game for BC. Duke will also have to keep an eye on Corey Radji, a streaky player which bolsters their front line.
The Eagles are assured of an NCAA berth win or lose and come into the game 10-7 versus ACC competition and 22-10 overall. They have a win over #1 rated UNC in Chapel Hill to their credit which shows what they are capable of doing.
Al Skinner has a team that never gives up. In other words, they'll keep playing hard no matter how many points they are down. In short, Duke will have to match their toughness with just that and intensity.
Two bright spots for Duke coming in is the play of Jon Scheyer and freshman Elliot Williams. Williams didn't get off the bench in the first game and he will add a new dimensions to the game.
Scheyer has handled the point guard duties masterfully. Since he took over the point and Williams was inserted, the Blue Devils have had much fewer turnovers. It will be important to protect the ball and keep the Eagles off the line. It would also help to get to the line.
Coach K and his staff has had time to prepare and while many are making this game out to be a revenge game, the Dukies will likely treat it differently than the fans might. Look for the Blue Devils to try and get many players involved early on and implement their will of how they want the game played.
Duke doesn't have a luxury of having a game under their belt, but then again the Eagles didn't get an extra day of rest. Duke may struggle early in the cavernous dome setting for they have spent little time on the court. Duke had a slightly longer lay off than they are accustomed to as well.
I think Boston College will give Duke their best shot, but that the Devils will find a way to advance and should get better production from their bench in this game. The pick here is Duke 79 Boston College 71