Tag Archives: Duke Football 2011

Duke and Virginia look headed for another thriller in Wallace Wade Stadium -Lance Images

Duke Football will look to make it 4 in a row against Virginia on November 12

Duke's Desmond Scott dove for the game-winning TD last year against UVA -Lance Images

The Blue Devils emerged victorious against the Cavaliers in a shootout last year in Durham. RB Desmond Scott’s late touchdown run put the Blue Devils ahead and capped the thrilling 55-48 victory. Under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, Duke is 3-0 against Virginia, and will travel to Charlottesville on November 12th to try and extend that streak, while the Cavaliers will certainly be looking for revenge.

This week, BDN welcomes back Kris Wright, editor of TheSabre.com, to answer a few questions about the 2011 Virginia football team.

BDN: The 2010 Cavaliers had an up-and-down injury-plagued season, but return a veteran group of 18 starters in 2011. The depth chart on both sides of the ball is filled with upperclassmen, led by All-ACC candidates Chase Minnifield, Cam Johnson, and Kris Burd. What are the keys for this Virginia team? How good can they be?

The biggest key for this team is doing better with the big play. The defense allowed a ton of big plays last season, including quite a few against Duke, that cost the team a lot of points. Still, the coaches believe those mistakes are correctable and that when the defense played well last season, it played really well. Offensively, UVa ranked last in the ACC in scoring plays of more than 25 yards so that meant the offense had to sustain long drives all the way into the red zone and then execute to score. If some playmakers can crank out some big plays to help put up points, it would take some pressure off the whole team. Long story short: big plays influenced a lot of outcomes for Virginia last season and that’s one area that could improve the overall results. So how good can the Cavaliers be? With a favorable schedule set-up (3 non-conference home games and arguably the most winnable ACC games at home), they have a shot at bowl eligibility in 2011.

Sophomore Michael Rocco appears to be the front-runner for the UVA QB job -TheSabre.com

BDN: Quarterback is undoubtedly the biggest question mark for the 2011 Cavaliers, and it appears to be an interesting competition, to say the least. Recently, it appears that sophomore Michael Rocco has emerged as the leading candidate. Given the overall youth and inexperience at the position, can you give us a brief scouting report on Rocco and the UVA QBs? 

TheSabre.com has projected Michael Rocco as the likely starter since early in spring practice and he does appear to have emerged as the week one starter for now. From a football family full of high school coaches, Rocco has a high football IQ so he processes schemes and reads defenses well. With a decent amount of arm strength thrown in, he looks like a guy that can deliver the ball to a growing list of playmaking options on offense. The debate for the No. 2 QB slot right now is between true freshman and January enrollee David Watford and redshirt sophomore Ross Metheny. Watford is a dual threat quarterback that has good pocket mobility and an improving throwing motion after coming from a run-heavy offense in high school; the biggest question right now for UVa coaches is whether Watford is ready to play now or does he need a redshirt season first. I’m going to bet that he plays at least in a reserve role in 2011. That leaves Metheny, a left-hander with good mobility as well, as the third option. Metheny appears to grasp the offense and do well with the shorter throws so he could be a safe option if the other two quarterbacks can’t take care of the football.

BDN: Though the majority of starters return, the Wahoos will have to replace QB Marc Verica and RB Keith Payne. What are the expectations for the 2011 Cavalier offense? Other than QB, what question marks remain to be answered in training camp?

Virginia does have to replace starting quarterback Marc Verica, the ACC’s leading scorer in running back Keith Payne, and UVa’s leading receiver in terms of 2010 yards Dontrelle Inman. With that said, if the quarterback situation works out, there’s not too much concern with filling those spots at Virginia as offensive coordinator Bill Lazor puts together the system’s second season. Perry Jones matched Payne’s 4.5 yards per carry last season and he finished with nearly 1,000 yards of offense (655 rushing and 262 receiving). You mentioned earlier that Kris Burd is back at receiver and Tim Smith returns from injury there too after showing great promise as a true freshman. The tight ends and offensive line return everyone that was getting significant snaps late in 2010 too. Then you add highly regarded recruits like redshirt freshman Kevin Parks, a Salisbury, N.C. product, and true freshmen Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell to the mix as well. So it looks like the offense should have some firepower if a quarterback can execute his part of the equation. The biggest question beyond that is who will replace Payne’s points. That’s probably going to be a list of names vs. one guy.

BDN: Given the talent on the UVA defense, it’s hard to believe that Duke was able to put up 55 points a year ago in Durham. With the combination of talent and experience, this appears to be a group capable of dominating ACC opponents. What are the keys for this unit to be successful in 2011? Who is expected to step up alongside Minnifield and Johnson?

No question about it, the defense struggled in a major way in 2010. Duke posted 489 yards and 55 points last season – those numbers were more than 100 yards and 25 points better than the Devils’ season averages. It wasn’t a one-week hiccup either. UVa struggled with almost everyone on the schedule last season. As mentioned earlier, big plays really hurt so that’s the top item to fix. Part of the problem appeared to be the transition from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme as well as players swapping positions to bolster the speed on defense. That change didn’t produce a high number of sacks and turnovers as expected though because Virginia wasn’t consistent with a pass rush or in pass coverage. So the coaches hope the second year in the 4-3 helps with a lot of the mistakes and consistency issues. We’ll see. If that improvement is going to happen, some names to watch include defensive lineman Matt Conrath, linebacker Steve Greer, and safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley. If the middle of the defense plays better, those names will be involved somehow. Also keep an eye on true freshman Demetrious Nicholson at corner – he appears to be a real talent so far in fall camp.

BDN: Virginia and Duke played one of the most exciting games in the ACC in Durham last fall. The Blue Devils have had the Cavaliers’ number under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, winning each of the last three meetings. Virginia will be hungry for revenge on November 12 in Charlottesville. What do you think will be the keys to the game this fall? Can it possibly match last year’s shoot-out?

It’s a long time to November! If I had to guess right now based on last season’s trends, I’d say the keys for Virginia will be containing big plays and Duke’s running threats at quarterback. Those two items basically cost the Hoos a shootout win in 2010. For Duke, I think the keys will be to disrupt a veteran offensive line and the running game to put pressure on the young UVa quarterbacks to perform. I don’t see a shootout forming this time around, though. I’m going to guess the game will be in the 20’s.

BDN: Thanks for your insight, Kris. Good luck this season!

 

Previous week: November 5, Duke @ Miami

Next week: November 19, Georgia Tech @ Duke

Duke Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles sees progress with the Blue Devil defense

DURHAM – Blue Devil Nation was on hand for Duke Football’s preseason media day and spoke with Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles about the new-look Blue Devil defense. It’s no secret that the Duke defense struggled in 2010, but Coach Knowles feels the new 4-2-5 scheme better fits the Duke personnel. Under the leadership of Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher, the defensive unit is working hard and improving every day in training camp.

Why the 4-2-5 Defense?

Since arriving at Duke in 2008, Coach David Cutcliffe has emphasized speed. One of his first comments on recruiting was, “We’re going to start with people who can run.” The 4-2-5 defense is flexible and emphasizes the use of speed. Simply stated, the defense removes a bigger player (linebacker) and replaces him with a faster player (safety). Of course it is actually a bit more complicated.

Football terminology can be confusing as the average fan attempts to determine exactly who are those linebackers named Mike, Will and Sam everyone keeps referring to and why the weak safety doesn’t spend more time in the weight room with the strong safety. Obviously, I’m just trying to be funny and probably not succeeding, but the point is I know how confusing the terminology can be due to the number of articles I read while preparing to draft this article.

Moving on…

Gary Patterson, the current head coach at Texas Christian University, and previous defensive coordinator at the University of New Mexico, has achieved much success with the 4-2-5 defense. In 2010, TCU finished the season 13-0 and defeated Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl.

Patterson provides an in depth explanation of the 4-2-5 defense in this 1997 article written when he was the defensive coordinator at New Mexico.

The 4-2-5 Basics

The base defense uses eight men in the box to stop the run coupled with zone pass coverage such as the Cover 3. Achieving success with the 4-2-5 defense requires a team to commit to stopping the run first. Brian Billick explains the eight men in the box concept, on a white board with diagrams, in this video clip on You Tube.

Applying pressure via the blitz is the second objective. The defense is flexible and allows a team to bring pressure off the corners or inside without sacrificing pass coverage. The defense utilizes pressure to create turnovers.

Limiting big play opportunities is another feature. The use of five defensive backs makes it easier to disguise coverage and confuse the offense by showing blitz and zone coverage simultaneously.

Finally, the 4-2-5 attempts to force the offense to adjust to the defense. An offense that is adjusting is typically adjusting away from its strength. Influencing an offense to abandon its strength is a major accomplishment.

To summarize: stop the run, pressure the quarterback, do not give up big plays, and force the offense to adjust.

Cover 3 Zone

The spread offense is prevalent in today’s college football landscape and the 4-2-5 in conjunction with the Cover 3 Zone is well suited to stopping the spread. Therefore, it is important to understand the principles of the Cover 3 Zone.

The Cover 3 Zone splits the top of the field into three deep zones, which frees up the strong safety to provide run support on the tight end side of the offense. The Cover 3 Zone provides the defense with an extra man in the box to stop the opponent’s running game.

Between five and 14 yards from the line of scrimmage, where receivers run outs, curls, hooks and slants, the two inside linebackers and the strong and weak safety provide coverage support. This underneath support allows the cornerbacks to focus upon any receiver who goes 14 yards beyond the line of scrimmage between the hash marks and the sideline with the free safety responsible for the middle of the field.

Let’s clarify each player’s pass coverage responsibility:

Cornerback (2): the deep outside from the hash marks to the sideline. The cornerback cannot allow a receiver to beat him on the outside because he receives no support in this area.
Free Safety: the deep middle between the hash marks and to provide inside support to the cornerbacks. The free safety must play as deep as the deepest pass route takes him.
Strong Safety: stopping the run and underneath pass coverage in the flats.
Weak Safety: stopping the run and underneath pass coverage in the flats.
Linebacker (2): stopping the run and underneath pass coverage in the hook/curl zones.

For more on the Cover 3 Zone, this article at the Clemson Tigers blog “Shakin’ The Southland” provides some nice details.

While the Cover 3 Zone is effective in conjunction with the 4-2-5, it is not the only option. The defensive package will contain lots of blitz options with those options mixing up the accompanying coverage assignments. Cornerbacks with the ability to play man-to-man really open up the 4-2-5 defense’s flexibility.

Blitz Packages

There are innumerous blitz opportunities in the 4-2-5 scheme with the inside blitz and double edge blitz being two examples.

To execute the inside blitz, the two linebackers blitz while the strong side defensive end (tight end side of the line) checks the tight end while executing a run/pass read, if the defensive end reads pass, he drops into middle coverage with primary responsibility for the tight end.

The inside blitz is strong against an inside run (between the tackles) or play action pass play, but it is vulnerable to a quarterback who sprints out of the pocket to the strong side.

When the double edge blitz is called, the weak and strong safeties blitz and the two linebackers takeover responsibility for pass coverage in the flats with the nose guard dropping into middle coverage after checking the center and executing a run/pass read. The vulnerability area for this blitz is the flats, while the strength is containing a mobile quarterback.

For more details, go here, for verbiage with diagrams. Ah, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Cover 2 Zone

The Cover 2 Zone is effective against Pro Set two running back offenses. In the Cover 2, the strong safety and free safety are each responsible for half the field deep. The cornerbacks are responsible for the flats, and typically play the wide receivers bump and run. The Cover 2 Man is another variant where the underneath defenders play man-to-man.

The linebackers are responsible for the hook/curl zones. The Cover 2 is strong against short routes and timing routes, but can be exploited by crossing routes or by sending two receivers deep on the same side of the field.

For a more detailed analysis of the Cover 2 Zone, I’ll once again refer the reader to the “Shakin The Southland” website and this article plus this You Tube video or this You Tube video featuring Bill Billick. I guarantee this is good stuff so be sure and click on the links.

Duke Specific Analysis

It is time to focus this article by discussing some Duke specific details. First, safety is the deepest position on Duke’s defensive roster, and Matt Daniels is the defensive leader so running a scheme which features the safety position passes the common sense test.

In 2010, Duke struggled to stop the run giving up 208 yards rushing per contest so a defense designed to stop the run first makes sense. The extra man in the box coupled with a blitz package oriented to stopping the run will prevent opponents from successfully running the ball straight up the middle play after play.

In 2010, Duke struggled to pressure the quarterback, recording only 12 sacks so a defense that includes multiple blitz packages and a commitment to applying pressure makes sense. Focusing upon pressuring the quarterback on pass plays will result in improved performance by the cornerbacks and free safety with the added benefit of increased interceptions.

Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles possesses extensive knowledge and experience with the 4-2-5 so he will be able to teach the players how to execute the intricacies of the scheme.

The Blue Devils are poised to take a big step forward in the rebuilding process and that big step could include winning the requisite number of games to qualify for a bowl game. For Duke to become bowl eligible in 2011, the defense must step up and perform much better than they did in 2010.

To determine if the switch to the 4-2-5 defense is a successful move, fans need to view defensive statistics with a critical eye: rushing yards allowed, sacks by and turnover margin will be key indicators of whether or not the scheme is fulfilling expectations.

All-American Will Snyderwine will anchor Duke's kicking game again in 2011 -Duke Photography

BDN previews Duke’s 2011 special teams units

Prior to the arrival of Head Coach David Cutcliffe, Duke fans remember all too well the days of missed field goals (and extra points!!), botched snaps, muffed punts, and missed tackles. Duke’s special teams is now light years ahead of where it was just a few seasons ago, and should continue to improve and become a strength for the 2011 Blue Devils.

 

All-American Will Snyderwine will anchor Duke's kicking game again in 2011 -Duke Photography

Kicking

Losses: Nick Maggio

Key returners: Will Snyderwine (R-Sr.), Paul Asack (R-Jr.)

Newcomers: none

2010 Review: Lou Groza semifinalist Will Snyderwine handled the kicking duties for the second straight season in 2010. After taking over for the injured Maggio in 2009, the former walk-on has now hit 38 of 44 (86.4%) field goal attempts in the past two seasons for the Blue Devils, with a career long of 52 yards at Georgia Tech in 2010. Snyderwine converted 32 extra points in 2010, extending his perfect career streak to 56/56. The combined field goal and extra point totals placed second all-time at Duke, with 95 points, and earned him All-American honors by the American Football Coaches Association, making him the first Blue Devil All-American kicker in school history. His value to the Duke team extended beyond field goals and extra points, as he increased his touchback numbers from 2/47 in 2009 to 11/60 in 2010.  Charged to work on on-side kicks last offseason by Coach Cutcliffe, Snyderwine delivered, as the Blue Devils were able to recover 4 of 6 on-side kicks in 2010. Overall, the Duke kickoff unit ranked 3rd in the ACC and 18th in the country, allowing just 19.71 yards per return, with opponents average start at the 24 yard line.

2011 Outlook: Snyderwine returns to anchor the kicking game again in 2011, and has already garnered several preseason accolades, including the Lou Groza Award Watch List and several preseason All-American honors. The former walk-on has developed into a potent weapon for the Duke offense and special teams units. Snyderwine appears ready to cap off a historic career at Duke with a big senior season. With increased depth throughout the roster, the kick coverage should continue to improve and become a strength for the Blue Devils. Big plays occasionally haunted the Duke coverage unit, and they did give up one touchdown return on the season against Alabama. The only concern with the Duke kicking game in 2011 might be depth at kicker, where an injury to Snyderwine could significantly weaken the Blue Devils.

Highly-touted freshman punter Will Monday will challenge senior Alex King

Punting

Losses: Kevin Jones

Key returners: Alex King (Sr.)

Newcomers: Will Monday (Fr.)

2010 Review: Jones lost the starting job to King after a botched punt against Wake Forest in 2010. King was mostly dependable for the Duke punting game, averaging 41.1 yards per punt, finishing 7th in the ACC. Of 55 punts on the year, King was able to pin opponents within the 20 yards line 21 times, with 6 touchbacks. The Blue Devils’ punters achieved a net of 33.6 yards per punt, which ranked 9th in the conference and 106th in the nation. The punt coverage, however, faired worse, allowing 14.4 yards per return, which ranked last in the conference and 117th in the nation. The Blue Devils were only able to force 7 fair catches on the season and allowed a punt return touchdown against Maryland.

2011 Outlook: Punting appeared to be the biggest weakness among Duke’s special teams unit in 2010, and stands to be an area of significant improvement in 2011. The hope is that with better depth, speed, and athleticism, the punt coverage unit will do a better job of limiting opponent returns. Punting should improve as well, as King now has nearly a full year of starting under his belt, and will be pushed by highly-touted freshman Will Monday.  The competition between King and Monday will definitely be one to watch this month.

 

Josh Snead led the Blue Devils' kick returners in 2010

Kick Return

Losses: none

Key returners: Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Jr.), Desmond Scott (Jr.), Conner Vernon (Jr.), Josh Snead (So.), Juwan Thompson (So.)

Newcomers: TBD

2010 Review: Scott, Snead, and Thompson were the leading return men for the Blue Devils in 2010, and Duke ended the season 4th in the ACC with an average of 20.9 yards per return. As true freshmen, Snead and Thompson ranked 7th and 8th individually with averages of 22.0 and 21.7 yards, respectively. The Duke return game provided the offense with an average starting position of the 27 yard line.

2011 Outlook: Duke has yet to return a kickoff for a touchdown under Coach Cutcliffe. Will 2011 be the year? With the three primary return men all back, Duke seems poised to continue to use kick returns as a strength. Scott, Snead, and Thompson will continue to share carries in the Duke backfield, and will also split the kick return duties. With their combination of size, vision, and speed, it may be difficult for any newcomers to break into the rotation, but the Duke staff has shown a desire to rotate multiple return men in an effort to keep players fresh throughout the season. The kick return job is another key competition to watch during training camp.

Senior Lee Butler is Duke's leading punt returner in 2011

Punt return

Losses: none

Key returners: Lee Butler (Sr.), Johnny Williams (Sr.)

Newcomers: ?Jared Boyd (Fr.), ?Tim Burton (Fr.), ?Jamison Crowder (Fr.)

2010 Review: Butler handled the vast majority of punt return duties in 2010, finishing with a respectable 8.6 yards per return, which ranked 5th in the ACC and 31st in the nation. With a season long of 33 yards, Butler was able to consistently advance the ball, but rarely broke out for big returns. Williams showed some explosiveness as a punt returner in 2009, but due to injuries and a position change, only returned 2 punts in 2010.

2011 Outlook: With both Butler and Williams back, along with a group of speedy youngsters headed by Jamison Crowder, Duke appears ready to develop the punt return game into a significant weapon. There is likely to be significant competition for the starting job, and with some improved blocking, 2011 might be the year that fans see an explosive punt return game from the Blue Devils. Coach Cutcliffe has historically emphasized the kicking game in past training camps, and the punt return unit is likely to see significant reps this August.

BDN Duke Football 2011 Offense Preview

BDN Duke Football 2011 Defense Preview

Bookmark Blue Devil Nation for in-depth coverage of Duke Football all season long, from training camp through the 2011-2012 bowl season.

Duke travels to South Florida to take on Florida International on October 1 at 6PM

Duke Football travels to take on Florida International in week 5

Duke travels to South Florida to take on Florida International on October 1 at 6PM

On October 1st, Head Coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils will take their first (of two) trips to Miami to take on the Florida International Golden Panthers. The Blue Devils and Golden Panthers will play a home-and-home series, with FIU traveling to Durham in 2012. When Duke first scheduled the home-and-home with FIU, the youngest program in the FBS, many fans questioned the agreement, but one look at the high school football talent in South Florida should silence the critics. The October 1st matchup will kickoff at 6 PM ET on ESPN3 and will serve as FIU’s Homecoming Game.

Of course, for the Blue Devils’ trip to Miami to pay off in the long run, Duke must come away with a victory, a task easier said than done. The Golden Panthers enter 2011 as the defending Sun Belt co-Champions and winners of the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl. Led by reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year TY Hilton, the Golden Panthers feature a dynamic offense that returns 8 starters. Defensively, the Golden Panthers lose senior leader Anthony Gaitor, but return leading tackler DB Jonathan Cyprian to anchor the secondary. Florida International is the consensus pick to defend their Sun Belt title, and the Blue Devils will certainly have their hands full under the lights in FIU Stadium.

As the youngest program in the FBS, it’s no surprise that Duke fans may be unfamiliar with the 2010 Sun Belt Co-Champions. To fill us in on the Golden Panthers, BDN welcomes Andres Garcia, administrator for www.FIUGoldenPanthers.com.

BDN: After taking over an 0-12 team in 2007, Head Coach Mario Cristobal led Florida International to their first bowl game in 2010, a 34-32 win over Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl. What are some of the reasons for his success in building the youngest program in the FBS into one of the top teams in the Sun Belt?

Coach Cristobal inherited a mess when he got to FIU, as you mention the team was coming off an 0-12 season which included that now infamous brawl with the University of Miami.  In addition to that, the team had just been hit with NCAA violations which reduced the number of scholarships for future years.  The main reason behind Coach Cristobal’s success is his ability to recruit and sell a dream to local kids.  One of the first to come on board was Anthony Gaitor (a 7th round NFL draft pick in last year’s draft) and TY Hilton who chose FIU over an offer from West Virginia.  FIU’s recruiting rankings have improved steadily over Coach Cristobal’s 4 years at the helm.  In addition, the team for the first time is able to field a full complement of scholarship players which has led to an improvement in the depth that FIU fields.  Often times in the early years, FIU would be able to hang on with teams for the first 2 quarters and then fade at the end due to lack of depth, this is no longer the case as was seen last year when FIU was able to compete against the likes of Rutgers, Maryland, Texas A&M and Pitt for an entire game.

FIU's TY Hilton is one of the top players in college football. Photo Credit: FIUSports.com

BDN: Sun Belt Player of the Year TY Hilton may be the best college football player most fans have never heard of. Can you give us a quick scouting report on Hilton and describe his impact on the FIU program?

TY Hilton is quick, has great hands and is very elusive.  He is Mr. Everything at FIU on offense and of course he’s our most dangerous kick returner.  As I mentioned before, TY opened the door for other quality South Florida recruits to at least consider coming to FIU.  In addition, he is the face of the program and has been a fantastic ambassador in the community.  His impact will be felt for a long time at FIU and we were very relieved that he chose to stay in school for his senior season.

BDN: Offensively, FIU returns 8 starters in 2011, including a deep group of players at quarterback and running back, along with the aforementioned Hilton at receiver. After outgaining Rutgers and Maryland and nearly upsetting Texas A&M in 2010, how good is this unit expected to be this season and what questions still need to be answered?

FIU loses 2 very important pieces to last year’s offense in Brad Serini (starting Center) and Greg Ellingson (6’4” starting receiver) from last year’s team, however, the coaches expect their replacements to be able to pick up some of that slack.  One of FIU’s question marks is the continued improvement of the OL.  The Golden Panthers have 4 quality running backs which they rotate and which as a unit were very effective last year, while TY is a great weapon, it was the team’s ability to run the ball which allowed Wesley Carroll to take advantage of TY.  Speaking of Carroll his improvement is also a key cog in the development of the offense.  He needs to cut down on his interceptions and improve his accuracy.  FIU has plenty of weapons on offense, the questions are whether the OL can create the holes and give the QB the time to find and exploit those weapons.

BDN: The Golden Panthers will have a young, but experienced defense this fall. With only one projected senior starter, who is expected to step up and assume a leadership role? What are the key position battles heading into training camp?

Last year’s defensive star was Anthony Gaitor who graduated and will hopefully move on to the NFL.  This year, everyone is looking towards Jonathan Cyprien (DB) to take over the leadership role and explode on to the scene for the defense.  Cyprien is joined as a Pre-Season all conference player by Tourek Williams (DL) and Winston Fraser (LB) so the Coaches feel they have established leaders for all 3 units in the defense.  The big defensive battles will be along the DL and the CB positions.  FIU returns several contributors from last year’s team as well as a couple of new freshmen which could see some playing time.  The LB corps is stacked with quick backers that can get to the ball in a second.  This defense is built on South Florida speed.

Duke and FIU will kickoff at 6PM ET in FIU Stadium

BDN: With FIU in just its eighth year of FBS football, it’s no surprise that this will be the first meeting between the Blue Devils and Golden Panthers. What will be the keys to the game for FIU to pull out a Homecoming victory on October 1st?

The key for FIU will be to control time of posession with its ground game and eliminate turnovers.  This will limit the exposure of the talented but young FIU defense against the potent Blue Devil offense.  On defense, FIU needs to contain the Duke passing game which is easier said than done.  FIU needs to create pressure up front in order to force some turnovers and make sure to capitalize on those opportunities.

FIU fans are looking forward to this game possibly being our first win versus a team from an AQ conference.  After coming so close last year, we are hoping the momentum continues and we cross that threshold.

BDN: Thanks for your insight, Andres!

Previous week: September 24, Tulane at Duke

Next week: October 8, Off Week

Next game: October 15, Florida State at Duke

The Tulane Green Wave take on the Duke Blue Devils September 24th in Durham

BDN Previews Duke Football’s Week 4 matchup with Tulane

The Tulane Green Wave take on the Duke Blue Devils September 24th in Durham

After a tough September stretch of hosting Stanford and then traveling to Boston College, the Blue Devils return home on September 24 to close out the first month of the season with a homecoming game against Tulane. Duke fans would be thrilled for the Blue Devils to enter this matchup with a 2-1 record, but most expect a 1-2 start to the 2011 season, meaning that Duke will need to get back on track against the Green Wave.

Duke and Tulane had similar campaigns in 2010, with both teams showing tremendous offensive potential, but unable to consistently slow opposing offenses. The Green Wave finished the season with a 4-8 record, which included a 17-14 road victory at Rutgers. Led by freshman sensation Orleans Darkwa, the Tulane offense posted its highest point total in 6 years, and with 7 starters returning, QB Ryan Griffin and the offense appear poised for a big 2011 season. Defensively, the Green Wave gave up an average of over 37 points per game, but return 7 starters in 2011, including two star transfers. Former Duke LB Trent Mackey and former Iowa DE Dezman Moses have both developed into All-Conference USA candidates and headline the 2011 Tulane defense. Overall, it appears that the Green Wave are prepared to improve upon last season’s 6th place finish and compete for the program’s first winning season since 2002.

Speaking of 2002, we are fortunate enough to have help from Stephen Segari, a member of the Green Wave program from 1999-2002 and a current moderator at goTULA.NEt. Stephen has a unique perspective on Tulane Football and we know you’ll enjoy reading his thoughts on Duke’s September 24th opponent.

BDN: Tulane and Duke are far from familiar foes, having last met on the gridiron in 1973. Both teams, however, have had similar struggles in recent years, with the Green Wave’s last winning season in 2002 and the Blue Devils’ last bowl trip all the way back in 1995. What are some of the challenges that have led to Tulane’s recent struggles? With four straight losing seasons, is Head Coach Bob Toledo on the hot seat in 2011?

Through the years, the biggest challenge to success of Tulane football has been Tulane. With self-imposed admission standards above the NCAA minimum, the Green Wave are at an immediate disadvantage and must work hard to bring in the same high school talent other schools can easily accept. While a lot of the blame does fall on Toledo and the coaching staff for the dismal record the past 4 seasons, many fans recognize that the coaches are working with one hand tied behind their backs.

Toledo is definitely on the hot seat in his 5th season. Anything short of a bowl appearance (the Greenies need 7 wins this year because of the 13 game schedule ending with Hawaii), Toledo will be shown the door. Others feel that regardless of a bowl game and the season outcome, Toledo will move on and/or retire.

BDN: As a member of the last Tulane team to post a winning season, can you summarize your experience as a Green Wave football player? What are the strengths of the Tulane program and where do you think the program is headed in 2011 and beyond?

Coming off of the perfect 12-0 season of 1998, the Green Wave were poised to have their 3rd winning season in a row in 1999. Instead of hiring offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez to replace the departing Tommy Bowden, the Tulane president and athletic director went in a different direction and hired Chris Scelfo. His first year was my freshman year. Playing for the Green Wave was tough, challenging, and in the end, definitely rewarding. In my senior year of 2002, we were invited to play in the Hawaii bowl on Christmas night and finished with a record of 8-5. Of course, the 2002 season was the last winning season for Tulane Football. There are still way too many questions, and not enough answers, for the program in 2011 and beyond. For the program, it’s time for the athletic director Rick Dickson, and university president Scott Cowen to step up, drop the flawed Tulane Model (higher admission standards for athletes vs. NCAA minimums), actively communicate with the Tulane athletics community, and direct adequate resources (both financial and facilities) to Tulane football.

BDN: The Green Wave finished 2010 with a 4-8 record, which included an impressive road win at Rutgers and the team’s highest offensive output in six seasons. Can you give us a brief scouting report on emerging star RB Orleans Darkwa? With the loss of offensive coordinator Dan Dodd, what changes do you expect to see on offense in 2011?

Running backs Orleans Darkwa and Andre Anderson are head and shoulders above the rest of the offense. Compared to the offensive line and wide receiver play during Spring ball, much of the burden will be on the shoulders of Darkwa this fall. Look for Orleans to pick up right where he left off last year, where his rookie rushing total surpassed the former record set by current Pittsburgh Steeler Mewelde Moore. The loss of Dodd shouldn’t have that noticeable of an effect on the offense, since Toledo and Dodd were so close at the hip.

Former Blue Devil LB Trent Mackey anchors the Tulane defense. Photo credit: tulanegreenwave.com

BDN: Similar to the Blue Devils, Tulane struggled to slow their opponents’ offenses in 2010. Former Blue Devil Trent Mackey has quickly developed into an All-Conference-quality linebacker at Tulane and leads the Green Wave defense along with Iowa transfer DE Dezman Moses. What adjustments have been made this offseason to improve on 2010’s results? What should be the strengths and weaknesses for the Tulane defense in 2011?

Special teams in 2010 were a real deal breaker for the Green Wave, specifically the kickoff team. With the average starting position of opponents’ at or near the 40, the Tulane defense often had their backs to the wall even before stepping on the field. Through spring ball, no noticeable, major changes were made to the defense from last year. Mackey and Moses were the 2 defensive standouts of the spring game. The linebacking core looked solid, but the DB still had some work to do… many blown coverages in the 2010 season. The strengths should definitely be Mackey and Moses (defensive line and linebackers) with our possible weaknesses being our secondary.

BDN: With two relatively unknown opponents, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of the September 24th showdown in Durham. What do you expect to see from Duke and what does Tulane need to do to pull off a key non-conference road win?

Every matchup in the 2011 season will be a challenge for Tulane. No games are given wins. I look for a tough fought 60 minutes of football. For Tulane to have a chance to be in the game at the end, we will need to eliminate the mistakes that plagued us last season: No more kickoff returns for opponents past the 40, no more blown DB coverages, and improved blocking by the o-line.

We look forward to playing the Blue Devils, but know that every game is a must win, and every game will be a challenge.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Stephen!

 

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