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.
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.
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.