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Matt Daniels and the Blue Devils came up short on Senior Day - BDN Photo

BDN Rapid Reaction: Georgia Tech 38, Duke 31

Matt Daniels and the Blue Devils came up short on Senior Day - BDN Photo

DURHAM- Matt Daniels and the Blue Devil seniors made their way out of the tunnel and into Wallace Wade Stadium for the final time on Saturday, but their best efforts came up just short against Georgia Tech as Duke fell 38-31. The Duke offense had success moving the ball against the Yellow Jackets, putting up 31 points and over 300 yards of total offense, but in the end, the Blue Devil defense just couldn’t stop the Ramblin’ Wreck option offense.

Duke final drive comes up short

Senior Charlie Hatcher came up with a crucial fumble recovery with 3:31 remaining in the 4th quarter to give the Blue Devils a chance, trailing by a touchdown. But two crucial penalties stalled the Blue Devils’ final drive, and ultimately led to a controversial GT interception that sealed the victory with 2 minutes remaining. Two critical plays were reviewed in the game and not overturned in the Blue Devils’ favor.

Vernon and Varner rewrite the record books

Duke senior Donovan Varner had a memorable Senior Day, adding to his lead in the Duke record books with 5 catches for 32 yards and 1 TD. Varner is Duke’s all-time receptions leader with 199. Varner also set a new Duke record with a reception in 36 straight games. Junior WR Conner Vernon is 2nd on Duke’s all-time receiving list with 196 career catches after finishing with 9 catches, 92 yards and 1 TD. On the day, Varner and Vernon became the ACC’s top all-time receiving duo, passing Clemon’s Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham. The duo will look to add to their records next Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Big plays haunt Blue Devils

Georgia Tech had 8 plays of 20 yards or more in just the first 3 quarters alone, as big plays continued to haunt the Blue Devil defense. After a 3 and out on the first drive of the day, the Ramblin’ Wreck moved the ball with ease against the Blue Devils. On the day, the Yellow Jackets piled up over 550 yards of total offense, led by Tevin Washington, who finished with 185 yards through the air and 136 yards on the ground. Georgia Tech was perfect in the red zone, finishing with 5 rushing touchdowns and a field goal.

Inconsistent offensive attack

Sean Renfree threw for 4 TDs and 227 yards, but was erratic at times, finishing 26/42 on the day. Duke senior TE Cooper Helfet had himself a big Senior Day, hauling in 2 TD receptions. Vernon and Varner led the Blue Devils’ receivers, but Duke struggled to get a consistent rhythm on offense, especially on the ground. Duke’s running game was led by Varner, who picked up a 39-yard run on the offense’s first play from scrimmage. The running backs failed to get going, with Desmond Scott picking up just 27 yards and Juwan Thompson just 24 yards on the day.

One shot left

Duke drops to 3-8 and will have one last shot to get to 4 wins and end their season on a high note. The Blue Devils will travel down 15-501 to Chapel Hill to take on the rival Tar Heels next Saturday at 3:30 PM. The Victory Bell will be at stake and the Blue Devils desperately need a win to gain momentum into the offsesason.

Check back with Blue Devil Nation for full postgame coverage.

Duke rides a 4-game losing streak into Saturday's matchup with UVA in Charlottesville

Duke looks to make it 4 in a row against Virginia

Duke rides a 4-game losing streak into Saturday's matchup with UVA in Charlottesville

Duke (3-6, 1-4 ACC) will look to make it four in a row against the Virginia Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 ACC) on Saturday. Heading into the 3PM kickoff in Charlottesville, the Blue Devils are riding a 4-game losing streak while the surprising Wahoos have won 4 out of 5. Virginia ranks 3rd in the ACC in both total offense and total defense, and will present a significant challenge for Duke on both sides of the ball. After a disappointing performance on the road in Miami a week ago, the Blue Devils will need to put together a much better effort in Charlottesville if they hope to secure a tough ACC road win.

GAME INFO

Duke at Virginia

3:00 PM ET, Saturday, November 12

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network; Sirius XM Radio (Channels 92 & 190)
TV: RSN – Rich Waltz (Play-by-play), Keith Jones (Analyst) and Jenn Hildreth (Sideline)
Internet: GoDuke.com; theACC.com

KEYS FOR DUKE

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

1. Winning attitude: Duke is in the midst of a 4-game losing streak, and it shows. The Blue Devils have lost tough games to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and are in danger of taking a turn to Negative Town. Defensive leaders Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will have to keep their unit focused and confident after they were picked apart by a speedy Miami offense last Saturday. Sean Renfree must take control of the offense, and Kyle Hill must do a better job keeping the offensive line in sync. In short, Duke must play hungry for a win for a full 60 minutes on Saturday.

2. Win the line of scrimmage: Football is won and lost in the trenches, and UVA’s offensive line has helped to power them to their 6-3 start after a dismal 2010 season. The Cavaliers rank 3rd in the ACC with 190 rushing yards per game and are 2nd in the ACC with just 8 sacks allowed all season. If the Blue Devils are to win this game, their young defensive linemen will have to play up to their potential. First and foremost, Duke cannot allow UVA to open holes for RB Perry Jones, who enters the game averaging 5.3 yards per carry. If the Blue Devils can put first-year QB Michael Rocco under pressure, he will make bad throws, as evidenced by his 9 INTs on the season. Virginia as a team ranks last in the ACC with 13 interceptions thrown, a number which the Blue Devil secondary will have to add to on Saturday.

3. 60 Minutes: Coach-speak, cliché, call it whatever you want. Virginia is a good football team and it will take a complete effort for the Blue Devils to pull off an upset on the road. Perhaps most important will be the offensive effort, as Duke’s offense has been wildly inconsistent of late. Sean Renfree will have to be wary of Chase Minnifield lurking in the Virginia secondary, but should be able to find mismatches in the Blue Devils’ favor down the field. Senior Cam Johnson will present a challenge for the Duke offensive line, but the duo of Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson should still find room to run. Duke has 3 straight wins against Virginia, and they will have to play with confidence and consistency to keep their streak intact.

WHAT TO WATCH

1. Blue Devil Streaks: Duke has a few players closing in on several school records.

  • Senior WR Donovan Varner needs just two more catches to tie Clarkston Hines’ all-time receptions record at Duke. Varner ranks second with 187 grabs. Junior teammate WR Conner Vernon is right behind Varner with 184 catches.
  • Redshirt senior K Will Snyderwine compiled two points last week and ranks fourth on Duke’s all-time scoring chart with 209 points … Randy Gardner is third on the list with 221 points.
  • Donovan Varner has at least one catch in 34 straight games to match the third-longest streak in Duke history … The school record of 35 is held by Scottie Montgomery.

2. Red zone offense: It’s no secret Duke has struggled to score points at times this season. Duke ranks next to last in the ACC in red zone efficiency, scoring on just 72% of their opportunities. If the Blue Devils come away empty-handed in the red zone on Saturday, it will be an ominous sign.

3. Duke seniors: In particular, Matt Daniels and Donovan Varner, two great representatives of the Duke program, who always seem to come up with a play when their number is called. Duke fans have just three games left to watch these two All-ACC seniors and their classmates take the field. This senior class has never lost to Virginia, and would like to keep it that way on Saturday.

PREDICTION

Matt Daniels has never lost to UVA. Sean Renfree has never lost to UVA. Coach Cutcliffe is 3-0 against UVA since arriving in Durham. Coming off one of their most disappointing performances of the Cutcliffe era, Duke needs a win in the worst way. Expect the Blue Devils to put together a much improved effort against a bowl-bound Virginia team. At 6-3, the Wahoos have been one of the biggest surprises in the ACC this season, and they’ll certainly be gunning for the Blue Devils after 3 straight losses in the rivalry. There are few instances where history and karma seem to be on the Blue Devils’ side, but this may be one of them. Duke seems to have the Cavaliers’ number, and they come into this game with nothing to lose, in desperate need of a win. Duke 24, UVA 20

Wake Forest is riding a 12-game winning streak in the series with Duke.

Blue Devils will try to end a streak against Wake Forest Saturday

Wake Forest is riding an 11-game winning streak in the series with Duke.

Duke (3-3, 1-1 ACC) will host in-state ACC rival Wake Forest (4-2, 3-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon in Wallace Wade Stadium. The two programs are familiar foes, having met 91 times, including each of the last 44 seasons. The Blue Devils hold the all-time lead in the series, but the Demon Deacons have dominated their Tobacco Road rivals over the past decade. Duke’s last victory over Wake Forest came in 1999, and though the two teams have produced several competitive and memorable matchups since (5 games decided by less than a touchdown), the Demon Deacons have won 11 straight in the series. The Blue Devils will try to end that streak when the two teams kickoff at 12:30 PM ET on the ACC Network.

After a disappointing season in 2010, the Demon Deacons have been one of the ACC’s biggest surprises in 2011, with conference wins over NC State, Boston College, and Florida State. Wake Forest is led by a disciplined offense, which leads the ACC in red zone efficiency (89.7% scoring) and turnovers (5 total turnovers). The Demon Deacons feature a balanced attack led by QB Tanner Price (267 yards per game, 2nd in the ACC), WR Chris Givens (123 yards per game, 1st in the ACC) and RB Josh Harris (82 yards per game, 6th in the ACC). The defense has been opportunistic, forcing 9 turnovers on the season, but ranks last in the ACC with just 6 sacks.

Both Duke and Wake Forest were riding winning streaks before a conference loss last week, and both teams will look to get back on track this Saturday with a crucial ACC win.

Tanner Price led the Demon Deacons to a shootout victory over Duke last season- Blogger So Dear Photo

KEYS FOR DUKE

1. Limit Explosives: the Blue Devils got burned repeatedly last week against the Seminoles, and that helped put the game away early. The combination of Price and Givens has proven to be explosive this season for the Demon Deacons, as evidenced by a 79-yard TD catch last week against Virginia Tech and a season average of 18.5 yards per catch. Expect Ross Cockrell to have a busy day keeping tabs on Givens, and the entire Blue Devil secondary will have to help to keep him contained. Josh Harris is the key for the Wake Forest running game, but has been limited in practice this week. Expect senior Brandon Pendergrass to help shoulder the load, and look for Duke’s Kelby Brown and Matt Daniels to have a big role in stopping the Deacs on the ground.

2. Take care of the football: Duke has improved on their turnover ratio from a season ago, but continue to give the ball away. QB Sean Renfree threw a costly tipped pass interception early in the game against FSU last week, and that helped to set the tone of the game. Wake Forest has been the best in the ACC at taking care of the football, and the Blue Devils cannot afford to give the Demon Deacons extra possessions on Saturday.

3. Find an unlikely hero: we’re at the halfway point of the season, and every team is bound to have injuries. They have certainly piled up for the Blue Devils, but Duke has showcased some of their improved depth over the past few weeks. Heading into Saturday, there are three key positions of concern for the Blue Devils, where young players will be needed to step up. Duke’s secondary is slowly healing, but several players are hurting, including a few not listed on the official injury report. Lee Butler, Johnny Williams, and August Campbell all appear on this week’s injury report, which means that players like Zach Greene and Jordon Byas will have to take on a larger role again this week against an explosive Wake Forest passing game. The Blue Devils have significant injuries to two potential offensive line starters in David Harding and Brian Moore. Both players may be able to play, but will be far from 100%, which means that Conor Irwin may again have to take some snaps at center. Lastly, senior WR Donovan Varner continues to nurse a hamstring injury that will limit him on Saturday, meaning more snaps for freshmen Jamison Crowder and Blair Holliday. A combination of these young players will have to make an impact for the Blue Devils to get the W on Saturday.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

Wake Forest +4, Duke -2

Duke has made significant improvements in limiting turnovers this season, but continue to struggle in forcing turnovers. The Blue Devils rank 3rd in the ACC with just 8 turnovers on the season, but are last in the conference with just 6 takeaways of their own. Similarly, the Demon Deacons are 1st in the ACC with just 5 turnovers, but 8th in takeaways with 9.

Sacks

Duke 10, Wake Forest 6

Two of the ACC’s worst pass rushes will face off on Saturday, with the Blue Devils having slightly more success thus far. The Duke offensive line has also done a slightly better job protecting their QB, having given up 13 sacks on the year versus 16 allowed by Wake Forest.

3rd Down

Duke 40%, Wake Forest 37%

Again, both teams fall in the bottom half of the conference in 3rd down efficiency. The Wake Forest defense has held opponents to just 34% on 3rd downs, which means that the Blue Devil offense will have to execute well to move the chains on Saturday.

Explosives

With two of the top WRs in the country squaring off on Saturday, the team that does the better job defensively will win this game. These two defenses will be challenged to keep their opponents’ offense grounded with stars like Conner Vernon and Chris Givens. In their losses, the Blue Devils have been burned by explosive plays, especially through the air. If Price is able to find Givens in open space, it will be a long afternoon for the Blue Devils.

Rushing TDs

Duke 12, Wake Forest 8

This statistic is very misleading. The Blue Devils have the worst red zone offense in the ACC, scoring on just 73.9% of trips to the red zone. When Duke does score, it’s usually on the ground, with 12 rushing TDs to just 2 passing TDs in the red zone. Wake Forest is tops in the ACC, scoring on nearly 90% of their trips to the red zone, and feature a balanced red zone offense with 8 rushing TDs and 6 passing TDs.

Field Goals

Wake Forest 92%, Duke 40%

While much of Dukes struggles in the kicking game came early in the season, the Blue Devils still have improvements to make. Wake Forest’s Jimmy Newman is 1st in the ACC with an average of 2 made FGs per game.

Penalties

Duke 36.2 yards per game, Wake Forest 49.7 yards per game

Surprisingly the Demon Deacons rank next to last in the ACC in penalty yards per game. The Blue Devils continue to be one of the more disciplined teams in the conference. Duke will have to continue to play good fundamental football on Saturday, as their margin for error against a confident and talented Wake Forest team is slim.

PREDICTION

With 11 straight wins in the series, it’d be an understatement to say the Demon Deacons have the Blue Devils’ number. Both teams enter the game bumped and bruised and fresh off an ACC loss. Wake Forest has been the more consistent team and have done a good job taking care of the football. With a depleted offensive line, expect a light workload for Duke’s running backs and quick throws from Sean Renfree. A hamstring injury to Donovan Varner will provide an opportunity for young Jamison Crowder and Blair Holliday to step up. The Blue Devil defense will have their hands full trying to stop Wake Forest’s combination of Tanner Price, Chris Givens, and Josh Harris. The team that takes care of the football will emerge the victor.

Wake Forest 34, Duke 31