After a week off to rest and heal, the Blue Devils will ride their three-game winning streak into the heart of their ACC schedule. Preseason favorite Florida State will travel to Durham on Saturday, and while things are looking up for the Blue Devils, the Seminoles' season took a turn for the worse after an injury to QB E.J. Manuel. FSU will enter Saturday's matchup in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but with a healthy Manuel, they will be a stiff test for the young Blue Devils.
To give us additional insight into the Seminoles' recent struggles, BDN welcomes in Rich from ChantRant.com. Be sure to check out BDN's half of the Q&A Exchange on their site as well. Thanks for your help, Rich!
BDN: As the consensus preseason pick for ACC Champion, expectations were obviously high for the Seminoles in 2011. What is the mood in Tallahassee after three straight tough losses to Oklahoma, Clemson, and Wake Forest?
You know about the five stages of grief? It’s been something like that. After the final gun last Saturday, the mood was appropriate to the opponent: a Wake. A day later it had turned to anger (“How could this happen!?” “What’s up with our well paid coaching staff!?,” etc.). Depression was mixed in there somewhere. Then a grudging acceptance of the Seminole’s swan dive from the Top Ten. Now FSU’s faithful (at least the majority) are rallying behind the team, remembering the Noles have been down before and bounced back, while looking ahead to a better 2012 with a more experienced corps of young talent.
BDN: Redshirt-freshman Clint Trickett stepped in after E.J. Manuel was injured against Oklahoma. Trickett started the past two games, but Manuel replaced him last week at Wake Forest. Can you give us a brief scouting report on Trickett and Manuel? How do you expect them to be used against Duke on Saturday?
Jimbo Fisher had made it clear that E.J. Manuel is his starting QB -- and that was even before Clint Trickett had a poor start at Wake. So unless E.J. is injured against Duke, I doubt you’ll see Trickett. The scary part, though, is that doctors had told Jimbo before the Wake game that E.J. was not completely healed from a shoulder injury against Oklahoma. And if E.J. takes a nasty hit, he could be out for up to six weeks. For that reason, E.J. was one dimensional against the Deacs: all pass, no designed runs. I’d expect the same against Duke. And FYI, if Trickett DOES enter the game for whatever reason, FSU also becomes one dimensional. The redshirt freshman QB, who’s the son of FSU’s offensive line coach Rick Trickett, is not physical or fast enough to present a run threat -- at least not this season.
BDN: After finishing 2nd in the ACC a year ago, FSU has really struggled to run the ball consistently this season, ranking last in the ACC at just over 85 yards per game. What has been the source of the Seminoles' struggles on the ground and how can they get back on track?
Blame it mostly on the offensive line. FSU graduated two excellent linemen -- both on last year’s Outland Trophy watch list. Since the 2011 season kicked off, one senior OL (Datko) is out with a shoulder injury; another (Spurlock) is limited by lingering effects of a concussion. Quality depth that should be filling those spots was lost due to various issues over the past few years. That leaves little continuity, with one senior tackle surrounded by underclassmen -- including true freshmen -- and one junior, a JC transfer. Given all that chaos, the OL is a work in progress from week to week. And that’s a nice way to put it.
BDN: Mark Stoops took over the FSU defense for Mickey Andrews last season, and though there were some growing pains, the unit performed well, finishing 1st in the ACC in scoring defense. After a promising start, the defense has allowed 70 points over the last two games. What are the areas of concern and how do you expect the Seminoles will try to stop the Blue Devils' potent passing attack?
There are concerns at linebacker and in the secondary. No doubt Jimbo Fisher is wrestling with how much of a youth movement to employ to address those concerns. My guess is he’ll go mostly with experienced guys rather than experiment. That’s especially true for the secondary, where two upper classmen have underperformed since a strong showing against no. 1 Oklahoma. In fact, I expect Coach Cutliffe to pick on that duo all day with the pass ’n catch combo of Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon. But you can be sure FSU will attempt to do the same. Both teams top the ACC in passing (FSU is first with 325.4 ypg; Duke 2nd with 311.6), while the Noles and Devils are at the bottom of the league in run yards. Fans of the aerial game should get their money’s worth on Saturday.
BDN: Florida State and Duke last met in 2007, and the Blue Devils are 0-16 all-time against the Seminoles. This will be the teams' first meeting in the David Cutcliffe and Jimbo Fisher eras. Duke is riding a 3-game winning streak, while FSU has dropped 3 in a row. What do you expect to see from this matchup Saturday afternoon in Wallace Wade Stadium?
It all depends on which FSU team shows up. We don’t know how much player confidence is shaken after the Wake upset. If the Noles have been able to rebound emotionally and physically, fired up to make a statement and turn their season around -- AND reduce the number of dumb penalties and careless turnovers -- expect a team that will battle til the end. But if the guys in garnet and gold come out tight and tentative, and worst of all not playing as a team, it could be a long afternoon.
BDN: Thanks for your insight, Rich!
With wins over Tulane and Florida International, Duke heads into their Bye Week with a 3-2 record riding a three game win streak. In the two wins, the Blue Devils racked up 868 yards total offense and scored 79 points, while allowing Tulane and Florida International to combine for 886 yards total offense and 54 points.
Seeing as Red Zone performance was prominently featured in "The Ugly" section of this season's first stats article, it seems appropriate to address the team's success at the top of this update. Duke scored on all 10 Red Zone possessions in the last two games. Eight of the ten scores were touchdowns. Juwan Thompson ran for four touchdowns of 20, 9, 6 and 1 yards. The ability to successfully run the ball in the Red Zone is a development, which should pay huge dividends in the future.
Duke made all four field goals attempted in the two games. Will Snyderwine made three successful kicks and Jeffrey Ijjas was successful on one kick.
While Duke has shown vast improvement in these two areas, it is worth noting they still rank last in the ACC in these categories due to the bad start so it is important for the team to maintain improved performance.
Key Team Accomplishments
Obviously, the most relevant team accomplishment the past two weeks was winning the games. In the final analysis, the final score is the most important statistic.
Passing Offense improved from 297 to 311 yards per game. Duke is now ranked three of 12 in the ACC (up from number five) and 19 of 120 nationally (up from number 25). Numbers for Total Offense are also impressive with Duke’s 409 yards per game ranks six of 12 in the ACC and 56 of 120 nationally.
The ability to sustain long drives results in Duke being ranked two of 12 in the ACC and number 17 of 120 nationally in Time of Possession at 32 minutes and 56 seconds per game. Against Tulane, the Blue Devils reeled off touchdown drives of 18, 12 and 9 plays; while against Florida International they had an 11 play drive which ended with a field goal.
Duke’s four touchdown drives in the FIU game were short drives of 1, 3, 4 and 5 plays.
Even though Duke achieved success running the ball in the Red Zone the past two weeks, overall Rushing Offense remains a concern. At 97 yards per game, Duke is 11 of 12 in the ACC and number 108 nationally.
Key Individual Accomplishments
Conner Vernon leads the ACC in Receptions per Game. His 6.8 receptions per game place him at number 23 in the nation. Vernon is also third in the ACC in Receiving Yards per Game at 101.
Matt Daniels leads the ACC in Passes Defended. His 1.8 passes defended per game place him at number five in the nation. Additionally, he is sixth in the ACC in Tackles with 48.
Sean Renfree is third in the ACC in Passing Average per Game. His 272.2 passing yards per game place him at number 25 in the nation.
Jamison Crowder is sixth in the ACC in Kick Return Average and ninth in the ACC in All Purpose Yards. He is averaging 21.8 yards per kick return and 127.4 all purpose yards per game.
Alex King is fifth in the ACC in Punting averaging 41.2 yards per punt.
Donovan Varner is seventh in the ACC in Receptions per Game at 5.8.
The next three games will be played in Wallace Wade Stadium so Duke will have home field advantage accompanying momentum gained during the current three game win streak. It is time for the Blue Devils to step up and record a signature victory in order to make the rest of the ACC sit up and take notice. The first opportunity will be on October 15th against the Florida State Seminoles.
MIAMI- BDN has complete postgame coverage of Duke's thrilling 31-27 victory over FIU. It was a happy locker room and the Blue Devils will carry their good vibes into the off week with a tough FSU team looming October 15.
MIAMI- BDN was on the scene to take in Duke’s 31-27 victory at FIU tonight. Here’s our Rapid Reaction.
Thriller in The Cage
Duke and FIU put on a show under the lights tonight in South Florida. Both teams excited fans with explosive plays and great effort. The game was evenly matched throughout. Both offenses had the upper hand early, but the defenses rallied to keep things in check heading into the 4th quarter. Just when the Golden Panthers thought they had the game in hand with a 27-17 lead, Duke senior Donovan Varner stepped up for a 54-yard completion followed by a 6-yard TD run by Juwan Thompson. There was palpable excitement in the stadium over the closing minutes, as Duke rallied to a 31-27 lead and the Blue Devil defense came up with a clutch goal line stand to force a turnover on downs. Duke’s offense picked up the crucial 1st down to seal the victory on a 16-yard run by Jamison Crowder.
The two offenses combined for 330 yards of offense and 31 points in the 1st quarter alone. Both defenses were on their heels and had no answer for their opponents’ dynamic receivers. Sean Renfree was 12/14 for 173 yards and 2 TDs in the 1st quarter; his favorite receiver was Conner Vernon, who had 5 catches and 76 yards in the opening period. T.Y. Hilton slipped past the Blue Devil defense for a 63 yard touchdown to get the Golden Panthers on the board.
After the blazing start, the pace of the game slowed in the 2nd quarter. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles threw several looks at the Panthers in the first half, including several blitzes and even a package with 3 down linemen and 6 defensive backs at one point. The adjustments did enough to disrupt the Golden Panthers, holding them to just a FG in the 2nd quarter. After putting up 17 quick points in the 1st quarter, Duke’s offense was halted by the FIU defense in the 2nd quarter and continued into the 3rd. Fortunately, Knowles’ defensive adjustments were enough to keep the Golden Panthers at bay and keep the Blue Devils in the game heading into the 4th quarter.
Running game struggles
The Blue Devils could not get anything going on the ground against the Golden Panthers, finishing with just 49 yards rushing. Desmond Scott returned for his first game action since week one, and Josh Snead saw his first game action of the season. FIU’s speedy defense was able to consistently hit the Blue Devil backs near the line of scrimmage and prevent big gains.
All-hyphen team comes up big
The turning point in the game came with 7 minutes remaining, as Duke’s Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo sacked FIU QB Wes Carroll, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Anthony Young-Wiseman at the 9 yard line. Juwan Thompson added his second TD of the 4th quarter on the next play, walking in untouched to give Duke the 31-27 lead. The two hyphenated defenders stepped up when the Blue Devil defense most needed it. DeWalt-Ondijo’s first career sack was a big one for Duke. Later in the game, it was the Blue Devil pass rush that ultimately forced a turnover on downs to seal the victory.
Off week ahead
The Blue Devils will enjoy their off week with their record now at 3-2 and sitting at 1st place in the ACC Coastal Division. Duke will have plenty of time to rest and regroup for a tough FSU opponent on October 15.
Sean Renfree 28/43, 335 yards, 2 TDs
Conner Vernon 8 receptions, 117 yards, 1 TD
Donovan Varner 7 receptions, 111 yards
Juwan Thompson 13 carries, 33 yards
Walt Canty 13 (8/5) tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass break-up
Matt Daniels 9 (5/4) tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Will Snyderwine 1/1 FGs, 4/4 PATs
The Blue Devils will look to make it three in a row on Saturday as they travel to FIU to take on the Golden Panthers. The matchup will be televised on ESPNU at 7PM ET and will also be FIU’s Homecoming Game. Duke evened their record at 2-2 last week with a convincing win over Tulane behind impressive performances by QB Sean Renfree and the Blue Devil defense. Renfree finished with 278 passing yards and 1 touchdown, and added 2 rushing touchdowns as well. The Blue Devil defense held the Green Wave without an offensive touchdown for the first three quarters and allowed just 2.5 yards per carry for the game. Despite numerous injuries, including the loss of ACC sacks leader DE Kenny Anunike for the season, Duke dominated the game, controlling the ball for 36:12 while building a 48-13 lead by early in the 4th quarter.
FIU is one of the youngest programs in the FBS, having played its first season in just 2002. The Golden Panthers are coming off their first winning season in 2010, which saw them claim a Sun Belt Conference co-Championship and a Little Ceasar’s Pizza Bowl victory. When the Golden Panthers take the field, all eyes are on Heisman Trophy candidate T.Y. Hilton, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and one of the most exciting players in all of college football. Hilton lines up at wide receiver for the FIU offense, but also handles the punt and kickoff return duties. This season, Hilton helped FIU to a fast 3-0 start to the season, including over 200 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns against Louisville in week 2. A hamstring injury limited Hilton in week 4 against Louisiana-Lafayette, and the Golden Panthers dropped to 3-1 after a 36-31 defeat to their Sun Belt Conference rival. The Blue Devil defense will have a stiff test on Saturday night as they try to slow the speedy Hilton and the Golden Panthers.
KEYS FOR DUKE
1. Contain T.Y. Hilton
When you face a talent such as Hilton, the key is to minimize his impact on the game, both offensively and on special teams. The probable return of CB Ross Cockrell should help the Duke defense keep tabs on the speedy Hilton, who is utilized in a variety of roles in the FIU spread offense. With Hilton as his favorite target, redshirt-senior QB Wes Carroll has completed over 61% of his passes and thrown for 3 touchdowns. After injuries to Hilton and Carroll forced FIU to rely heavily on RB Kedrick Rhodes in week 4, expect the Golden Panthers to try and get their passing game back on track against Duke. Paul Asack and Alex King would be wise to try and avoid good return opportunities for the always dangerous Hilton.
2. Match FIU’s speed
Relying heavily on the fertile South Florida recruiting grounds, Head Coach Mario Cristobal has built this FIU team around speed, headlined by Hilton, but exemplified up and down the roster. The Golden Panthers are balanced on offense, averaging 198 yards passing and 138 yards rushing per game. Defensively, FIU ranks fifth in the country with 15 sacks per game and has also recorded 7 tackles for loss. On special teams, Hilton averages over 33 yards per kickoff return, good for 4th in the nation. Under David Cutcliffe, Duke has made a deliberate effort to improve their team speed, and it will be put to the test in all phases against a FIU team capable of making explosive plays all over the field.
3. Protect Sean Renfree
Renfree has played outstanding over the past two weeks, spreading the ball around the field to his deep group of receivers and leading Duke to a top-20 passing offense in the country. The Duke offensive line has allowed 8 sacks so far on the season, but Duke fans have seen Renfree sustain several other hard hits. Against an athletic FIU pass rush, the Blue Devil offensive line will have to provide Renfree enough time to deliver the ball down the field to South Florida natives Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner. If Renfree is able to establish a rhythm with his receivers against a FIU secondary that allowed 363 passing yards to Louisville, the Blue Devils will be in good shape.
FIU +2, Duke -3
What a difference a year makes. The Blue Devils have significantly cut down on their turnovers from a year ago and find themselves playing better football as a result. The Duke defense is still struggling to turn opponents over, but have managed to force a few key miscues. With a redshirt-senior QB in Wes Carroll, the Duke defense likely will again have difficulty winning the turnover battle on Saturday.
FIU 15, Duke 7
The Duke offensive line will have its hands full as they try to protect Sean Renfree against one of the top 5 pass rushes in the country. FIU’s defensive speed will particularly challenge the Blue Devils with their blitz packages, as they will try to penetrate Duke’s pass protection. With Brian Moore still sidelined, Duke will need another strong effort from redshirt-freshmen Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield.
Duke 46%, FIU 29%
Duke’s success on 3rd down has been a big part of their #7 national ranking in time of possession. The Blue Devils have converted 28/61 3rd down opportunities while holding opponents to just a 38% conversion rate. Conversely, FIU has struggled to sustain drives, picking up just 14/49 3rd downs while allowing opponents to be successful on 35% of their opportunities. Both 3rd and 4th down conversions have been key to their current 2-game winning streak, and they’ll look to continue that success on Saturday.
T.Y. Hilton is explosive, and FIU's speed can burn opponents. If Hilton is allowed to make plays for the Golden Panthers, it will be a long night for Blue Devil fans. Duke, of course, has playmakers of their own. If it is to be a happy homecoming for Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner, Duke will have to continue to get them the ball down the field. Freshman Jamison Crowder showed a glimpse of his explosiveness last week with a punt return touchdown that was later voided by penalty. With Crowder and Hilton in the return game, there will be explosive athletes on both sides of the ball in all phases on Saturday.
Duke 10, FIU 9
Coach Cut says, “When you run out of room to throw the football, find a way to run the ball in.” Despite the loss of QB Brandon Connette, RB Desmond Scott, and RB Josh Snead, the Blue Devils have been successful rushing the football in the red zone in their past two contests. In fact, Duke was able to convert all 7 of their red zone chances against Tulane, including 2 rushing scores for Sean Renfree and 2 more for Juwan Thompson. With the possible return of Scott and/or Snead, the Blue Devils will have plenty of weapons to punch it in on the ground. For FIU, Kedrick Rhodes has been the primary threat on the ground, but the always-dangerous Hilton can run it in from anywhere.
FIU 5/6, Duke 2/8
Welcome back, Will Snyderwine the All-American. After a disastrous start to the 2011 season, the Blue Devils’ kicker got back on track with a 40-yard FG against Tulane. Though he is still nursing an ankle injury, Duke fans should be able to breathe a small sigh of relief when the Blue Devils line up for a field goal. FIU’s Jack Griffin has been perfect from inside 50 yards so far in 2011.
Duke 20-168 yards, FIU 21-183 yards
The Blue Devils continue to clean up their act, but are far from playing error-free. Against an energized and veteran FIU team, Duke will have a very small margin for error on Saturday, meaning that penalties could be costly. The Blue Devils will have to match the Golden Panthers’ speed with good fundamentals and avoid ill-advised penalties.
ESPNU was wise to televise this game, as it should be both entertaining and competitive. Both offenses feature explosive talents that are likely to put up points on the board. The Blue Devil defense is playing with renewed confidence after two victories, while the Golden Panthers will look to fight back from a disappointing conference loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Uncle Mo is on the Duke side, and it should be enough to carry the Blue Devils into their off week at 3-2 behind another strong performance by Sean Renfree.