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Duke-football

BDN Football Friday: Spring Game Preview

 

Coach Cutcliffe and the team will kickoff the festivities with the Blue Devil Walk at 11AM Saturday- BDN Photo

Are you ready for some football, Blue Devil Nation? Saturday afternoon will be your last chance until September 1st to see some Duke Football, so get your fill. The Blue Devils will take to the field on Saturday at 1PM in Wallace Wade Stadium for their annual spring game. BDN’s Football Friday is here for your preview.

 

Logistics

First of all, highs in the upper 70s, with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms. Should be a perfect spring day for some football if the rains miss the Methodist Flats. That also means a perfect day for some tailgating. Get there early, as the team will conduct the Blue Devil Walk at 11:00 AM. Team BDN will be there in full force, so be sure to say hi. Here’s the information on the parking situation. Bring your wallets, even though admission is free (stadium gates open at 11:15), as there will be plenty of opportunities to get your Blue Devil gear, as well as stuff your face with Chick-fil-a, Domino’s, and Blue Devil Concessions. Oh, and the most important reason to bring your wallet is to purchase your 2012 season tickets. Ticket office reps will be on hand and help you pick your exact seats. Try before you buy. The game kicks off at 1PM and Coach Cutcliffe will address the crowd during halftime of the scrimmage. Spring practice awards will also be announced at halftime.

TE Issac Blakeney has had a big spring for the Blue Devils

Scouting the Blue Devil Offense

The Duke offense will feature a number of familiar faces, but it’s likely to be the unfamiliar ones who will make an impression on Saturday. We all know what Conner Vernon is capable of at wide receiver, but as he’s been limited due to injury this spring, expect to see a lot of Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, both of whom have had very strong spring performances. Nick Hill is another young face who appears ready to contribute, and Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins add a veteran presence to the receiving corps. With Jack Farrell and Braxton Deaver sidelined with injuries, the Blue Devils had concerns at wide receiver heading into spring practice. Coming out of spring practice, tight end is no longer a concern, and you’ll likely see why as Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are sure to impress.

Up front, the Duke offensive line returns all but graduating senior Kyle Hill, and that continuity should benefit the Blue Devil offense. This group has improved each year under Coach Cutcliffe, and they’re looking to take a big step forward this fall under new OL Coach John Latina. Expect to see a few holes opened for the likes of the now healthy Josh Snead and last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson, who have seen the majority of carries with senior Desmond Scott nursing injury. If that trio isn’t impressive enough for you, the Blue Devils will add two more big-time running backs in just a few months, as Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell will push for early playing time.

Am I forgetting something? Ah, yes, quarterback. While Peyton Manning had been a fixture in the Duke practice facilities this offseason, he will not be taking snaps under center for the Blue Devils on Saturday. Sean Renfree remains entrenched as the starter, and he’s had yet another good spring running the Duke offense. While much of spring practice is situational, Renfree has shown the ability to get the ball downfield, averaging 15.7 yards per completion in the last scrimmage. But Renfree’s old news, right? Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff have been looking at ways to get guys like Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone more involved in the offense, and they’ve done well with running the ball and catching the ball in some unique schemes. But don’t get too excited. Knowing the Duke coaching staff, the Blue Devils are unlikely to show off anything particularly new or exciting on Saturday, so we’ll all just have to wait until the fall. Expect to see Connette, Boone, and freshman Thomas Sirk take several snaps under center in relief of Renfree; all have taken big steps forward in their command of the offense this spring.

Ross Cockrell has developed into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils

Scouting the Blue Devil Defense

Somehow, it seems that Duke has had a perpetually young defense the past few years, and that remain the case this spring, though they are overall more experienced. The losses of Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will be the biggest voids to fill, and there are a number of candidates looking to contribute. Up front, Duke will be without their top pass-rushers Saturday in Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, but will feature much of the same group of athletic ends we saw a year ago, led by Justin Foxx, Dezmond Johnson, and Jamal Wallace. Sydney Sarmiento, Jamal Bruce, and Nick Sink are likely to see the majority of time on the inside up front. The defensive line continues to improve under Coach Petri and has the benefit of going up against a big and experienced offensive line in practice.

At linebacker, the Blue Devils will be without Kelby Brown for the foreseeable future, but expect sophomore David Helton to continue to impress. The redshirt is off for Kelby’s younger, but bigger, brother Kyler, and it appears that a nose for the football is in their genes. Austin Gamble is the lone upperclassman, though sophomores C.J. France and Jon Woodruff have some experience. And before you get down on the Blue Devil linebackers, keep in mind that stud recruits Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams will be on campus in just a few months.

Coach Knowles’ 4-2-5 scheme relies heavily on the secondary, and the emergence of Ross Cockrell as a shutdown corner is key. He’ll be joined by senior Lee Butler at cornerback, though youngsters Jared Boyd and Tim Burton will see time. The leader of the secondary this year is most likely to be leading returning tackler Walt Canty, though hard-hitting Jordon Byas has also turned some heads with August Campbell sidelined this spring. Newcomers to look for at safety include the hard-working Chris Tavarez, Britton Grier, transfer Jeremy Cash, and former WR Brandon Braxton. All should see snaps on Saturday and overall, this group has some of the best playmakers on the defensive side.

Scouting the Blue Devil Special Teams

Will Monday. That’s about all you need to know. With Will Snyderwine and Alex King now graduated, Monday has handled all of the punting and kicking duties this spring, and handled them well. By the fall, incoming freshman Ross Martin may challenge him for the placekicking duties, but expect to see Monday handle the punting for the next four years in Durham. On the return side, Jamison Crowder remains the Blue Devils’ top threat, but he’ll be joined by incoming freshman DeVon Edwards this fall, who took more than a few kicks to the house during his high school career. In all likelihood, getting to see Monday punt and kick should be a refreshing sight for Blue Devil fans and the only real highlight on special teams Saturday.

Recruiting still sizzling

Who are all those people with lanyards and nametags? That would be the dozens of high school prospects and their families who will be on campus this weekend to take in the Blue Devil program. Several members of the Duke class of 2012 will be on hand Saturday, and they’ll be joined by a huge group of future prospects. With 3 commitments already on board in 2013, the coaching staff is flying high on the trail and will have in some of their top targets in this class, including a handful considered among the nation’s elite. Coach Cutcliffe and his staff work on recruiting every single day, and this weekend will be no exception. And just like the staff, we follow the recruiting trail here at BDN, so be sure to check out some of our recent interviews with the likes of TE Nathan Marcus, and OL Sterling Korona, and of course lots more to come. Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils hear more good news by the end of this weekend.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, Blue Devil Nation is the place to be for Duke Football fans. We cover the team year-round, and would love to have you join our growing BDN Premium community. We can’t wait to see you all in Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.

Duke receiver Brandon Braxton has made the switch to safety this spring

Brandon Braxton updates BDN on his transition to safety

Duke receiver Brandon Braxton has made the switch to safety this spring

The goal this offseason has been on finding the “best 22″ players to put on the field for the Blue Devils. Inevitably, this forces the Duke coaching staff to make some creative and difficult decisions to realize this goal. One of the most prominent changes this spring has involved Brandon Braxton, a once promising wide receiver who has selflessly made the switch to safety. Braxton’s strong play on special teams the past two seasons exemplified some of his potential as a defender and tackler, but the learning curve for Coach Knowles’ defense is steep. BDN caught up with Brandon after spring practice last week to get an update on his transition.

BDN: How did the decision to switch positions come about?

I had originally heard through the grapevine that they were switching me to defense. I gave Coach Cut a call and went and met with him, and it wasn’t for sure or anything at that point, and he said that they had been thinking about it. I told him I would be willing to switch if they thought that would improve our team, and I ended up switching and so far I like it a lot. 

BDN: How do you feel your skill set fits on the defensive side of the ball?

I like the defensive side of the ball because it allows me to react instead of having a set play, so I definitely like that about defense. I also just like flying around and reading, so that’s probably my favorite part about defense.

BDN: You’ve played quite a bit on special teams over the past two seasons, so you’ve had some experience with tackling, but what have you found to be the hardest adjustment to playing defense so far this spring?

There really hasn’t been any really hard thing to pick up, but just learning the defense and knowing checks and seeing different things. Just being comfortable at safety is definitely a huge change from what I have been doing and what I’m used to. I feel like I’m a freshman all over again, learning a whole new system and getting back in the swing of things of college football. I haven’t played defense since junior year of high school, but so far I’m picking it up really fast and feel like every day I’m progressing.

BDN: Now that you’re on the other side of the ball, who’s the toughest receiver to matchup with in practice?

All of them are really good, honestly. Blair Holliday has been playing great. Jamison [Crowder] has been playing really good. Conner [Vernon], everyone already knows that Conner is a stud. Nick Hill is a new and upcoming redshirt-freshman and he’s been playing really good. All of them, really, there isn’t one that I can pinpoint that’s super difficult, they all have different attributes and different things that they bring to the wide receiver.

BDN: You may feel like a freshman all over again, but you’re actually entering your third year with the program. What’s your assessment of the team this spring, compared to when you first arrived at Duke?

This spring, well I’ve only been through two springs, but there was such a period when losing was acceptable, and I think that that whole air and people that were here when that was happening is gone. My teammates now don’t accept losing as an option. That’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen. We’ve all been working really hard and the coaches have been pushing us, and we’re all up to the challenge.

BDN: The secondary is obviously a key to Coach Knowles’ defense. Can you talk a little about some of the players that have impressed you and helped you make your transition?

All of them – Walt [Canty], Jordon [Byas], Anthony Young-Wiseman, they’re all veterans and they’ve all been here awhile. Ross Cockrell, we’re usually on the same side, and he’s been helping me a lot and he’s progressed immensely at the corner position. He’s turned into one heck of a cornerback. They’ve all done their part in helping me pick it up faster and teaching me tricks of the trade and making sure I do well.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Brandon, and best of luck this spring.

Alright, Patrick, thank you so much.

Duke QB Sean Renfree threw for 2 TDs in Saturday's scrimmage

Holliday, Renfree Highlight Duke Football Scrimmage

Duke QB Sean Renfree threw for 2 TDs in Saturday's scrimmage

DURHAM, N.C. – Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 15-of-19 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns while wideout Blair Holliday caught eight passes for 84 yards to highlight Duke’s 60-play scrimmage Saturday morning at Wallace Wade Stadium.

“We really got what we wanted out of it,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.  “We wanted to extend play. We’ve done a lot of fundamental work. This is practice nine. Probably more fundamental work and less team work than we’ve had in any time since we’ve been here. But we’ve worked on some of the ‘how’ before we were doing the ‘what’. I think it’s paid off. It’s paid off with players like Blair Holliday, who you can just see has jumped leaps and bounds from where he was. It’s paid off in a lot of our offensive and defensive linemen – first team and second team.”

Renfree’s two scoring throws covered eight and 15 yards, respectively, to Jamison Crowder and Holliday.  Crowder finished the day with six grabs for 67 yards.  Running back Josh Snead spearheaded the ground attack with 61 yards on eight attempts, including a one-yard touchdown plunge, while quarterback Brandon Connette rushed five times for 29 yards with a nine-yard touchdown.

“The coaches have shown great trust in all our receivers,” Holliday said. “We changed our offense around a bit where every receiver needs to know the positions; every receiver needs to come up and make big plays. It really just shows how much trust they have in us to put us out there and make plays.”

The final scoring play of the morning came on a 40-yard strike from Connette to tight end Issac Blakeney.

“Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are two very young tight ends that I can see now all of the work they’ve put in,” Cutcliffe noted.  “If I had to probably pick one thing that the naked eye caught was Sean Renfree. He was a senior quarterback today. He was really sharp, and not just in the scrimmaging parts. From the first part of practice on — I watched him through seven-on-seven — everything was at a very high level. A lot of encouragement today.”

Safety Walt Canty registered the lone turnover of the day with an interception.  Kicker Will Monday booted a 26-yard field goal along with a pair of PATs.

Duke will host the annual Spring Game presented by PNC Bank on Saturday, March 31 in Wallace Wade Stadium.  Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. and admission is free of charge.

Duke-football

BDN Football Friday: Spring update, to ease the pain

Duke hosted Mallard Creek WR Marquez North earlier this spring

It has been suggested that writing a spring update on Duke Football might help make the nightmares about mountain hawks go away, so here it is. In fact, there’s actually a lot to be excited about with regards to Duke Football. Yeah, yeah, we always say that and then we’re all disappointed come the fall. But you’ve got to see the forest instead of the trees, people!

Recruiting off to a hot start

Ok, show of hands. How many of you just went and checked the Duke 2013 commitment list when you read that sub-headline? Or, another way of asking the same question, how many of you have been following Duke Football recruiting during basketball season? Well, either way, you’ve probably figured out that Duke has yet to secure a verbal commitment in the class of 2013. (Saturday afternoon edit: Duke landed a commitment from QB Quay Chambers and OL Austin Davis this morning)

So, how can recruiting be off to a hot start? Generally speaking, you’ve got to get a prospect on campus if you have any hope of landing a commitment, and Coach Cutcliffe and his staff have hosted an impressive list of visitors already this spring. In fact, Duke has already had more than 10 members of the ESPNU150 Watch List (an unofficial list of the top 300 HS rising seniors in the country) on campus in Durham. Most recently, the Blue Devils had 9 top targets in the class of 2013 on campus for the North Carolina basketball game, including Watch List members WR Marquez North, LB Peter Kalambayi, OL Mike McGlinchey, and OL Tyrone Crowder. The coaching staff has been in contact early and often with a number of other Watch List members, including several on the West Coast, and hope to host several more visitors later this spring and summer. As you know, we’ll continue to bring you the best coverage of Duke Football and Duke Football Recruiting around.

Duke WR Conner Vernon scores his 1st of 2 TDs against Tulane last year -BDN Photo

Spring practice highly competitive

The Blue Devils returned to the field this past week to start the second half of their spring practice, and the competition level has been at its highest in the Cutcliffe era. We checked in with WR Conner Vernon earlier this week, and he confirmed that across the board, Duke is a deeper and more competitive team. The Blue Devils return 17 starters this fall, but each of those players will be pushed by younger players on the depth chart. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

The Duke defense loses two of its leaders to graduation in S Matt Daniels and NG Charlie Hatcher, but there is real competition to fill their starting job. At safety, Walt Canty, Jordon Byas, and August Campbell will be projected to start heading into the fall, but they are being pushed everyday in practice by newcomer Jeremy Cash, former WR Brandon Braxton, and youngsters such as Chris Tavarez and Britton Grier. Also, it can’t be ruled out that Issac Blakeney won’t see some time on defense, as he has established himself as one of the team’s best pass-rushers last spring from the safety position. To fill Hatcher’s void up front, the Blue Devils have Jamal Bruce, along with two 300-pound players in Will Bryant (recently returned from injury) and Steven Ingram. To put it in March Madness terms, I wouldn’t “go Sharpie” on anyone’s starting job quite yet.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Blue Devils have struggled in the red zone in recent years. The coaching staff has utilized an option style attack with Brandon Connette or Anthony Boone under center. Fans and media alike have questioned the success of this approach, as it seemed to lack creativity and often stalled drives. This year, however, it appears that won’t be the case. Coach Cutcliffe has used the “best 22 players” mantra as a focus for this offseason, and the quarterback position has been one of the most impacted. With three players with significant game experience under center in Sean Renfree, Connette, and Boone, Duke is looking at ways to put all of their weapons on the field, especially in red zone situations. Based on early returns from this spring, both Boone and Connette will not only be used under center, but also at tailback and tight end. As two of the better athletes on the roster, these alignments, if nothing else, should have fans excited for the fall.

Kenny Anunike granted 6th year of eligibility

This is big-time news. Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.  Based on the ruling, he is eligible to participate in the 2012 and 2013 football seasons.

A 6-5, 250-pound native Galena, Ohio, Anunike appeared in four games last fall before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Tulane. Prior to the injury, he was leading the ACC in quarterback sacks (4.0) and was credited with 13 total tackles including five for loss on the year.  Anunike has not participated in spring drills while recovering from knee surgery performed last fall.

Anunike also missed the 2008 season while recovering from knee surgery.  He played in all 12 games in 2009 as a reserve tight end before shifting to the defensive line, where he registered 23 tackles in 12 games during the 2010 campaign.

Kelby Brown undergoes 2nd ACL repair

Duke rising junior Kelby Brown underwent his 2nd ACL repair on February 22, putting his health for the 2012 season into question. The revision surgery was performed on Wednesday by Dr. Claude T. Moorman III, Duke’s head team physician and the director of Duke Sports Medicine.  Brown originally injured the knee on November 20, 2010 against Georgia Tech, and underwent surgery weeks later.  He re-injured the knee earlier in February 2012.

A 6-2, 220-pound native of Matthews, N.C., Brown has played in 19 games with 17 starting assignments over the past two years.  Last year, he led Duke in tackles for loss (7.0) while posting 65 total stops and received the program’s Mike Curtis Award as Duke’s most outstanding linebacker.

Brown’s career totals include 128 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, four fumble recoveries, one caused fumble, three pass breakups and seven quarterback pressures.  In addition, he is a two-time selection to the Academic All-ACC squad.

Should Kelby not be available to play this fall, he does have a redshirt year available, and would therefore still have two years of eligibility remaining. It should also be noted that WR Conner Vernon pointed to Kelby’s younger (but bigger) brother, Kyler, as one of the young Blue Devils who has been most impressive this spring.

Preferred walk-on program thriving

Ok, so I don’t leave you in Negative Town, let’s talk about another bright spot for the Duke Football program. Since Coach Cutcliffe’s arrival, he has built the walk-on program at Duke into an asset for Duke Football. First, allow me to give you some perspective.

A 5’10” 165 pound, slow-footed freshman from upstate New York enrolled at Duke a few (I mean several – ok, fine, it was over a decade) years ago, and within his welcome packet to the university, he received a letter inviting him to walk on to the football team. While I did not elect to subject my body to the punishment of collegiate football, I imagine several other equally qualified freshmen received similar letters back then, and some probably did. Flash forward to 2012, and Duke Football secures a commitment from one of the top 10 long snappers in the nation…as a preferred walk-on.

Slightly different use of the walk-on program, eh? Last week’s commitment from Thomas Hennessy was just the latest among several preferred walk-ons for the program. When Coach Cutcliffe arrived in Durham, he had one quarterback to get through spring practice. This year, he has seven, including two preferred walk-ons. That’s seven QBs to practice snaps under center, seven QBs to practice handoffs to RBs, seven QBs to practice routes with WRs, and seven QBs for defenders to pass rush. Across the board, the walk-ons that Coach Cutcliffe have brought in have improved the program by allowing for more reps and more productive practices. While many of these preferred walk-ons may not make a significant individual contribution to the box score, they make their teammates better everyday in practice.

Sweet, I knew I could make it through an article without mentioning Peyton Manning (he’s been working out at Duke, in case you’ve been living under a rock). So, I haven’t forgotten about Football Friday, but my schedule simply doesn’t allow me to commit the time needed to it. But I’ll make a deal with you, since we’re all feeling down today. This won’t be the last football update you read this spring. We’ll keep it coming, as time allows. And also, we’ll have lots of prospect interviews and several updates from current players and coaches as we head towards the spring game – March 31, Wallace Wade Stadium, 1:00 PM ET. Be there. I’ll be looking for you.

WE ARE DUKE.

Sean Renfree found Conner Vernon for a 6-yard 2nd quarter TD.  BDN Photo

White defeats Blue, 21-14 in Duke Football Spring Game

Sean Renfree found Conner Vernon for a 6-yard 2nd quarter TD. BDN Photo

DURHAM, N.C. - Anthony Boone’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Tyree Watkins with 11:15 remaining in the fourth period lifted the White squad to a come-from-behind victory over the Blue unit in Duke’s annual Spring Game on Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Saturday’s event brought spring practice to a close for the Blue Devils.

The Blue team opened the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run by Patrick Kurunwune at the 8:51 mark of the first period.  Just over four minutes later, Brandon Connette found the end zone from 14 yards out on the ground to push the lead to 14-0.  The White team managed to pull within seven prior to halftime when Sean Renfree hooked up with Conner Vernon on a six-yard touchdown pass.

Midway through the third quarter, Desmond Scott brought the White unit even on the scoreboard with a 16-yard touchdown run.

On the day, Renfree connected on eight-of-14 passes for 105 yards and one touchdowns while Boone was seven-of-15 through the air for 94 yards with one touchdown and one interception.  Scott paced the White team with 56 rushing yards on 13 carries while Juwan Thompson gained 35 yards on nine rushes.  For the Blue unit, Connette completed 10-of-16 throws for 102 yards while rushing for 34 yards on eight attempts whileJosh Snead picked up 54 yards on six carries.

Watkins finished with six receptions for 67 yards while Brandon Braxton (21 yards), Cooper Helfet (64 yards) and Vernon (19 yards) had three catches apiece.

Defensively, Jamal Wallace carded a game-high seven tackles while Austin Gamble had six total stops.  Issac Blakeney, Walt Canty, Matt Daniels, C.J. France, Tyree Glover and Jonathan Woodruff logged five tackles each, with Blakeney also contributing two tackles for loss, one quarterback sack, one caused fumble, one quarterback pressure and one pass breakup.  Charlie Hatcher, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Tony Foster each recorded one quarterback sack while Garrett Rider’s interception in the fourth quarter was the game’s lone turnover.

Cutcliffe also announced the program’s award winners for spring practice award winners with Thompson (Most Improved Offensive Player), Ross Cockrell (Most Improved Defensive Player) and Preston Scott (Blue Devil Heart Award) claiming honors.

Duke opens the 2011 season at home on September 3 against Richmond.  Season tickets are available online at GoDuke.com or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at 1-877-631-3853.

White 21, Blue 14

1st – 8:51 – Blue - Patrick Kurunwune 14 run (Jeffrey Ijjas kick)
1st – 4:15 – Blue - Brandon Connette 14 run (Paul Asack kick)
2nd – 7:05 – White - Conner Vernon 6 pass from Sean Renfree (Will Snyderwine kick)
3rd – 7:30 – White - Desmond Scott 16 run (Will Snyderwine kick)
4th – 11:15 – White - Tyree Watkins 32 pass from Anthony Boone (Will Snyderwine kick)

RUSHING: Desmond Scott 13-56, Josh Snead 6-54, Juwan Thompson 9-35, Brandon Connette 8-34, Anthony Boone 5-31, Sean Renfree 2-25, Patrick Kurunwune 4-23, Sean Schroeder 3-7, Team 1-(-1)
PASSING: Sean Renfree 8-14-0-105, Brandon Connette 10-16-0-102, Anthony Boone 7-15-1-94, Sean Schroeder 3-8-0-13
RECEIVING: Tyree Watkins 6-67, Cooper Helfet 3-64, Brandon Braxton 3-21, Conner Vernon 3-19, Juwan Thompson 2-43, Josh Trezvant 2-31, Desmond Scott 2-16, Braxton Deaver 2-13, Josh Snead 1-20, Preston Scott 1-12, Danny Parker 1-4, Jack Farrell 1-3, Patrick Kurunwune 1-1
PUNTING: Alex King 5-204-40.8
FIELD GOALS: Jeffrey Ijjas – 44 (no good)
TACKLES: Jamal Wallace 7, Austin Gamble 6, Issac Blakeney 5, Walt Canty 5, Matt Daniels 5, C.J. France 5, Tyree Glover 5, Jonathan Woodruff 5, Charlie Hatcher 4, Kevin Rojas 4, August Campbell 3, Nick Sink 3, Jordan Byas 2, Ross Cockrell 2, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo 2, Anthony Young-Wiseman 2, Garrett Rider 2, Tony Foster 2, Jamal Bruce 2, Zach Greene 1, Garett Patterson 1, Curtis Hazelton 1, Steven Ingram 1, Will Boeckman 1, Sydney Sarmiento 1
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Issac Blakeney 2, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo 1, Tony Foster 1, Charlie Hatcher 1
QUARTERBACK SACKS: Issac Blakeney 1, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo 1, Tony Foster 1, Charlie Hatcher 1
PASS BREAKUPS: Issac Blakeney 1, Jordan Byas 1, C.J. France 1, Ned Smith 1, Johnny Williams 1, Anthony Young-Wiseman 1
QB PRESSURES: Issac Blakeney 1, Kevin Rojas 1, Jamal Wallace 1, Anthony Young-Wiseman 1
CAUSED FUMBLES: Issac Blakeney 1
INTERCEPTIONS: Garrett Rider 1

 

Stats Update: Red Zone Miscue, Big Plays Sink Blue Devils

With 4 minutes and 38 seconds left in the second quarter, Duke failed inside the red zone for the first time this season when on third and eight from the Maryland 17 yard line Sean Renfree threw an interception. The mistake ultimately proved fatal.

If Renfree’s pass had been incomplete instead of picked off, Will Snyderwine would have had an opportunity to kick a fourth first half field goal and expand Duke’s lead to 12-0. Instead the Terps drove 80 yards in eight plays to cut the lead to 9-7 at the half grabbing momentum in the process.

Discussing the interception, Renfree stated, “I just tried to force it in there and tried to hurry myself too much.”

The red zone miscue coupled with two big second half plays by Maryland resulted in a 21-16 loss for Duke in a game the Blue Devils should have won. Duke racked up 399 total yards to Maryland’s 294. Duke’s defense, which had been allowing 229 yards rushing per game, held Maryland to 124 yards on the ground. Coach Cutcliffe attributed the improved defensive play to quality practice, “When you are hungry and you work that way, you are going to get better. We are going to continue to improve as a team.”

Safety Walt Canty echoed Coach Cutcliffe’s comments by stating, “We had a great week of practice, and when you have a great week of practice, that is how you improve.”

Duke’s receivers played a solid game with Donovan Varner leading the way with eight catches for 128 yards. Conner Vernon added six catches for 99 yards; Austin Kelly contributed six catches for 60 yards, Josh Trezvant caught one pass for 25 yards, while true freshman Brandon Braxton caught two balls for 23 yards. Tight-end Brandon King scored Duke’s touchdown on a two yard reception from Sean Renfree at the 7 minute and 20 second mark of the fourth quarter.

The ground game, which had rushed for over 100 yards in each of Duke’s first four games, was limited to 48 yards. Josh Snead led the Blue Devils with 32 yards on four carries. Establishing a running game will be important when the Miami Hurricanes visit Duke in two weeks as the ‘Canes possess the number one rated pass defense in the ACC giving up only 136 yards per game through the air. Miami has recorded 17 quarterback sacks in their first four games.

On the defensive side of the ball, Abraham Kromah had nine solo tackles and six assists for a total of 15 tackles. Kromah is fourth in the ACC averaging 9.2 tackles per game. Kelby Brown and Walt Canty chipped in six tackles each. Duke had four tackles for loss but did not record a quarterback sack for the second straight game. Duke is last in the ACC in sacks with four in five games.

Here is how Duke stands in the ACC and NCAA in the 10 statistical categories we’ve been tracking all season:

1. Turnover margin: moved this category to the top as it is the most relevant statistic to understanding the Blue Devils 1-4 record. Duke now has a minus six (-6) in turnover margin, which is last in the ACC and tied for number 112 in the nation. The offense must stop turning the ball over and the defense must start forcing some turnovers if the Blue Devils desire to start winning ball games.

2. Red zone offense: there is no reason to panic after one red zone turnover as Duke has scored on 17-18 (94.4%) possessions this season. However, after the miscue and having to settle for field goals on three previous first half red zone opportunities, this statistic bears watching. The Blue Devils need to score touchdowns in the red zone. Duke remains number one in the ACC in this category and is tied for number eight in the nation.

3. Total offense: offensive yardage dropped from 425.8 yards to 420.4 yards per game but the Blue Devils moved up from number four to number three in the ACC. Duke is now number 39 in the nation. The Duke offense racked up 351 yards passing against Maryland.

4. Time of possession: Duke continues to fall in this category as their time of possession is now down to 29 minutes and 14 seconds per game. The Blue Devils are number eight in the ACC and number 77 in the nation.

5. Third down conversions: Duke was 4-16 on third down against Maryland, which lowered their success rate to 38.9% resulting in Duke falling to number eight in the ACC and number 71 in the nation. The Blue Devils have been successful on 28 of 72 third downs.

6. First downs: Duke remains number three in the ACC and number 37 in the nation with 108 first downs. The Blue Devils have rushed for 32, passed for 70, and been awarded six via penalties.

7. Total defense: remained number 11 in the ACC but improved to number 100 in the nation as they decreased total yards allowed to 431.8 from 466.2 yards of offense per game.

8. Scoring defense: Duke remains last in the ACC giving up an average 39.8 points per game down from 44.7 points per game. The Blue Devils are number 113 in the nation. The 21 points given up to Maryland are the lowest yielded this season. The previous low was 27 points against Elon.

9. Opponent first downs: improved to number 10 in the ACC and number 93 in the nation by giving up 106 first downs. Opponents have rushed for 53, passed for 45 and been awarded eight via penalty.

10. Red zone defense: opponents have scored on Duke in 17 out of 19 red zone opportunities. Duke is tied with Georgia Tech for number seven in the ACC and number 91 in the nation.

Two turnovers, including a red zone miscue, and continued issues with giving up big plays combined to sink Duke on the road against Maryland. This team is improving week-to-week, as evidenced by total yards and points allowed trending down the last two games, but the Blue Devils remain a young squad which cannot afford to make mistakes.

With the powerful Miami Hurricanes headed to Wallace Wade Stadium on October 16, the Blue Devils need to take advantage of their bye week to focus upon eliminating turnovers and executing consistently on both sides of the line of scrimmage.