First Look: Duke v. Maryland

Previewing the Blue Devils and Terrapins who kick off on Saturday in College Park

With so many chances to receive kickoffs during the past few weeks, the Blue Devils would like to do something with those to sway momentum.

There have been opportunities to do so, but the Blue Devils haven't finished the plays in those cases.

"We should have had two go to the house," coach David Cutcliffe said, referring to the most-recent game against Army. "We're a little upset we haven't had what we call a 'house call.' "

Duke puts its speedy players deep on kickoff returns. The Blue Devils have used true freshman running back Josh Snead as one of its primary returnees.

Cutcliffe has been adamant about the lack of turning promising kickoff returns into immediate points. He said there have been several situations in recent weeks when a return for a touchdown has been feasible with slightly better execution. The team's longest kickoff return this year has been 36 yards.

--The Blue Devils are hitting at a good clip on offense when moving into the red zone. They've scored every time this season, racking up nine touchdowns and four field goals in 13 visits to the red zone. However, they only had one possession against Army in which they took a snap from inside the Army 20-yard line.

--Duke has capable tight ends, but they were mostly invisible against Army. None of the Blue Devils' 17 completed passes went to tight ends in that game. Duke is hurt by having former starting TE Brett Huffman out with an injury for the past two games.

SERIES HISTORY: Maryland leads Duke 30-19 (last meeting, 2009, Maryland, 17-13).

The Blue Devils have another issue going into their fifth game. They must bolster the confidence of quarterback Sean Renfree after the shakiest outing of his career in the loss to Army. Renfree said it was his toughest day on a football field. Putting him in a good mindset will be one of the priorities. The Blue Devils would like more chances to turn to what has been at times an encouraging rushing attack. The running game could resurface if large early deficits can be avoided.

The Blue Devils are coming off their most encouraging outing of the season in the setback to Army. The defense was put in roughs spots by the Duke offense's turnovers. The defense also should welcome the return to facing a more conventional offense. The Blue Devils ended up taking too many risks against Army's option attack, in part because they faced such a big early deficit. The matchup against Maryland should be a better test to see if the Blue Devils have made progress on defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You'd better be mentally tough. You're still trying to recover from three losses in a row." - Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose team makes the first of two trips to the state of Maryland when it takes on Maryland this weekend.


Duke at Maryland, Oct. 2 -- The Blue Devils play only their second road game of the season and they leave their home state for the first time this year. This is Duke's second ACC game and, like the game at Wake Forest three weeks earlier, it's an out-of-division road assignment.

Duke hasn't scored first in a game this season. A change there could help because with the Blue Devils' declining confidence, falling into another hole could make matters worse. The Blue Devils might be inclined to look downfield for more big plays if their offensive linemen can hold their own because that would enable them to avoid the impact of Maryland's talented linebackers.

LB Kelby Brown -- He might be in line for a rapid rise. His nose for the ball was noticed in practice, and an expected redshirt season was lifted after two games. He played sparingly against Alabama but was on the field for most of the last 21/2 quarters against Army when LB Austin Gamble went out with an injury. Brown was credited with 10 tackles against Army after making four stops and a fumble recovery in only 19 snaps against Alabama.

S Walt Canty -- He has posted career highs in tackles in each of the past two weeks. His eight tackles against Army eclipsed his mark of five a week earlier against Alabama.

QB Sean Renfree -- Coming off the roughest outing of his career, Renfree will need a bounce-back performance. Coach David Cutcliffe said Renfree's struggles were startling to his teammates because they had come to expect a high level from the redshirt sophomore. Across parts of two seasons, he has thrown a total of 45 passes in ACC road games and four of those have been intercepted.

--WR Conner Vernon leads the ACC in receiving. He has made three touchdown receptions this year and all three of those plays have covered more than 50 yards.

--LB Damian Thornton suffered a knee strain against Army, but the injury wasn't as severe as initially feared. He might not miss significant playing time, coach David Cutcliffe said.

--CB Johnny Williams, who suffered a concussion against Alabama, wasn't in uniform the next week for the Army game. Even a couple of days after the Army game, he was awaiting clearance for full participation.

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