Bye Week News & Notes

Reviewing the Blue Devils' season to date as the team takes a week off and prepares for the second half of the year.

The Blue Devils were anticipating a breakthrough season, but so far it has been mostly broken for Duke.

They've lost four games in a row and their postseason drought is bound to continue. They haven't been to a bowl game since 1994.

It doesn't figure to become any easier for Duke (1-4), which needed to make gains early in the season in order to reach some of its goals. A loss at Wake Forest, which hasn't won a game since then, and a home setback to Army were crushing defeats because those were games that the Blue Devils figured they could win. The most-recent result -- a loss at Maryland -- fits that description as well.

Now they're off for a week with a date with Miami staring at them when they return to action.

"When you come to our practices, you can see the competitiveness," coach David Cutcliffe said. "It is unfortunate that it's not showing up in the record right now."

Cutcliffe said he didn't alter the open-week practice plan based on the recent results. That means the Blue Devils were in store for three days of regular practice prior to taking a couple of days off before resuming game-week mode for Miami's visit Oct. 16.

Sean Renfree has established himself as a solid quarterback and the Blue Devils will look to ride him while they try to continue to correct obvious shortcomings that have surfaced on defense.

--WR Conner Vernon missed his fourth 100-yard receiving outing of the season by one yard with his 99-yard effort at Maryland. That put him at a team-best 548 receiving yards through five games. That's closing in quickly on last season's 746 receiving yards when he was a freshman.

--Duke's attempt at cranking up a rushing attack took a step back with gaining only 2.1 yards per attempt on 23 rushes against Maryland. The Blue Devils have had only one 1,000-yard rusher in a season since the 1994 bowl season and unless RB Desmond Scott, who has a team-best 297 yards through five games, another year will pass without a player reaching that milestone. On the plus side, Scott has already topped his team-high 262 rushing yards from last season.

SEASON SUMMARY: The Blue Devils haven't been good enough on defense, and that has created the most problems, putting so much pressure on the offense that mistakes have increased on that side of the ball as well. The Blue Devils are young on offense, but they have enough player makers at the receiver position that they can look like a threatening team.

LOOKING AHEAD: This was supposed to be the time of the year to see if progress in the third season under coach David Cutcliffe was enough to make a dent in the ACC. Instead, the Blue Devils are trying to climb out of a hole and at least make certain they aren't going backward in the conference. Duke might play as an underdog in all of its remaining games -- perhaps home encounters with Virginia and Boston College being the exceptions -- so any kind of week-to-week success on the scoreboard is bound to come as a surprise to outsiders.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The open date is really at a friendly mark. A lot of evaluation of our personnel of what we're doing and what we're accomplishing and what we can do in the second half of the season to grow as a football team." -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose first two Duke teams went a combined 3-10 in games played after Oct. 15.


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Blue Devils have relied on the passing attack, and that's no surprise. But the progress they expected by giving the rushing attack more opportunities hasn't panned out on a consistent level. QB Sean Renfree has hit some snags the past couple of games as opponents seem to be figuring him out. The Blue Devils continue to want to make good use of their receivers, with WR Conner Vernon putting up big numbers and WR Donovan Varner stepping up as well. TE Brett Huffman has missed the last three games with a leg injury, but he could be healed enough to be back on the field after the one-week layoff in the schedule.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Blue Devils might be making small gains in this area, but there's a long way to go after a miserable start. They've been burnt for big plays in all sorts of situations and the pass coverage has been sorely lacking at times. There was enough experience in the defensive backfield with players such as CB Chris Rwabukamba and S Matt Daniels that some of this shouldn't be happening.

--TE Jack Farrell was the starting tight end against Maryland. It was a good boost for the redshirt freshman, but it also shows how rattled the Blue Devils are at that position because he was essentially the fourth-stringer on the depth chart at the start of the season.

--CB Johnny Williams hasn't played in the past two games after suffering a concussion against Alabama. It's possible he could be ready to return after the open date.

--RB Patrick Kurunuwne had already slipped down the depth chart. Now he's dealing with an ankle injury sustained at Maryland.

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