Previewing Duke v. Boston College

Previewing the Blue Devils and Eagles who will kick off a crucial battle on Saturday

The Blue Devils want Connor Vernon to have his hands on the ball more often. But now they must determine at what cost.

Vernon has been the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading receiver in terms of number of catches and yards for most of the season. Against Virginia, Vernon was Duke's primary kick returner, but he left with what appeared to be a head injury after one of the returns.

"I like him returning kicks and punts," coach David Cutcliffe said. "We were dwindling in that area and anytime Connor is involved it's a boost."

The loss of running back Josh Snead, who had been used on kick returns, to injury caused Cutcliffe to turn to Vernon.

"We kind of lost our luster there," said Cutcliffe, who has regularly talked this season about the Blue Devils being on the verge of breaking kickoff returns for touchdowns.

That third-quarter injury to Vernon left him with one catch for two yards in the game.

The Blue Devils piled up 31 second-half points despite the absence of Vernon and Austin Kelly, a receiver who didn't suit up because of a head injury. Nonetheless, Cutcliffe has plans to expand Vernon's roles.

"I'm going to start getting him involved in more things," Cutcliffe said. "He's a playmaker and we need more playmakers."

NOTES, QUOTES
--Duke, which scored its most points in a game in 20 years to defeat Virginia, 55-48, won its first November game in 10 tries in three seasons under coach David Cutcliffe. "That's a step," he said. "That one has haunted me." Picking up more November wins won't come easy for the Blue Devils because their three remaining opponents hold a combined 15-12 record.

--The Blue Devils had receiver screen plays work well a few weeks ago, but those haven't shown up as much in recent play-calling. Part of that could be because of a receiving corps that has been hindered by injuries.

SERIES HISTORY: Boston College leads Duke, 3-1 (last meeting, 2006, Boston College, 28-7). This is only the second meeting as ACC opponents.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: This unit is producing again after a few sluggish weeks, but with some receivers and a tight end out with injuries, there are holes to fill. QB Sean Renfree is the key and he has gained confidence with a couple of interception-free games in a row. The linemen have done a better job of creating openings for the rushing attack and that could be vital against Boston College.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Blue Devils were exposed against Virginia, winning despite allowing 643 yards of total offense. This figures to be a better matchup for the Blue Devils because Boston College will offer a more conservative approach. Still, the Blue Devils must tackle better and they must reduce the number of yards opponents pick up after making receptions.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Brandon's running game is more schemed and mine is more random." -- QB Sean Renfree on the two rushing touchdowns apiece against Virginia for himself and QB Brandon Connette, who's usually a designated runner when he enters the game.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Boston College at Duke, Nov. 13 -- These teams meet for only the second time in ACC competition. Despite some rough stretches for each team this year, they both enter the game on two-game winning streaks to keep alive their bowl hopes. Duke is trying for a three-game winning streak for the second year in a row, something it hasn't accomplished since the 1988 and 1989 seasons when Steve Spurrier was the coach. Boston College is making its third and final visit of the season to the state of North Carolina, where it is 1-1 so far.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Duke will want to maximize its possessions against a Boston College team that has generally kept games from getting out of hand. Duke will have a challenge throwing the ball against a team that took away passing routes last week against Wake Forest. The Blue Devils continue to show signs that that might be able to produce a sustained rushing attack, and that would be a big plus in this matchup.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB Abraham Kromah -- He's averaging slightly above 10 tackles per game with 91 stops this season. If he keeps up that pace, he'll reach the 100-tackle mark in the game against Boston College.

C Bryan Morgan -- He had a grueling game that left him barely able to move after the victory against Virginia. He's banged up with some ailments, but he's vital in the middle of Duke's offensive line.

RB Desmond Scott -- He ended the last game on a high note with a game-winning touchdown run, complete with a leap into the end zone that made it onto national highlight shows. His confidence could be growing after the 97-yard outing on the ground.

ROSTER REPORT:
--S Walt Canty is coming off a 12-tackle performance against Virginia. That's his highest total in his two seasons with the team. He had 35 total tackles this season entering the Virginia game.

--TE Cooper Helfet has been honored as the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week, but most of that came because of his receiving abilities. He caught seven passes for the second week in a row, this time racking up 122 yards against Virginia for his first 100-yard receiving game.

--CB Ross Cockrell intercepted two passes against Virginia and nearly came down with a third one. Opponents continue throwing in his direction, but he could start to change that by making more plays.


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