Part of the rallying cry around the team has been that general improvements were made. But coming off a 49-14 loss to a Miami team that has been far from powerful this season is bound to create another round of questions.
The progress the Blue Devils made largely centered on the ability to keep games close and avoid embarrassment because certainly the victories have been limited in number. After losing games by a combined five points in their previous two outings, the setback at Miami might set off alarms.
"It's tough, but we have to move on and win these last three," receiver Donovan Varner said, attempting to put an optimistic tone to what has become a four-game losing streak. "We did not play our best football, but we are looking forward to moving on to next week."
The Blue Devils were ambushed against Miami, starting at a 21-point deficit barely 18 minutes into the game. While it was a lackluster performance for the Blue Devils, they might be wondering if some of their close losses might be as good as it's going to get for this team.
--The Blue Devils are trying to become more balanced, so every time they score a rushing touchdown it becomes notable. They picked up their 17th rushing touchdown of the season in the loss at Miami. That's compared to seven passing touchdowns for the Blue Devils this year.
--It wasn't much of a repeat for the Blue Devils as they returned to Miami for the second time this season. In the team's previous road trip, Duke upended Florida International in a non-league game. The trip back for an ACC tilt against Miami didn't go as well. WR Conner Vernon and WR Donovan Varner, both from Miami, combined to make nine of the Blue Devils' 22 receptions in the latest game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Braxton Deaver -- He made a couple of catches against Miami, including one going for 19 yards. The Blue Devils are constantly seeking more receivers to figure into the mix because building depth at the position is essential considering the number of passing plays Duke uses.
LOOKING GOOD: QB Sean Renfree was solid against Miami, completing 9 of his 10 first-half passes. He's such a focal part of the offense that sometimes by just handling his basic duties he could be overlooked. He connected on passes to eight different teammates against Miami.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The front line on the defensive side could stand to provide more pressure on the quarterback because opponents are given too much time for the secondary to hang in there. It's a young defensive front, but there were no sacks recorded against Miami. The Blue Devils also yielded 265 yards on the ground, with only one of Miami's 39 rushing attempts resulting in a loss of yardage.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know all the guys I'm playing with are up for the situation." -- QB Sean Renfree on the Blue Devils needing to win their final three games of the season in order to become eligible for a bowl. Duke last played in a bowl in the 1994 season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--K Will Snyderwine remained Duke's kicker a week after missing three field goals against Virginia Tech. Against Miami, though, the Blue Devils never attempted a field goal, though Snyderwine was good on both extra-point kicks.
--QB Anthony Boone is receive more chances to throw the ball so he doesn't appears as one-dimensional as he might have looked earlier in the season. He's largely a designated short-yardage or red-zone option. Still, of his three completions at Miami, the longest of those plays went for only 8 yards.
--WR Conner Vernon was held below his average in terms of number of receptions when he made five catches for 43 yards at Miami. He entered the week ranking third in the ACC in receptions per game with 6.4. Still, Vernon's fifth touchdown catch of the season topped his mark of four touchdown receptions last year. He went above the 50-catch mark for the season the previous week against Virginia Tech.
--S Matt Daniels collected 11 tackles at Miami, pushing him to a double-figure total for the fourth time this season.
--WR Donovan Varner is two receptions from the all-time Duke mark. Varner, a senior, has 187 catches, trailing only Clarkston Hines. Varner has at least one catch in 34 consecutive games.
--CB Tony Foster is a newcomer to the defense this year after converting from a receiver. He has been particularly active since joining the starting lineup. Five of his seven tackles at Miami came in the first half.