Eventually, Duke took the lead for good and continued to pull away, but committing four first half turnovers next week against a well disciplined Wake Forest team will make it nearly impossible for the Blue Devils to earn a fourth victory on the season.
A Depth Chart Shakeup Coming: There was little doubt that the most effective back on the field Saturday was Duke freshman Jela Duncan. The Charlotte native broke a 58 yard run on his second touch and finished the night with 88 yards on nine carries. His long scamper was more yards than the rest of the RB depth chart…combined. Going back to point number one, Duke didn't gain much on the ground in the first half and actually finished the 1st quarter with just three yards on nine attempts.
For the season Duncan is Duke's top rusher with 153 yards on 20 carries (7.7 yards per carry). Certainly several of those carries came against second string defenses after the game was long decided (as all four Duke games have been), but Duncan appears to be the most productive of those active players and should be challenging to continue to get more touches.
X Factor: Brandon Connette was, once again, a force for the Blue Devils. The former QB caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown; ran for 15 more yards and another score, and seemed to provide a spark when Duke needed one most.
Playmakers in the passing game: Duke has a number of options to hurt opponents through the air. Sean Renfree was able to produce big plays with Jameson Crowder, Desmond Scott, and Conner Vernon throughout the evening. Factoring in Connette and you have four players who hauled in long passes of 22 yards or more highlighted by Vernon's 37 yard touchdown off a swing pass and sprint. Scott's leaping touchdown grab may have well been the best grab of the night.
Defense played well: The Tiger offense was spotted some incredibly good field position at times, but the Blue Devil defense forced there and outs five times, and never yielded more than 30 yards on a drive all night long.
Some more impressive stats:
- Memphis ran 50 plays and managed just 152 yards.
- Duke held the Blue Devils to just 6.2 yards per completion and 3.7 yards per attempt in the passing game. Duke also held the Tigers without a completed pass for more than 20 minutes of game action from the end of the first quarter into the third.
- Memphis managed just 81 yards rushing on 28 attempts (2.5 yards per carry).
Changes in Durham: For the first half there were audible groans in Wallace Wade and throughout the fan base. Duke looked like, well…"the same old Duke". But a closer look at the game reveals some positive changes that are occurring in Durham. For starters, Duke played extremely poorly in the first half. In years past that statement would have suggested a deficit against any opponent no matter the level. On this night, it merely meant the Blue Devils were up by just a field goal. Similarly, when things were going poorly (four first half TOs), this Duke team didn't slow down. They didn't' panic. They didn't fold. Instead the Blue Devils battled back and took the lead before methodically pulling away and running their record to 3-1 on the season. That's something that hasn't been seen in Durham in a long time, and event he most skeptical observer has to admit that Duke appears capable of getting three more victories in 2012.