Takeaways: Duke 47, Tulane 13

The offense has shown the ability to put up points without playing its best; the defense is improved

The Blue Devils completed the non-conference portion of the schedule with a perfect 4-0 record after demolishing Tulane on Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium. While the level of competition Duke has faced has been scrutinized as not providing an accurate measure of where the team is, the flip side of that argument has been that these Blue Devils have taken care of business in a definitive way by dispatching clearly overmatched opponents in blowout victories.

- What is not in question is the offense’s ability to score the ball in a variety of ways. After posting 52 points on CAA member Elon, Duke scored 34 points on Troy of the Sun Belt and more than 40 points on both Kansas (Big 12) and Tulane (American conference). With the team entering conference play the question now becomes “Will they be able to continue to score at the pace they have shown in the opening segment of the season?” The first challenge in the ACC will come from a talented but inconsistent Miami team this coming Saturday at 7:30 pm on ESPN2.

- The 2nd quarter has been an interesting period for the offense where it sometimes becomes stagnant in production. Quarterback Anthony Boone has had stretches in this quarter where his accuracy wanes. Anthony admits that Duke has not played a great 60 minute game in all phases. As a quarterback he admits that he is learning through some “growing pains.”

- The Duke defense has dominated the scoreboard in the first four games but not necessarily in the yards allowed statistic. Against Tulane the Blue Devil D would surrender 375 yards total, but of those yards 215 were on the ground. The Green Wave was successful in running up the middle on Duke’s defensive line that was without DE Dezmond Johnson. The “bend don’t break” mentality of the defense has worked in keeping points off the scoreboard.

The success of the Duke defense is most evident in the red zone. Against Tulane, Cutcliffe said, “(We had) a lot of positive things defensively. When we have bent and bent and bent, and maybe had been pushed around a little bit, we would come back out with a series that was a good series.” The head coach would add that Duke has to get in front and tackle better going forward.

- Senior linebacker David Helton said that Tulane started the game in a split back formation, which was something they had not shown in previous games. This was something Duke had to adjust to as the game went on. Cutcliffe mentioned a lot of work was accomplished during the game to make the adjustment to what Tulane was doing. Helton was excited after the game at the prospect of viewing the game film in order to learn what improvements need to be made going forward. The linebackers and secondary would play strong the entire game, surrendering 13 points to Tulane and only 3 points against the Jayhawks of Kansas.

- The positives from the first 4-0 start for a Duke team since Fred Goldsmith’s 1994 team, that started 7-0, are numerous. It is typical for Duke fans to be more “glass half empty” when it comes to team success based on the program’s history. This team has more talent on the field and, more importantly, on the bench than in previous years.

- This Duke team has senior leadership, but it also has young talent in redshirt and true freshmen who produce. Shaun Wilson scored his fourth touchdown of the season Saturday after breaking the single game rushing record the previous game.

- The offense has added a strong, balanced rushing attack to compliment David Cutcliffe’s traditionally strong passing plan. Duke’s four scholarship running backs provide balance to the offense. It is not just the running backs that need to be accounted for in the Duke running game. Both quarterbacks, Anthony Boone and Thomas Sirk, are capable of gaining significant yards on the ground. Sirk was Duke’s leading rusher with 94 yards against Tulane - thanks mostly to a 50 yard run.

- Likely challenged by strong running teams, Miami’s Duke Johnson may be a handful for the Blue Devils. How successful will the “bend don’t break” plan work against stronger competition in league play? As long as the defense remains successful when the opposition enters the red zone, and the Duke offense continues to score, the Blue Devils are in for another winning season.

- As others have said: Duke may have beaten bad teams badly. What needs to be pointed out is that Duke has not played their best in these wins. If Duke continues to score like this and successfully defend, with room for improvement, then more success is coming for the 2014 team.

- Special note: K Ross Martin became Duke’s all-time leading scorer passing the previous mark of 220 points by Sims Lenhardt. Martin finished the day with 9 points on one field goal and six extra points to run his career total to 227 points. What did it mean to the junior place kicker to set the all-time mark?

“It’s a great honor for me, personally. It’s really a testament to the team in how many points we’ve been able to generate throughout my two and now third years here. And also playing in a couple of bowl games and getting an ACC championship game last year. That all helps in that category.”

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