After winning 12 consecutive games during the regular season, the Blue Devils and Anthony Boone have finally lost a football game (remember Duke lost two regular season games a year ago when Boone was sidelined with an injury). For a fan base that was used to losing for so long, it’s understandable that Saturday’s loss stings, and it follows that Duke is looking for answers, but head coach David Cutcliffe is taking a conservative approach here.
“I’m not going to overanalyze what happened in one loss. It’s not time to panic,” Cutcliffe told the media on Sunday afternoon.
Cutcliffe added that he was pleased with the Duke effort, and had that had not been strong then it would be time to panic. As he noted, despite 29 incomplete passes, five false starts, and a few bad snaps from center Matt Skura, Duke was still in position to win the game in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Anthony Boone has had issues this year being consistently accurate. The signal caller pointed out after the Miami game that Duke needs to “improve on throwing and catching and not shooting ourselves in the foot.” Cutcliffe, speaking on Sunday, mentioned that the receivers this year have at times had sprained fingers or smashed fingernails, and these nagging injuries may have contributed to some of the dropped passes.
But, don’t forget that Miami had something to prove to their fans and to themselves in this game. The swagger of “the U” is not what it was in the 80’s and 90’s. One could gather they had circled this game on their calendar, after Duke had run the ball all over them in last year’s contest. Alternate uniforms, a typical downpour of rain, and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties do not bring a program back to what they once were. The Hurricanes won this contest, but had Duke executed more effectively on offense, the Blue Devils could have added another streak to their collection with two wins over the Hurricanes.
The question of whether Duke’s defense would handle Miami’s running attack was answered early in the game. Duke Johnson of Miami ran strong the whole game gaining over 150 yards. The Blue Devil defense still held Miami to only 9 points in the first half and only 13 more for the game. Despite the losses of Kelby Brown for the season and Dezmond Johnson for the past two games, Duke’s defense has continued to improve this season. There are times where coverage breaks down, or ground yardage is surrendered, yet they have kept the game manageable for the offense to have a chance.
Once the offense finds the consistency it desires from its quarterback and receivers, success will be attainable. The special teams have improved their consistency since game one. Kick coverage is much better and Ross Martin has no problems with splitting the uprights. When all three phases of the Duke Blue Devils football team are hitting on the right note, they could beat anyone left on their schedule. In past years, no one would make that claim.
So, perhaps the head coach is right…and it’s not time to panic.
Note – Thomas Sirk was inactive for the Miami game due to a muscle strain and a virus according to Coach Cutcliffe on Sunday afternoon. Cutcliffe expects Sirk to be back working with the team by Tuesday this week and able to play against Georgia Tech on October 11.