From The Stands: Duke 55, NC Central 0

Two games and two lopsided victories over clearly overmatched opponents.  It’s been a strong start to the 2015 Duke Football season in Durham.  After watching the Blue Devils romp over NC Central on Saturday, there are a number of positive trends to note.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

Duke was clearly the better and more talented team against both Tulane and NC Central.  Neither the Green Wave or Eagles were able to put up much of a fight as the Blue Devils outscored their first two opponents by a combined 92-7 margin.  And yet, despite the overwhelming talent gap between the programs, the games still had to be played and Duke still needed to perform in order to obtain the victories.  They did that, and they did it convincingly, which may seem like a small thing, but when you consider several FCS teams took traditional powers to the wire these first two weeks, Duke’s performance(s) were noteworthy. 

“I think there’s no question that one of the big keys we have right now is that we have a lot of people contributing on both sides of the ball,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe of his team’s first two performances.  “There’s depth here. I think we have more balance in our playmaking on offense. Somebody’s not going to dominate us.”

Which means…

THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN DURHAM

Just a handful of years ago the Blue Devil football program would have been thrilled to beat an inferior opponent at any level - if one could be found.   Now the Blue Devils are not only winning against lesser competition, they are doing it the right way and impressing the spectators. 

On Saturday the Blue Devils scored on 9 of their 12 possessions including seven touchdowns and two field goals.   The remaining three possessions resulted in a Duke punt which pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory.  It was not only a one sided performance, it was a dominant and efficient shellacking.  

Things were much the same on defense as the secondary’s play was the catalyst for the front six to take control against the Eagles.   It was the second straight week the Blue Devils generated a pass rush and controlled the line of scrimmage.  As noted throughout the stadium, the defense is noticeably quicker than this time a year ago.

“I think our front is athletic,” said Cutcliffe following the game.  “You have to be this day and time with all of these offenses. We’re not perfect, but I like our linebackers and their athleticism. I can tell you, Mr. [Jeremy] Cash and Mr. [DeVon] Edwards on defense are both for real. I can tell you that.”

YOUTH MOVEMENT CONTINUES

Much of the early season success of the defensive line can be traced to the emergence of several young players.  Especially up front.  On Saturday Duke started true freshman Marquies Price at defensive end, and got a number of snaps for classmates Brandon Boyce and Ben Humphreys as well.  

Redshirt freshmen Edgar Cerenord and Quaven Ferguson also played well and created a push at the line of scrimmage 

On the offensive side of the ball Duke started redshirt freshman Chris Taylor at wide receiver and then turned the keys over to true freshman T.J. Rahming on alternating series.  Rahming finished with three catches for 76 yards and seems to have the same kind of big play ability demonstrated by RB Shaun Wilson a season ago.  

THE STABLE IS TRENDING UPWARD

The Duke running attack was certainly viable against the Eagles with the Blue Devils accounting for 288 yards on 59 carries.  And the majority of the heavy lifting was done by starter Shaquille Powell and Wilson, though Sirk’s read option has been integrated fully into the offense and has been successful (Sirk rushed for 86 yards on nine carries).  

Going forward, however, the Blue Devils expect their ground attack to receive a major shot in the arm as rotation backs Jela Duncan and Joseph Ajeigbe inch closer to being cleared to play.  On Sunday Cutcliffe acknowledged that neither player was expected to see the field against Northwestern and noted that Ajeigbe is closer to playing than Duncan.  When those two return, however, Duke will add a couple of powerful runners which could make the Blue Devils ability to control the clock even greater. 

“I think when we get completely healthy and get Joe [Ajeigbe] and Jela [Duncan] back it just puts us in another mode even, said the Duke head coach.“

NOTABLE

  • Thomas Sirk has thrown 79 straight passes without an interception.  That’s not bad for the new starter and is a program record.
  • The game against NC Central saw Sirk post a quarterback rating of 233.5, which was the third highest in program history.  
  • Duke has now won 12 straight regular season non-conference games - the longest streak in program history.  
  • Duke has posted a 19-3 overall record over the past 22 regular season games and 27-14 overall record in the last 41 regular season contests.  Those 27 wins are 2 more than the program won in the eight year period from 2003-2011.

WHATS NEXT

Things get a lot tougher for the Blue Devils as they will play host to 2-0 Northwestern on Saturday afternoon in Wallace Wade Stadium.  The Wildcats upset Stanford in Week One before throttling Eastern Illinois 41-0 on Saturday.

“This is a great Power Five football matchup,” said Cutcliffe of the early match up.  “It’s what everybody’s begging for. Here it is. It’s a noon kickoff. Television is going to dictate so get up early, come tailgate and be loud and be a home field advantage. We’ve got a stadium to do that now. I can promise you Northwestern’s a good football team. I’ve been watching them all summer. They’re a very experienced defense and some playmakers themselves on offense. A very similar team to this Duke team.”


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