Duke vs. WCU: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

With the victory over Western Carolina the Duke football team saw the general mood surrounding it go from dispair to cautious optimism. TDD's resident football guru takes a look at what went right and what didn't against the Catamounts before looking ahead to the Rice Owls this weekends.

What went right?

The defense awoke from their early season slumber and nearly pitched a shutout. The front 7 were able to stuff the run, giving up a ridiculously low total of 4 yards on the ground to the Catamounts. WCU was a bit more effective through the air, gaining 181 yards. Their ability to throw the ball was offset, however, by 3 Blue Devil interceptions. Duke was also able to get plenty of pressure on WCU quarterback Brian Gaither, sacking him 3 times and forcing several bad throws.

Offensively, the Devils were effective both on the ground and through the air. Despite a very conservative game play, Duke rushed the ball 57 times for 215 yards. Chris Douglas led the way with 106 yards on 22 carries. Duke also added 181 yards through the air. WR Reggie Love scored his first two TDs of the season while QB Adam Smith tossed both scores to Love and added another on the ground. Smith showed great resiliency in this game. After his horrific performance in the opener, Smith was benched in favor of Mike Schneider. When Schneider went out with an injury in the second quarter, Smith came in a threw two straight beautiful passes to lead Duke to its second touchdown. Both Schneider and Smith played well, making good throws and taking care of the ball. Duke also did not commit a turnover for the second straight game.

What went wrong?

The Duke kicking game really needs some work. Starting kicker Brent Garber was injured on a botched PAT try in after the first touchdown, and did not return to the game. Reserve kicker Matt Brooks missed a FG and had a PAT blocked. Its a fiasco when you miss one PAT in a game, for whatever reason. Missing two in a game is a disaster. The kickoff, kickoff return, and punt return units still need to perform better. They are costing Duke field position just about every time they step on the field. The lone bright spot on special teams was the punting unit.

Player of the game:

Two players, both hailing from the great state of North Carolina, take the player of the game honors. Senior DB Temo George of Havelock had 2 interceptions, both of which were backbreakers for WCU. Senior WR Reggie Love of Charlotte proved to be a difficult match-up for the Catamount corners. He caught 4 passes for 30 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most impressive about his performance was that both of his scores came on red-zone jump ball plays. Duke fans have been waiting for advantage to be utilized, and it finally came to fruition on Saturday.

Final Analysis:

Luckily for the Duke fans, the space aliens that inhabited the Duke players bodies last week finally decided to return to their mother ship. All joking aside, the Devils played with a confidence and swagger that hasnt been seen in Wallace Wade stadium in some time. The defense was absolutely smothering, especially against the run. They really pursued to the ball well this week and were really hitting the Cats hard. Granted, they were facing a 1-AA offense, but this same offense put 20 points on the board against NC State just one week ago. The Catamounts only got inside the Duke 40 yard line twice all evening. Their only points came when they drove on Dukes second team defense midway though the 3rd quarter. The rest of the day, Catamount QB Brian Gather was running away from pressure, and their running backs were being smacked at the line of scrimmage.

Offensively, the gameplan was way too conservative for the talent advantage the Devils had on the corners. Sure it was executed well, but for the most part, the sequence of the plays was somewhat predictable. The Duke QBs also seem to have a nasty habit of checking into running plays on first down, despite the fact that WCU was waking a safety up to the line before the snap. Duke really should have thrown the ball downfield on first down. On several occasions the slot receiver could have run a seam route, and, with a good play action fake, been wide open. Just a suggestion, guys. Even though WCU was stacking the box, the Duke offensive line was getting a good push up front. For the second game in a row, Douglas ran really hard. He is now averaging slightly under 100 yards per game, which puts him on pace to crack a thousand for the season. This, along with Alex Wades hamstring injury, has seemed to solidify Douglass position as Dukes number one RB.

Looking ahead:

Duke will play the second game of their four game homestand against the Rice Owls. Rice got drubbed by Houston in their first game, and will be looking to get back on track against Duke. On paper, this looks to be a really good matchup for the Devils, as Rice is a predominantly running team. The return of the stingy Duke rush defense will make it tough going on offense for the Owls. On defense, Rice will play hard, but they are lacking in both size and overall team speed. The only team that should stop Duke this Saturday is Duke.

The Devils Den Top Stories