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

For the first time in a few years Duke has played poorly and won a football game. That, along with the performances of a new quarterback and a very reliable running back, give our resident football guru hope heading into a non conference tilt with Northwestern on Saturday.

What went right?

The Blue Devil offense enjoyed their best game of the season yardage-wise, rushing for 222 yards and passing for 188 more. RB Chris Douglas led the ground attack with 110 yards on 18 carries. After getting knocked out of the game last week, QB Mike Schneider competed his first full college game by passing for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns. Schneider also added 52 yards on the ground as well. This new dimension of the offense will give future opponents another thing to worry about in their preparation for Duke.

Also for the first time this season, Duke kicking game was solid. Kicker Brent Garber was 2-3 on field goals, the last make being the game-winner. Garber was also able to get the ball consistently deep on kickoffs, allowing the coverage teams to get down the field and make the tackle. Last year's team MVP Alex Wade looked almost 100% recovered from his hamstring injury, as he ran the ball with much more authority this week. He still needs to work into game shape, but he definitely made huge strides in his recovery.

What went wrong?

As if the Duke defense wasn't bad enough against UVA. Rice was able to rush the ball for an eye-popping 346 yards, almost 200 of which came in the first quarter. The Devils handled the Rice ground attack in check for the second quarter until about midway through the 4th quarter. Then the defense turned back into a sieve, allowing Rice to score the final 10 points in regulation to force overtime. On offense, the Devils played fairly well, but committed two turnovers. They also had a few dropped passes, including a sure TD in overtime. Luckily, fortune favored the Devils this day (for once).

Player of the game:

Running back Chris Douglas had another solid day for Duke, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the second time in as many weeks. He now is averaging over 100 yards rushing per game and is on pace for 1000 yards on the season. Despite his dropped TD pass, Douglas was the most consistent offensive threat for the Devils, picking up tough yards in the middle and breaking off a few longer gains early in the game. For his efforts, Douglas is this week's TDD player of the game.

Final Analysis:

For the first time in Carl Franks' tenure, Duke did not play well yet still won the game. In an ideal world, a team would play well every week, but that doesn't happen. The Duke offense had a solid game, with the rushing of Chris Douglas and passing of Mike Schneider. Schneider looked much more comfortable in the pocket this week. When he had time, he delivered the ball on target to his receivers. He has arm to make all of the throws, which definitely opens up the playbook for the Duke offense. As he grows more comfortable, look for Duke to have more of a vertical passing game. Khary Sharpe will definitely play a much bigger role in the coming weeks.

Defensively, I don't think Duke can play much worse than they did on Saturday. The defensive line was continually chop blocked, and were not using their hands well to get off of those blocks. The linebackers were also getting blocked, which resulted in slowed pursuit to the pitch part of the option. The defensive backs, other than Terrell Smith also did not play well. There were some solid individual plays made in the game, but overall the coverage was lacking. The Devils would have really been in a bind if the Rice QBs were better passers. The Owls missed several chances for big plays by missing open receivers. Overall the defense played especially poorly in the first and fourth quarters. At the end of the game, they let Rice drive the length of the field in 4 minutes to force overtime. They made a solid stop in the extra frame, however, OT would have never happened if they would have done their job in regulation.

Looking Ahead:

The coaching staff had better fix the defensive problems this week in practice, as Northwestern comes to Durham this coming Saturday to take on the Devils. The Wildcats employ a spread offense, but use the spread to run the ball. QB Brett Basanez was injured this past week in their loss to Miami of Ohio, so their offense will probably rely even more on the ground attack than they normally do. A year ago, this turn of events would have played right into the Blue Devils' hands. This year, however, Duke has shown an inability to stop the run. They will definitely be tested by Wildcat RB Jason Wright. The Duke offense should continue to improve, and they should be able to move the ball against the Northwestern defense.

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