Duke vs NC State: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Blue Devils showed the nation that there is indeed life in Durham by putting a big scare into the Wolfpack of NC State. TDD's David Dohrmann provides his weekly analysis of what went right and wrong, and what Blue Devil fans can look forward to next weekend when Duke travels to Tennessee.

What went right?

Duke was able to effective move the ball on NC State, gaining a solid 380 yards of total offense. The Devils were especially good on the ground, piling up 229 yards rushing. Despite starting QB Mike Schneider sitting this game because of a shoulder injury, backups Adam Smith and Chris Dapolito managed the offense efficiently.

Defensively, the Blue Devil run defense of 2002 made an appearance for the first time this season. They held State to a meager 58 yards total on the ground. He Duke special teams also played a solid game, not allowing the explosive Wolfpack return men any room to operate. Kicker Brent Garber, who had been benched earlier this season, came through with a clutch 43-yard field goal to pull the Devils to within 7 in the 4th quarter.

What went wrong?

Duke suddenly forgot how to handle the center snap this week. Three fumbled exchanges, two of which came at critical junctures of the game, really cost the Blue Devils. The Duke pass defense ran into a juggernaut this week by the name of Philip Rivers. In his final game against Duke, Rivers was 23-31 for 368 yards and 3 touchdowns. All 3 touchdown passes were to sensational sophomore WR Tramain Hall. Considering how explosive the State offense is, the Duke defense did a credible job holding State to 28 points. Unfortunately, that was seven points too many.

Duke player of the game:

In his final game against NC State, Senior RB Chris Douglas was a big force for the Duke offense. His 125 yards rushing is the 3rd time this season that Douglas has broken the 100-yard barrier. With 611 yards rushing this season, Douglas still has a chance at 1000. If he reaches it, he would become Duke's first 1000-yard rusher since Robert Baldwin in 1994. For his efforts, Douglas becomes the first 3-time winner of TDD's player of the week.

Final Analysis:

Many Duke fans in attendance had no idea what to expect from the Devils after last week's dismissal of Carl Franks. Interim head coach Ted Roof had one week to make his mark on the program before the next game, and boy did he ever make his mark. The Devils came out of the tunnel and went nose to nose with one of the ACC's better teams. Unfortunately, Duke was without 3 offensive starters, including QB Mike Schneider. Still, Duke was able to move the ball on the confused State defense, thanks to a radically redesigned offensive game plan. With Franks no longer calling the shots, Duke got away from the 4 wide sets and play more to their strengths with a straight-ahead running game. They still used some shotgun, but did so as a change of pace, and not as a base formation. Duke still needs to execute better on offense and reduce the amount of their mistakes. Because of their innovation shown Saturday, however, they will be much more difficult to defend the rest of the season. Defensively, The Devils switched between a 3-4 and 4-3 alignment for much of the day. It caused lots of confusion for NC State's run blocking.

Unfortunately for Duke, no matter what the Devils did on defense, they couldn't get much pressure on Rivers. If you give Rivers time, he will pick your defense apart. That is exactly what happened Saturday. If there is one thing that can be taken from this game, it is the following. If you play with maximum effort, good things will happen. The effort shown by the Devils was a far cry from what Duke fans have seen earlier this year. For the first time in 2002, Duke was fun to watch. For that, this scribe gives his thanks.

Looking Ahead:

Duke faces a very tough road challenge this week as they travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols are coming off of a 5 OT thriller victory against Alabama. They also have Miami on the schedule after Duke. If there was anytime to play Tennessee, this would be the week to do it. This has all the makings of a classic letdown game for the Vols, but I think head coach Phil Fulmer will find a way to get his team ready. For Duke to win, they will have to execute perfectly all phases of the game. Based on their performance this past Saturday, I think Ted Roof will have them mentally ready for the game, and in the wacky world of college football, if you play hard anything can happen.

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