The Blue Devil running game was firing on all cylinders Saturday, amassing 253 yards against the ACC's top rated run defense. Senior tailback Chris Douglas led the charge with 211 yards on 30 carries. The offense line gashed the Georgia Tech front-7, repeatedly opening up huge holes for Douglas and the other backs to run through. Duke also won the turnover battle. Duke intercepted Tech QB Reggie Ball 3 times, including one returned for a touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Ruff. The defense also recovered a Ball fumble to give Duke 4 takeaways to only 1 for Georgia Tech. The Duke kick coverage team deserves lots of credit. GT had one kick return past the 25-line, and were backed up inside their 15 three times. This made scoring points very difficult for the Jackets.
What went wrong?
Despite the Georgia Tech turnovers, the Jackets were able to move the ball fairly consistently on the Devils. Tech running back PJ Daniels had a nice day, rushing for 106 yards. Duke did a good job of closing the initial holes, but Daniels found cutback lanes, which resulted in lots of extra yardage. The Devils also made some coverage mistakes that Tech did not take advantage of. Tech WR Nate Curry dropped a sure touchdown pass in the second quarter after beat his man in coverage. Offensively, the Duke receivers dropped a couple passed. Duke quarterback Mike Schneider threw an interception that gave Georgia Tech a glimmer of hope early in the 4th quarter. Other than that, not much else went wrong.
Players of the game:
Duke controlled the game with a potent ground attack with the running of Chris Douglas. Despite his 211-yard, two-touchdown day, he will have to share the spotlight this week. The offensive line deserves as much or more credit for Duke's success moving the ball. They controlled the line this week against the ACC's top rated run defense. Tech was giving up a measly 95 yards per game going in. Duke piled up 253 yards on 47 carries. For their efforts the following players are TDD's co-players of the week.
This game was a long time coming for the seniors in their final home game at Wallace Wade Stadium. They had yet to win an ACC game in their careers. Now, the 800-pound gorilla is off of their backs. Previewing the game, I outlined 3 keys for Duke's success. One of the keys was big plays. Duke has had precious few of these this season. This game, however, was much different. Duke had not scored a defensive touchdown since the ECU game last season (Brendan Dewan). They got one today from LB Malcolm Ruff, who intercepted a Reggie Ball pass and returned it 43 yards to paydirt. Duke also got several big runs from Chris Douglas, including a 50-yarder in the first quarter which seemed to take some of the sting of out the Yellow Jacket defense. One of the other keys was to open the offense up a little. While Duke only threw 15 passes and completed 8, they gained 141 yards through the air. That works out to an average of 17.6 yards per reception, a clear indicator that Duke was throwing the ball down the field. The third key was to make Reggie Ball throw the ball from the pocket and not let him win the game with his feat. Duke held Ball to 20 yards rushing, forced 3 interceptions, and caused a fumble on one of his scrambles. Meeting these goals played a large part in the duke victory. The success running the ball didn't hurt either.
Now for the Chris Douglas update. With his 211-yard performance this weekend, Douglas only needs 12 yards to become Duke's all-time leading rusher. Barring a bizarre turn of events, he should break the record in the first quarter of this week's game. Douglas is also approaching another record, the ACC's all-time all-purpose yard mark. He leapfrogged Robert Lavette (GT) and Warrick Dunn (FSU) to 3rd place, and only stands 28 yards shy of Ted Brown (NCSU) for second all-time. With is total standing at 5537 yards, Douglas is 291 yards behind the all-time leader, Leon Johnson (UNC). It's a tall order for Douglas to catch Johnson now that he isn't returning kicks anymore, but definitely not out of reach.
Duke will travel to Death Valley this coming weekend to take on the Clemson Tigers. Clemson will be coming into the game on a high having defeated Florida State this past weekend 26-10. The Tigers pose a difficult challenge for the Devils. Clemson has a great set of receivers, and a quarterback who can get the ball to them. Defensively, they are solid in neutralizing the opponent's big-play threats. They do have problems, however, with teams that employ a power running game. It is unlikely Duke will take the Tigers by surprise after the Devil's drubbing of GT this past week. If Duke continues their high-intensity play under the leadership of head coach Ted Roof, it could be an interesting game.