Duke had some solid individual performances. RB Cedric Dargan went over the 100-yard mark for the first time in his collegiate career. His 20 carry 114-yard performance was even more impressive when you consider he sat out much of the second half due to injury. The starting defensive ends for Duke also played well. Phillip Alexander and Eli Nichols both had forced fumbles and made some nice plays on the Navy option attack. Sophomore Deonto McCormick led the Devils with 3 receptions in his first collegiate action at wide receiver.
Duke also received contributions for several true freshmen Saturday. Backup running back Justin Boyle looked impressive carrying the ball and in blitz pickup. Zach Smith and Patrick Bailey were special teams standouts, with Bailey coming up with an outstanding individual effort to thwart a fake punt. The Devils did a good job in the turnover department, recovering three Navy fumbles and not giving any back.
What went wrong:
As has been the case for the past five-plus seasons, Duke had an awful time trying to score points. Despite causing three fumbles in the first half, the Blue Devils were only able to turn the Navy miscues into six points. After starting the game throwing the ball well, the Devils only finished with a paltry 90 yards passing.
Overall, the defense was somewhat of a disappointment. The players were getting to spots to make tackles and just not bringing the ball carriers down. Especially disappointing on defense was the play of the secondary. Granted, Navy ground oriented offense can force a defense into single coverage on the outside. Still, the Devils allowed Navy QB Aaron Polanco to complete 8 of 9 passes for 129 yards, including a 58-yard TD pass where the corner was beaten badly.
The defensive line played pretty well in the first half, but eventually wore down and was pushed around later in the game. The kicking game left a good bit to be desired, as Duke missed a field goal and a game-tying extra point late in the 3rd quarter.
TDD player of the game:
After playing in the shadows of Chris Douglas and Alex Wade for the past two seasons, redshirt junior running back Cedric Dargan emerged as the go-to guy in the Duke backfield. He recorded the first 100-yard rushing effort of his career in his first start. He was the answer to a big question mark of the Duke offense coming into this season. For his efforts, Dargan is this week's TDD player of the game.
Between the Carolina win of a season ago and Saturday, Duke supposedly remodeled the football program, with a new head coach, new assistants, and the full support of the administration. The consensus was, Duke football is definitely on its way to better times. This game was not the first step everyone was looking for. Instead of running like an efficient well-oiled machine, Duke looked out of sync and, in the second half, out of shape.
After a good start by the Devils, Navy was able to control the line of scrimmage for much of the last two quarters. The Devils "new" offense looked a lot like the old, complete with vanilla play calling, little misdirection and spotty execution. There are some positives to take out of Saturday's game. Duke has a good set of running backs in Cedric Dargan and Justin Boyle. At times, the offensive line was able to open holes for the ground game. QB Mike Schneider looked confident and poised in the first half. WR Deonto McCormick was an immediate contributor. Still, Roof's trrops need to play a lot better in the future to avoid a long, dreadful season.
The back seven on defense have to tackle and cover better, the front 4 needs to hold their own at the line of scrimmage, and the Duke offense needs to find a way to score. The Devils aren't going to win many games putting up 12 points.
The disappointed Blue Devils better get over this loss quickly, as they head on the road for the second straight week to take on the surprising Connecticut Huskies. UConn opened their 2004 season in grand style with a 52-14 thrashing of 1-AA Murray State. Senior quarterback Dan Orlovsky might be the best signal caller the Devils face this season. He threw for 380 yards and 6 touchdowns in the opener, and will be looking to continue the beating of the Duke secondary that Navy started in the opener.
As with last week, Duke can win this game. They will have to play better than they did Saturday to avoid a second straight loss.