In looking at the big picture, the Blue Devils went out and accomplished what they were supposed to do. Beating the Citadel isn't something you hang your hat on, but winning games you are supposed to be something the Blue Devils need to remember how to do on a consistent basis. Coming off four straight losses to open the season seemed to take its toll on this young group of Blue Devils, and any sniff of victory was welcomed.
Defensively the Duke defense stepped up and held the Bulldogs' offense without a touchdown, and came away with a couple of big plays in the clutch. Most notably was C.J. Woodard's big pick at the five yard line when the Bulldogs were threatening to take the lead early in the second half. With such little depth on the defensive side of the ball, anytime Duke can steal a possession back and get some rest, it's a welcomed event.
And on Saturday when the defense would steal the ball, the offense was finally able to convert those possessions into points. The passing game was good with Mike Schneider playing most of the game, and responding well by completing 71% of his passes for 190 yards. The incorporation of various targets into the passing scheme even yielded a pair of touchdowns to tight end Andy Roland. The ground attack was balanced as freshmen Ronnie Drummer and Justin Boyle both logged good performances on the ground as Ted Roof continues to go with the youth movement on the offensive side of the ball.
As a whole the offense's ability to gain good yardage on the early downs translated into a solid 60% conversion ratio on third down, a problem that had sunk the Devils in the past few weeks. Sure it's against an I-AA offense, but you have to lay a foundation before you can build successfully, and that's just what happened.
The special teams also sparkled with a pair of blocked punts, which helped the Devils make their own breaks on Saturday.
What Went Wrong:
Take away Boyle's 83 yard scamper to close out the fourth quarter and you're left with another offensive performance that leaves some things to be desired. While it's hard to put your finger on it, there just seems to be some things missing from this offensive unit. Perhaps it's in the trenches, or maybe it's the receivers as the veterans seem to have trouble getting open, while the freshmen don't have the polish to make the finer adjustments necessary for the team to move down the field. Though it's probably nitpicking after a win, but for Duke to have a chance in any of the remaining games the offense needs to put points on the board, and keep possession to avoid the defense getting worn down.
Another cause for concern is the offense's seeming inability to hold on to the football. Saturday it lead to six points for the Citadel as the Devils coughed it up three times, losing two of them. With depth issues coming to the forefront, Duke simply cannot afford to give the ball up.
Also the Blue Devils racked up a season high eight penalties for 60 yards, again it's probably good that Duke was the aggressor on this day, but 60 yards is a lot of real estate to surrender when you're unable to consistently score and stop your opponents from scoring.
TDD Player of the Game:
Though he's been much maligned throughout the season, red shirt sophomore Mike Schneider engineered a good offensive showing for the Blue Devils, while throwing for a season high 190 yards on 17-of-24 passing. For his efforts, he earns TDD player of the game honors.
There are two ways of looking at the win against Citadel. Either you're relieved that Duke won't suffer a winless season, or you're ecstatic that the Blue Devils now ride into a bye week with a wave of momentum behind them as they prepare for Georgia Tech. Count the staff here at TDD in the second boat.
Duke took care of business and beat an opponent they should have beaten. Take away a costly fumble and the Blue Devils won in convincing fashion, 28-3 while holding the Bulldogs without a score. That's something to build on as Duke prepares to travel to Atlanta to face a group of Yellow Jackets that are looking for revenge for last year's shellacking in Wallace Wade.
Georgia Tech has been bipolar this season to say the least. The Jackets looked great in defeating a tough Clemson team, only to look lost when they were beaten by North Carolina. For Duke to have a chance they will need to heal up their injured starters and continue to build on the momentum created Saturday.