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

The Blue Devils once again found themselves on the short end of the stick Saturday against Wake Forest. However, Duke continues to show the kind of improvement that has many pointing toward a huge step in the right direction sooner than later.

What went right?

For the second week in a row, the Duke offense had success moving the ball. Quarterback Mike Schneider recorded the first 300-yard passing game of his career. He spread the ball around nicely with 10 different Blue Devils recording at least 1 reception. Most impressively, he attempted 45 passes and did not throw a single interception.

Tailback Cedric Dargan broke the 100-yard rushing barrier for the third time in the 4 games he has played this season. Duke ended the game with a season-high 423 yards of offense. The Duke defense played a better ball game as well. Wake was able to rush for 272 yards, but only finished with 400 yards of total offense. Duke also won the turnover battle by forcing 3 Wake Forest miscues.

What went wrong?

Duke still is having all kinds of issues stopping the run. For the final 3 quarters, Wake was able to move the ball on the ground with little difficulty. Still Duke would have most likely won the game if not for their red-zone failures. Despite getting inside the Wake 30-yard line 3 times in the fist quarter, the Devils were only able to come away with two Matt Brooks field goals.

The other trip resulted in a Blue Devil turnover on the Wake 1-yard line. Scoring points has been a problem area for Duke all season, and this game was no different. Duke also failed to convert a 2-point conversion midway though the 3rd quarter that would have allowed the Blue Devils to tie the game with their late 4th quarter touchdown.

TDD Player of the Game:

For the second straight week, QB Mike Schneider has found his rhythm and spread the ball around to many different receivers. Against Wake, he posted a career-best 300 yards passing with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Deacons came into the game among the league leaders in interceptions, but were unable to get any against Schneider. For his efforts, Mike Schneider is this weeks' TDD player of the game.

Final Analysis:

What might have been for the Devils? In a game where they outgained their opponent, won the turnover battle, and had a 300-yard passer and 100-yard rusher, they manage to lose by two points. The red-zone offense failed the Devils in the first half and they were forced to kick 3 field goals. For a team like Duke with little margin for error, they cannot afford to settle for field goals. Scoring touchdowns in the red-zone are a necessity. Still, Duke had a chance to prevail in this game, but three key plays in which Duke failed to execute doomed the Devils. First, Ben Patrick's fumble on the Wake 1-yard line cost the Devils an almost sure touchdown. Holding on to the ball in that situation would have resulted in a first and goal on the one. Second, kicker Matt Brooks missed a 33-yard field goal in the second half that would have closed the game to 6 points. He had kicked 3 in the first half, two from more than 40 yards out. This one was a relative chip shot. Third, the failed two point conversion after the Devils touchdown in the 3rd quarter ended up accounting for the margin of victory.

Some will say Duke should have kicked the extra point instead of going for two. No one questions it, however, if Duke converts. These are perfect examples how thin the line is between winning and losing in college football. Duke is right on the cusp, but needs to make the plays listed above to be victorious.

Look Ahead:

Duke plays their last road game of the 2004 season this Saturday taking on Florida State in Tallahassee. The Noles are coming off of an upset loss against Maryland and should be ready to take out their frustrations on someone. The Devils will have their hands full with the highly skilled Florida State players. Offensively, FSU's wide receivers and offensive line are among the best units in the conference. Defensively, the Noles are one of the best defenses in the country against the run. Duke's offensive and defensive lines will be severely tested. On paper, this game is a mismatch. As we learned from our baby-blue brethren in Chapel Hill this past weekend, however, games aren't played on paper.

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