The Duke defense had its best performance against Florida State since the Seminoles joined the ACC by allowing only 29 points. The Devils were especially successful in the red-zone, forcing FSU to kick five field goals. Normally the Noles have little trouble scoring against Duke, but this year was much different. The defense bowed their necks when they needed a stop and got the job done.
Punter Trey McDonald quietly enjoyed what could have been the best game of his Duke career, averaging 47.3 yards per punt and successfully completing a fake-punt pass for a first down.
Ben Patrick continued to assert himself as one of the ACC's premier tight ends by hauling in six catches, the 3rd straight game with at least five receptions. Duke also held the ball for a season-high 34:51, while converting a respectable 6 of 15 third downs and 3 of 3 fourth downs.
What went wrong?
One of the keys for the Duke defense was to limit the big plays. Unfortunately, they gave up three plays of at least 48 yards. Wide receiver Chauncey Stovall hauled in eight receptions for 138 yards, and came up with nearly every jump ball pass thrown his way. Running back Lorenzo Booker had a 53-yard scamper on his way to 135 yards rushing. FSU was able to turn these plays into points. On the other side of the ball, Duke was only able to muster two players of great than 20 yards.
The Devils were also plagued with turnovers. QB Mike Schneider threw three interceptions, including a costly one in the endzone, which thwarted the Devils chance to get back in the game in the second half. Duke also lost a fumble early in the contest that gave FSU excellent field position. The defense, however, was able to do some damage control and held the Noles to a field goal.
TDD Player of the Game:
After Guiseppe Aguano was injured in last week's game, Duke knew they were going to need a player to step up this weekend to fill a void in the middle. Even though Aguano was able to play, the start at MLB was given to backup Codey Lowe. In his first career start, Lowe made several key stops near the goal line to thwart FSU drives. He also recorded his first career interception, which resulted in Duke's only points of the day. For his efforts, Codey Lowe is this weeks' TDD player of the game.
Once again, Duke was able to stay within hailing distance of a superior opponent for most of the game. Early in the 4th quarter with Duke trailing 19-7, the Devils had a first and goal on the FSU 4-yard line. If the Devils could have scored a touchdown here, the FSU faithful would have been very nervous. Unfortunately, the Devils squandered this chance by turning the ball over, and they never threatened again.
This game had a flow very similar to the Virginia game a few weeks back. In both contests, the Devils had a chance to make the game close in the 4th quarter, but were not able to come up with the one big play or big stop necessary to make it happen. Still this team has plenty of fight in it, and the players never seem to give up. This is a trait that has been lacking from the Duke squad in recent years. Their effort will be rewarded in due time, hopefully sooner than later.
The key to this game was Bobby Bowden's decision to bench Chris Rix and replace him with Wyatt Sexton. As soon as that change was made, the FSU offense started moving the ball. With Sexton in, the Seminoles scored 20 second half points and had long sustained drives of 93, 80 and 70 yards. The Duke offense was able to move the ball against FSU in response, but not able to put points on the board. Duke must find a way to start converting touchdowns in the red-zone if they are to taste victory again in 2004.
Duke is now finished with their road schedule for 2004 and will come back to Wallace Wade stadium for their final two contests. First up for the Devils, the Clemson Tigers. Coming off an upset victory over the Miami Hurricanes; Clemson is on a roll, having won four straight games. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst has not lived up to his preseason hype most of the season, however he is now starting to play like most thought he would. The spread Clemson offense will give the Duke defense fits. Still, this might not be a bad match-up for Duke, compared to the power rushing teams they have see over the last month. It should be an interesting change of pace for the Devils, and a change to end the season on a high note.