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

The Blue Devils notched their first ACC victory of the year by upsetting Clemson, 16-13 on Saturday. As our resident football expert says, this is not your usual brand of Blue Devil football.

What went right?

The Duke defense gave its best effort of 2003, holding Clemson to 250 yards of total offense. The Devils' secondary was especially good, holding Tiger QB Charlie Whitehurst to 117 yards passing and recording two interceptions. Most impressive was Duke's ability to stop Clemson on third down. The Tigers were an abysmal 1-for-12. Duke dominated two other aspects of the game: special teams and time of possession. The Duke special teams created two Clemson turnovers, which resulted excellent field position for the Duke offense. The Devils were also able to keep the defense well-rested, holding the ball for over 36 minutes on the day. On offense QB Mike Schneider rebounded from a poor performance against FSU last week to go 20-31 for 213 yards and a touchdown through the air.

What went wrong?

The Duke running game was not a factor at all during Saturday's contest. The Clemson defense was able to hold Duke to a meager 21 yards rushing on 38 carries. The Devils did not fare much better than the Tigers on third down, going 5-for-16. The red-zone offense also let the Devils down once again. Despite getting inside the Clemson ten yard line on each of their first two possessions, the Devils were only able to muster a par of field goals. The offensive line did not have a great game, giving up five sacks to go along with a very sub-par running game.

TDD Player of the Game:

Since missing a 36-yard field game winning field goal attempt against Connecticut earlier in the season, kicker Matt Brooks has been waiting for an opportunity for redemption. His chance came on Saturday, and he delivered in grand fashion. Brooks has a perfect afternoon, hitting an extra point and going 3 for 3 on field goals. The last one was a career-long 53 yarder as time expired for the victory. For his clutch and career-long effort, kicker Matt Brooks is this week's TDD player of the game.

Final Analysis:

This game should serve notice to the rest of the ACC that Duke's days as the conference pushover are coming to an end. The Devils fought, clawed and scratched for 60 minutes on Saturday, against a Clemson team who had defeated Miami just one week ago. Duke trailed by seven points with six minutes to go, and Clemson had the ball. In years past, the Devils would have not made the plays necessary to get the ball back from the Tigers, and time would have run out. This game, however, was different. The Duke defense bowed its neck and forced a 3-and-out from the Clemson offense. Then the Devils took the ball and marched right down the field, making big throws, clutch receptions, and key blocks. With just over 90 seconds left in the game on 3rd and 1 at the Clemson 4 yard line, Schneider hit Ronnie Drummer out of the backfield on a swing pass. Drummer has one man to elude to tie the game. In years past, the Devils would have been stopped short. This time, however, Drummer eludes the tackler and scores to tie the game. Clemson then receives the kickoff and tries to move the ball down the field.

In the past, Duke would have let the Tigers complete some passes and get into field goal range. This year, however, DB turned WR turned DB again Deonto McCormick came up with a huge interception to get Duke the ball back. After running three plays to move the ball to the 36-yard line, Duke is forced to try a 53 yard field goal on the last play of the game. In the past, Duke would miss the field goal and the game would go to overtime. Not this day, as Brooks kicks a career-long, game-winning field goal.

The moral of the story is, the Duke football team is doing things that Duke Football is not used to doing. Instead of folding down the stretch, this team fights to the finish. Instead of getting blown out of the water by the top teams, this team gives the opponents all they can handle. Instead of playing to not lose, this team is playing to win. These are the factors that are making Duke Football fun to watch once again. The attitude of this team is a reflection of head coach Ted Roof and his staff. They are making a mark on the program and have it heading to better times.

No one is making excuses for the massive injuries and bad breaks that have plagued the 2004 Duke Blue Devils. The team is going out and laying it all on the line every week. Despite the frustration over a less than stellar record, people are starting to believe in Duke Football again.

Look Ahead:

Duke will close out its 2004 season as they play host to the North Carolina Tar Heels on Senior Day. This will be the last college football game for the Duke seniors as they will be looking to close out their careers on a winning note. This game has some special meaning for the Tar Heels as well. This is their final regular season game as well. A win against Duke would give them a winning record and make them eligible for a bowl bid. They will also be looking for revenge for Duke's victory last year at Kenan Stadium. Both teams will be looking to ring the Victory Bell late Saturday afternoon, and one team will leave the field very disappointed.

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