Duke vs. UNC: The Good, Bad, & Ugly

The 2004 season came to a disappointing end on Saturday as the Blue Devils folded in the second half against archrival North Carolina, losing 40-17. Next up for the Devils: A long off season full of hard work in hopes of making 2005 a banner year in Durham.

What went right?

The Duke special team enjoyed a fine day. Casey Camero blocked a UNC field goal in the second quarter, and Kenny Stanford picked up the ball and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown. This was the 5th defensive and special teams score of the year, which is a marked improvement from years' past. Kicker Matt Brooks followed up his career-long game winner a week ago by hitting a 51-yarder this week, the second-longest effort of his career. Duke was also penalized a season-low three times for 25 yards.

What went wrong?

Duke was dominated on both sides of the ball this weekend. UNC piled up 285 yards on the ground, half of which was gained by starting RB Chad Scott. The Heels also threw for more than 200 yards, which gave them nearly 500 yards of total offense. Despite their quality offensive showing, the Tar Heels won this game with their defense. Despite coming into the game ranked last in almost every category, the UNC defense continued their improved play in recent weeks against the Devils. Duke ran for a paltry 53 yards, despite having their top 3 running backs average 5 yards per carry. Duke QB Mike Schneider was harassed all day by the blitz, and the team got a -22 yard rush on a bad shotgun snap. Schneider had a decent day throwing the ball, going 19-34 for 181 yards. Still, the main theme of the day was Duke's lines being outplayed by their UNC counterparts. When UNC needed to, they were able to get quick pressure on Schneider and force him to make decisions too early, which resulted in bad plays, and in one instance an interception which was returned for a touchdown.

TDD Players of the Game:

In their final game at Duke, linebacker Giuseppe Aguano and defensive back Kenny Stanford both came up with big plays in support of the Blue Devil effort. Stanford picked up a blocked field goal, and returned it 70 yards for Duke's first touchdown of the day. Aguano forced a key fumble in the 4th quarter to keep the Blue Devils' hopes alive when UNC was threatening to run away and hide. For their efforts in their final game, Stanford and Aguano are this week's TDD players of the game.

Final Analysis:

This game is really not hard to analyze. Duke was defeated by a better team on Saturday. The Tar Heels got superior line play on both sides of the ball. The UNC offensive line was able to open holes for Chad Scott and Ronnie McGill. When QB Darian Durant needed to pass, the line gave him plenty of time to do so. Durant also helped his own cause by not forcing throws into tight coverage. He read the defense and threw the ball to the appropriate receiver. The UNC skill players made plays when given the opportunity, and Duke was not able to stop them. On the flip side, the Duke offense line was unable to keep the pressure off of Mike Schneider, which forced him to make some throws he shouldn't have made. The Tarheel defensive backs also did a good job of not allowing the Duke receivers to get free releases in blitz situations. This caused Schneider to hesitate, and the defense was able to force him to make some bad decisions. Duke was able to move the ball in spurts, but was unable to get in any sort of rhythm.

Looking ahead:

Unfortunately for the Devils, they do not have next week to get this loss off their minds. The 2004 season is now officially over, and the 2-9 record is a bitter disappointment. Duke will have many questions to answer this off-season, and will need to find replacements for the departing seniors. Still with many of the injured returning next year, and the wealth of young players contributing this season, there is definitely much to look forward to for the 2005 campaign.

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