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

Heading into Saturday it seemed as though the Blue Devils were ready to earn their second victory of the season. However, some questionable plays and poor execution in timely situations doomed Duke to yet another gut wrenching loss. TDD takes a look at the game and offers our opinions.

What went right?

The Duke offense produced 331 yards of total offense and really controlled the game tempo. The Devils time of possession was nearly twice that of Navy (39 minutes to 21 minutes). QB Zack Asack was quite efficient in the passing game, completing 12 of 16 passes for 111 yards. Asack also added 57 yards on the ground. The Blue Devil offensive line was able to open holes for the running game, as Duke gained 179 yards on the ground. The Blue Devil offense was also crippled with injuries throughout the game. Top deep threat WR Jomar Wright suffered an apparent knee injury late in the first half and did not return. Then tailback Justin Boyle went down with a hip pointer in the 3rd quarter and was unable to continue. Duke will need both of these players healthy to sustain whatever offensive success they have had later in the season.

What went wrong?

The defense played probably played their worst game of the season. Navy ran 44 plays for 417 yards. That means the Devils gave up a staggering average of 9.4 yards every time Navy snapped the ball. The Middies ended up with 326 yards on the ground. Sure their offense is designed to run the ball for plenty of yardage, but Duke gave up an astounding 5 rushing plays of at least 39 yards. The Duke special teams also had a disappointing game, especially in kickoff coverage and kickoff returns. Rarely was the Duke return team able to get the ball past the 20-yard line. On the other side of the ball, Navy started almost every drive outside their 30-yard line. In a game dominated by both rushing attacks, the field position difference was crucial.

TDD player of the game:

Zack Asack started his first collegiate game on Saturday and acquitted himself well. The Massachusetts freshman had 168 yards of total offense and, despite one interception, was able to direct Duke on a few long scoring drives. For his effort, Asack is this week's TDD player of the game.

Final Analysis:

This game boils down to one simple fact: The Navy offense produced more big plays than the Duke offense did. The Middies had 4 second-half rushes of over 40 yards, including a 52-yarder by QB Lamar Owens that set up the game-winning score. The Duke defense did a good job of not allowing the Navy running game to control the tempo. They made some crucial mistakes, however, and allowed big gainers to foil them. Other than one coverage mix-up, the pass defense did a pretty good job. Unfortunately, the one play went for an easy Navy touchdown.

Despite the defensive troubles, the Duke offense could have carried the day. The Duke offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, and opened holes for the running game. Asack did a good job finding open receivers in the passing game. The one glaring problem that has reared its ugly head in every 2005 game is the lack of aggression in the play calling. It is fine to simplify things for a young quarterback, but that does not excuse the coaching staff for not trying to throw the ball down the field. In the second half, Navy was stacking the line with 8 and sometimes 9 defenders to try and stop the run. If a defense does that, it is the coaching staff's job to recognize this and call plays to take advantage. Duke stubbornly refused to take advantage of this and it hurt the offense.

Looking Ahead:

Duke not gets the unenviable task of traveling to the Orange Bowl this coming weekend to take on the Miami Hurricanes. This will be the first ACC meeting between the two schools, and, by almost every conceivable metric this will be a mismatch. Miami has speed and skill on the outside and in the backfield, and their defense will almost assuredly be a mismatch for the Blue Devil offense. The Duke coaches really have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to prepare for an almost invincible foe, but they need to help their team retain whatever confidence they have remaining.

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