The defense played well enough to keep Duke in the game early on and forced three turnovers on the afternoon while stopping the Hurricanes in the redzone a number of times. Unfortunately for the defense, the offense was of little use on the afternoon, allowing a very talented opponent terrific field position for most of the day – something that eventually allowed Miami's talent level to put points on the board in bunches.
Despite allowing 31 first half points, the Hurricanes' longest scoring drive of the half was just 54 yards, while the other three touchdown drives only required Miami to move 7, 25, and 38 yards respectively. It could have been worse for the Devils, but several crucial plays including Chris Davis' pair of interceptions and freshman Mike Brown's big tackle to force Miami to settle for a field goal spared Duke any further points allowed.
If the younger players are the future of the program then, we caught an early glimpse of the future on Saturday as several second team Blue Devils were on the field for extended periods of time. While the results weren't as positive as many Duke fans would want, it was good to see head coach Ted Roof giving his young players a chance to earn future playing time.
Despite the continued use of the sky kick on kick offs, the Duke kicking game looked pretty good on the afternoon, averaging over 41 yards per punt on 12 kicks throughout the afternoon. Unfortunately this was offset by the poor field position with which the Blue Devils were always fighting.
What Went Wrong
Simply put, the offense is as bad as many Duke fans can ever remember. That's saying something for a team who finished last in total offense just a year ago. Had it not been for Ronnie Drummer's 81-yard run to the endzone, Duke would have finished with just 47 total yards of offense on 56 plays. While it's easy to say that Duke is simply installing a new system under offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, the fact is that until Duke recruits the kind of players needed to run that system there should be some creativity and some effort to attack the opponent with what is currently in place. That's not happening. Instead Duke has become utterly predictable with an attempt to run the ball no matter the circumstance.
Duke fans with realistic hopes for the weekend in Miami were hoping for some offensive movement, if not a couple of chances to put points on the board. Instead the Duke offense stayed woefully consistent by not completing a forward pass for nearly half the game, forgetting about one of the best tight ends in the ACC, and ran the ball despite little success early on, leading to a number of third and longs which produced….another run for little yardage.
There are a number of possible explanations for this curious play calling including the wide receivers' inability to get off the line in man coverage, the use of young quarterbacks, and the lack of depth along the offensive line. Still, as a division one level program, there is no reason to produce such little offense. None. Perhaps the saddest and most accurate commentary I heard all day while watching this game with friends was that Duke was calling the game "scared" and "almost afraid to take a gamble for fear of a turnover." While this kind of conservative approach may work in many situations in the future, for now it would certainly be nice to see Duke take a few gambles down field. At worst it's a turnover, which is essentially what the offensive production has amounted to for much of the season.
If the lack of offense wasn't bad enough, the defense also suffered some injury setbacks as John Talley, Brain Sallee, and Deonto McCormick were all shaken up at one point or another.
TDD Player of the Game:
Despite the passing success of the Hurricanes, the game could have been much worse had it not been for the stellar play of Chris Davis. The sophomore safety recorded five total tackles and picked off a pair of Miami passes on the afternoon. For his efforts, Davis is this week's TDD Player of the Game.
Things don't get much easier for Duke next week as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets come calling. While Tech doesn't have the fire power and overall talent of the Hurricanes, they certainly are one of the better teams the Devils will face this season. For Duke to be successful, the offense will certainly have to work hard to give the defense some semblance of support by holding on to the ball and, yes, putting some points on the board. If that happens, it's not out of the question that Duke could surprise some next week. However, a lot has to change in a week of practice.