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

When kickoff arrived on Saturday, few Duke faithful expected what would have been the biggest upset in ACC history. Instead the Blue Devil fans were hoping to see improvement from their young squad. They got it, and in a big way as Duke challenged the Seminoles on every play. TDD examines the game and offers analysis.

What went right?

The Blue Devil offense had success moving the ball on the ground, gaining 191 on 36 carries. Freshman Re'Quan Boyette provided the bulk of the highlights, carrying the ball 10 times for 123 yards. Not to be outdone, Ronnie Drummer rushed for 77 yards and provided Duke with great field position most of the day with his stellar kick returns. Duke also continued their success in the red-zone, scoring touchdowns on both trips inside the FSU 20-yard line. Including Saturday, Duke has now scored touchdowns on 12 of their 17 red-zone possessions.

For the first time this season, Duke had a banner day on special teams. The kickoff return team averaged 30.2 yards per return which gave the offense solid starting field position all afternoon. Conversely, when Duke kickoff team was able to use accurate directional kicking combined with great coverage to hold the Noles to 10 yards per return.

What went wrong?

The Duke defense was unable to get FSU off the field when it counted. The Noles racked up 539 yards of offense on 82 plays and held a 13 minute time-of-possession advantage over the Devils. Duke did a credible job against the run, holding FSU to 163 yards on 33 carries. Stopping the pass, however, was a whole different matter as the Noles completed 34 passes on the day for 376 total yards. The Duke defense made things easy on FSU's QB tandem of Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee by not recording a single sack and rarely penetrating the pocket. There were also a few other defensive breakdowns, such as poorly timed penalties and missed tackles that allowed the Noles to sustain drives and score.

On the other side of the ball, Duke was once again unable to generate much offense through the air. QB Zack Asack was one 9 of 18 passing for 52 yards. The output was not from a lack of trying, as Duke threw the ball down the field on many occasions and even drew 3 successive defensive penalties as a result. Still, Asack overthrew some deep balls that could have turned the tide. If Duke is to win again this season, they must find a way to move the ball passing. The running game picked up some of the slack, but it was not nearly enough to offset FSU scoring output.

TDD player of the game:

Duke is playing a boatload of true and redshirt freshmen this season, and many are making their mark. Every week, a new player seems to emerge to give the Blue Devil faithful hope for the coming years. This week, Re'quan Boyette stepped forward and provided Duke with 123 yards rushing and the highlight of the game early in the 4th quarter. Boyette took the Asack handoff, found a seam in the defensive front, side-stepped a linebacker, and outran two FSU defenders 78 yards for a touchdown. The Devils are starting to see more and more big plays like this, and young players like Boyette are the ones making it happen. For his efforts, Re'quan Boyette is this week's TDD player of the game.

Final Analysis:

Despite the final score, Duke has some legitimate positives to take away from Saturday's game. The younger players on the roster are really starting to assert themselves. You had Boyette with 123 yards rushing. Sophomore Ronnie Drummer chipped in with over 150 all-purpose yards. Freshmen receivers Eron Riley and Marcus Jones went toe-to-toe with some of the best athletes in the conference and held their own. On defense, Cliff Respress is making noise along the defensive line. Linebacker Mike Brown led Duke with 10 tackles, including 8 solo stops. These gentlemen, among others, are the face of Duke Football in the near future. What we found out today is that they are not afraid of the big boys. They were making things happen, and would not let Duke roll over and die. Duke fans should be excited about what the next few years of Duke Football will hold.

Still, despite all the feel-good play of the younger kids, Duke still had many chances to hang with the Seminoles. Instead of making the 3rd down stop, creating a turnover, or converting a key 3rd down play on offense, the Devils would commit a penalty, miss a tackle or overthrow a receiver. At times, it looks like the Blue Devil players expect bad things to happen in these situations. When you expect to fail, you probably will. The coaching staff needs to find a way to help these players overcome their doubts and execute when it matters. The players are playing hard and giving the all. They game was pretty much out of hand, and Duke could have mailed it in during the last quarter. Instead, they came out and made plays to keep hope, however faint, alive. The fans still in attendance were on their feet cheering these players on. If the Blue Devils continue to give this type of effort and make a few more plays, wins will follow.

Looking Ahead:

The Blue Devils will close their 2005 home slate out this coming Saturday against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Deacs have won the last 5 games in this series and have some momentum coming off a 27-19 upset victory against NC State. At 3-5 on the year, the Deacons still have a glimmer of hope for post-season aspirations. Nothing would please the Duke faithful more than to end those dreams this weekend. The Devils are perfectly capable of pulling of the mild upset, but will need to limit their mental mistakes in crucial situations. Wake is a ball-control offense that excels at grinding out long scoring drives, but are not overpowering. Will Duke's last 2005 game in Wallace Wade be one to remember? We'll take a look later in the week.

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