Oh So Close...

Last week I wrote a story titled "The Rest of the Season" in which I listed six things Duke must do to salvage the season. After a heart-wrenching 14-13 loss to Wake Forest, lets see how the Devils did with the points outlined.

Pick a QB and stick with him:
Duke elected to put freshman Thaddeus Lewis behind center and leave him there for the entire game. The result was 21-32 passing for 305 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Needless to say, Lewis was quite impressive in his first collegiate start. A dropped TD pass on the games' opening play would have made the numbers even more impressive. Lewis did make some freshman mistakes throwing into coverage and missing open receivers. Still he showed poise under pressure and allowed Duke to consistently move the football down the field.

Take some chances on offense:
The Devils came out of the gate throwing the ball and repeatedly attacked down the field. At the end of the first half, Lewis has over 200 yards passing and Duke was shredding the Deacon defense. The Devils got a bit more conservative in the second half, but still were able to move the ball. Duke finished the game with 367 total yards, a significant improvement from a week ago.

Find a way to stop the outside run:
Wake Forest has led the ACC in rushing 4 out of the last 5 years, and after their opening contest, were poised to do it again. Duke stepped up their overall run defense and held the Deacons to 59 total yards on the ground. The linebackers, corners and safeties did a much better job in outside run support and the defense missed fewer tackles in space.

Use the tight ends:
After not having a pass thrown his way in week 1, Nick Stefanow hauled in 3 passes for 44 yards against Wake, including two 3rd down conversion catches. Thad Lewis spread the ball around to 7 different receivers and the results were a very effective Duke air attack.

Stick to the game plan:
Duke made a concerted effort to throw the ball this week and the results were very pleasing to the Blue Devil faithful. The offense moved the ball up and down the field almost at will against Wake. Ineffectiveness in the red-zone prevented this game from being a blowout Duke victory.

Toughness comes from the top:

Both Duke lines stood toe to toe with the veteran Wake lines. Duke matched the home team's intensity level and took the fight to the Deacons. If Duke can match the intensity and effort they showed on Saturday, wins will come in the near future. When this week started, many thought Duke would get blown out this week on the way to a miserable winless season. The Devils, however, fought tooth and nail with an experienced veteran football team and had the game in their hands. Of course, now Duke need to learn how to finish off teams.

Final Impressions:
To put it bluntly, Duke blew this game. They were the better team on Saturday, controlling the flow of the game and bottling up the vaunted Wake Forest rushing attack. Dropped passes, bad fumbles and missed opportunities in the red-zone kept the Deacons in the game at halftime. Everyone knew that Wake would eventually find some rhythm on offense and score some points. Duke was not able to capitalize on easy scoring opportunities and paid the ultimate price, a last second loss.

Once again, the staff will need to find a way to motivate a demoralized team. Ted Roof and staff did a remarkable job keeping the players focused and fired up this past week for Wake. Now the real meat of the schedule starts. Four of Duke's next five opponents are perennial powerhouses. First up, a trip to Blacksburg to face the Virginia Tech Hokies. VT is 2-0 and coming off a 35-10 domination of UNC. This will be quite a challenge for Duke on both sides of the ball. The Hokies have a fast-swarming defense which is much more stout than the ones Duke has faced in the first two weeks of the season. On offense, Tech has good skill at receiver and running back, but they are not nearly as powerful up front as they were last year. If Duke can bring the intensity and fire of this week and combine it with good red-zone execution, things could get interesting this weekend.

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