Roof Sees Improvement Despite 0-3 Record

Head coach Ted Roof has heard the questions surrounding his team's 0-3 start to the 2007 season. He's aware of the fanbase's desire for the improved recruiting results to translate to the field. And despite the negativity, Roof says the Blue Devils are making progress.

"Regardless of what people think, our kids have busted their hump and they really really want this thing and they've invested in it," said Roof at his weekly press conference. "They need to see a return on the investment they've made, but you don't do that by focusing on the scoreboard. You focus on the execution and the strain and the scoreboard takes care of itself."

Still, after a week off from the regular season grind, the Blue Devils may very well need to focus on the scoreboard against a Virginia team that has also struggled out of the gate to just a 1-3 record. That's because Duke's schedule stacks up like a murderer's row once the final whistle has blown against the Cavaliers with Alabama, Florida State, and Miami in three consecutive weeks. In other words, Duke could be facing an 0-7 mark when heading into the Vanderbilt game on October 28th.

With that in mind, the Blue Devils have spent most of the past 10 days working to correct some of the major problems that have reared their heads in the first three games. Of course, Roof is quick to point out the obvious improvements over last season on both sides of the ball.

"Offensively we're throwing the football at a completion percentage just a notch under 60 percent," Roof explained on Tuesday. "Last year we threw it at 47 (percent). Our yards per attempt average has gone up by over three yards per attempt so we are much more efficient throwing the football. However, our running game isn't where it was last year, and obviously our red zone offense has struggled."

Much of that improved passing game has been courtesy of freshman quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who is completing 61.3 of his passes while amassing a quarterback rating of 129.34. On the other hand, some of the running game's woes have been a direct result of an injury to "Devilback" Ronnie Drummer, forcing him to sit for both Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. As of Tuesday, the prognosis for the speedy junior hadn't changed much.

"Ronnie is still gimpy," said Roof. "He's practiced, but it's probably 50/50 that'll he'll be able to play some on Saturday. We worked a lot in the offseason on ways to get him the ball because he makes plays with his speed, but if he doesn't have his speed we need to get the ball to other playmakers."

Still, the redzone numbers are troubling. The Blue Devils are scoring just 11% of the time when they get inside their opponents' 20 yard line (while the next lowest figure in the ACC is 71%) - a byproduct of several goalline fumbles and one subpar season by sophomore kicker Joe Surgan who is converting just 33% of his field goal attempts on the season. Still, Roof isn't ready to abandon the once highly sought after Florida product.

"I think his confidence has been affected, but at the same time I think he's a kid that can bounce back. I guess it's like a golfer. You know you're standing over those deals and sometimes you don't feel like you've got a chance to hit it straight or that three foot putt seems like it might as well be a 300 foot putt. The only way to do it is to keep going to the practice range and hopefully get it cured. Joe and I have talked about how many games have come down to one kick, and just how important his job is to our football team."

While the offense continues to the be a work in progress, the defensive unit has shown signs of being the foundation for this team for the foreseeable future.

"We are much better against the run. Our yards per carry has gone from over five last year to 2.7 this year. That was a big point of emphasis for us. Our total defense is down 100 yards per game which is a significant improvement. We have improved in both short yardage and redzone situations, but We have to get better on third and long though."

Duke will host the Cavaliers on Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium. Kick off is scheduled for noon.

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