The Blue Devils did some very good things on both sides of the ball Saturday. QB Thad Lewis threw for 255 yards and a touchdown. Duke finished the day with a respectable 307 yards of offense. Defensively, the Devils were able to force three FSU turnovers. All-ACC CB John Talley had two interceptions, returning one for Duke's first score of the day. Standout freshman DT Vince Oghobaase also joined the defensive scoring party catching FSU RB Antone Smith in the end-zone for a safety. On the play, Oghobaase immediately destroyed the blocker in front of him and hit the back right after taking the handoff.
What went wrong?
Offensively, Duke did a poor job of consistently executing. Lewis once again had problems handling snaps, fumbling two. The first fumble was scooped up by the FSU defense and returned for their first score. Duke also lost a fumble attempting a reverse. The play was set up well, but the execution was sloppy. After a great showing by the ground game a week ago, FSU was able to close the holes and limit the Devils to 52 total yards rushing. Without a consistent ground threat, the Seminoles were able to force the Devils to the air and hold Thad Lewis to under 50% completion percentage. Defensively, Duke gave up too many big plays. Duke played the run fairly well, but gave up an 80-yard TD run to Antone Smith on the first play of the 3rd quarter that gave the Noles a comfortable working margin. The last few weeks, Duke had done a good job of generating pressure on the quarterback. This week, however, FSU was able to figure out the Blue Devil blitz packages and give QB Drew Weatherford time to have his way with the secondary.
TDD Player of the game:
With his two interceptions, John Talley has now recorded picks in 3 of the last 4 games, and has a total of 4 for the season. His interception TD return in the first quarter allowed Talley to move into first place in ACC history in interception return yardage. Talley also tied the Duke all-time mark with his 3rd career interception TD return. He did struggle a bit against FSU's Greg Carr, allowing a couple of TD reception to the 6'6" wide receiver. Despite the struggles, Talley's big plays make him this weeks' TDD player of the game.
Going into Saturday's game, Duke's chances for victory were slim at best. Duke made some big plays and fought hard. Unfortunately, there were not enough big plays and way too many mistakes for the Devils to compete in this contest. The FSU offensive line did an admirable job in pass protection, allowing the talented wideouts time to get open. Weatherford was able to get comfortable in the pocket and find his targets.
On offense, Duke must stop making unforced errors. Thad Lewis has now fumbled seven snaps on the season, which is an outrageous number for high school, much less college. The Devils cannot afford these sorts of mistakes if they wish to compete with teams of FSU's talent level. The good news for Duke is that the offensive line has shown significant improvement from the beginning of the year. FSU is known for getting immense pressure on the QB. This time out, however, the Noles were only able to drop Lewis twice. When you compare this to the beginning of the season when Richmond recorded seven sacks in the season opener, it seems the youthful Duke line is starting to come together, at least on the pass protection side of things.
With Alabama and Florida State in the rearview mirror, Duke must now face the 3rd team in the midseason 3-game gauntlet, the Miami Hurricanes. This game was made much more interesting on Sunday morning when Miami announced the suspension of at least 8 players stemming from an on-field brawl in their game against Florida International. The complete fallout is not known at this time, but the Hurricanes will be missing some key elements of their team when they come to Durham. Despite the missing personnel, defeating Miami will prove to be quite a daunting task for the Blue Devils. The Hurricanes might be short in numbers, but they are long on talent and speed. With all the distractions coupled with a disappointing season to date, the Devils are in prime position to tame the Canes.