When Duke Has the Ball:
The Devils has high hopes on this side of the ball in the season opener. And on the game's first drive, the Devils looked as if they were going to light up the scoreboard, shredding the Connecticut defense with an 80 yard drive in just under two minutes. Unfortunately, that drive represented almost half of the entire Duke offensive output on the day. QB Thad Lewis was under constant pressure and made some horrible mistakes because of it. His three interceptions led to 17 Connecticut points. For Duke to win football games, they must reduce those sorts of game-changing turnovers. It is difficult to go an entire college football game with no turnovers, however, two of the three Lewis interceptions were just bad throws that should not have been made.
In addition to better pass protection, the Blue Devil offensive line must find a way to open holes for the running game. Without any offensive balance, the defense can pin their ears back and rush the quarterback with reckless abandon. The Devils must be able to move the ball on the ground to lessen the pressure on the aerial attack. In last Saturday's game, Duke only attempted 26 carries which resulted in a paltry 23 yards. The Devils must increase their effectiveness running the ball to shorten the game and keep the defense on the sidelines. The offensive line had a putrid game on Saturday. The leaders of that unit (Cameron Goldberg and Matt Rumsey) must step up and take responsibility for improving their level of play. The good news is that starting right tackle Fred Roland will start this week, after sitting out last week recovering from injury.
Defensively, Virginia fared quite poorly in their initial 2007 contest. They allowed 474 yards of total offense to Wyoming and proved incapable of stopping neither the Cowboys ground game nor their passing attack. Still, UVA has capable players on that side of the ball. One of the ACC's best defensive ends is Chris Long, son of former Oakland Raider great Howie Long. He is a player that the Duke offensive line will have to account for on every play. Expect whoever is blocking Long to have help, either a double team with two offensive linemen, or chip support from a running back or a tight end. Duke cannot neglect the other linemen, however, as sophomore end Jeffrey Fitzgerald makes teams pay for concentrating too much on Long. Linebackers Jon Copper and Antonio Appelby were one and two on the team last season in total tackles, and provide UVA with experience in the linebacking corps. Cornerbacks Chris Cook and Vic Hall are good athletes that have the size and athleticism to match-up with the Duke wide receivers.
When Virginia Has the Ball:
Like the Blue Devils, the Cavaliers will be looking to right their offensive ship after a miserable week one performance. QB Jameel Sewell was only 11-23 passing for 87 yards and two interceptions. Backup Peter Lalich was 3-5 in his limited action and could be inserted as a change of pace this weekend, should the offense struggle once again. The rushing combination of Andrew Pearman and Cedric Peerman faired ever worse, only gaining 21 yards on 10 carries. When the offense is running a little more smoothly, however, the Cavaliers have some weapons. TE Tom Santi has been a thorn in the Blue Devils side in the past. WR Maurice Covington is a capable target that should be able to get open against the suspect Duke pass coverage.
The Blue Devils were shredded by UConn QB Tyler Lorenzen, both through the air and on the ground. They were able to generate pressure from the edge pretty regularly, but did a poor job in pursuit once Lorenzen left the pocket. With Sewell, the Devils face a much more mobile passer than last week. The Devils cannot afford to let Sewell slip out of the pocket. He is a shifty open-field runner than will gash the defense if given a chance. The defensive front played reasonably well last weekend. Ends Patrick Bailey, Ryan Radloff and reserve Wes Oglesby were all seen harassing the QB in the pocket. The rush will need to be a little more in control this week, as they cannot allow Sewell escape lanes from the pocket.
The Devils will receive a big lift in the linebacking corps, as 2-year starter and leading tackler Mike Tauiliili returns to action after a one-game suspension. Vince Rey filled in admirable for Tauiliili, recording 17 tackles in the season opener. This week, Rey will shift from the middle to the strong side, replacing Tim Ball in the starting lineup. This change should make Duke very stout against the run. Look for Virginia to try and attack the outside rather than try and bulldoze the Blue Devil front. They will also probably try and isolate either Rey or Tauiliili in pass coverage again a TE or running back.
Key Matchup: Duke offensive line vs. Virginia pass rush.
The Devils must do a better job protecting the quarterback this week. In the season-opener, Connecticut was able to generate a substantial pass rush with only the four down linemen. Virginia will have a slightly different look with their 3-4 defense. This means the Devils will need to prepare for zone-blitzes and outside linebackers off the edge. The return of right tackle Fred Roland for this game should will help in this matter. If Duke allows Virginia to continually harass Thad Lewis, they will once again struggle to move the ball.
Three Keys to a Duke victory:
1. Contain the scramble - Virginia QB Jameel Sewell is a shifty open-field runner that the Blue Devil linebackers will have problems containing in the open field. Despite his running prowess, Sewell is not a strong pocket passer. Duke must try and contain his scrambling by rushing in lanes and staying under control. If Sewell does break the pocket, the secondary must be ready to come up in support.
2. Net punting – There is no sugar-coating the atrocity of Duke's punting game last week. The only solace was the punts were so bad as to be un-returnable. Either Kevin Jones or Nick Maggio must shake off whatever problems they were having last week and get some air and distance on their punts. The Devils have a small margin of error, and losing 15 yards of field position every time they punt is something that is almost impossible to overcome.
3. Attack on offense - Duke started the season like gangbusters on offense, putting a touchdown on the board in under two minutes on their opening possession. They accomplished this by attacking through the air and keeping the defense off balance with intelligent play-calling. The UVA 3-4 defense has larger linebackers than most 4-3 schemes which allow them to play the run more effective. The downside is they do not operate as well one-on-one in the open field. Duke must attack this weakness and make Virginia adjust to the offense.
Last week, Duke lost what was, in many minds, the most important game of Ted Roof's coaching career. Not only did they lose, they were blown out by a mediocre division one football team. There is not time for the Devils to be down on themselves. They will be playing a team that suffered just as humiliating a defeat last weekend. Both teams will be looking for redemption on Saturday. Unfortunately, only one will find it.
On the offensive side of the ball, Duke has to fare better in trenches. In the second half last week, the Connecticut defensive line established dominance over their offensive opponents. As a result, Duke only crossed midfield once in the second half. The return of Fred Roland gives the Devils much needed experience on the right side. Roland was played at a high level at the end of last season, and his mammoth 310-pound frame will give Duke the bulk needed for power running plays to the right side. If Duke is able to better compete on the line of scrimmage, the offense will run more smoothly and the Devils will score more points than a week ago.
On the other side of the ball, the Devils must play better on 3rd down. In what might have been the turning point of the game, Connecticut had the ball near midfield and faced a 3rd and 16 situation. To no Duke fan's surprise, the Huskies were able to run a receiver 17 yards, turn around and make the catch. The coaching staff and players must be cognizant of down and distance and now allow those plays to be executed with such ease. In the end, the defense will succeed or fail depending on how they defend the pass and quarterback scramble on 3rd down. Unfortunately for the Blue Devil faithful, Sewell will exploit the Devils inability to shut off the scramble, and Sewell will find open receivers against the porous Duke pass defense. The Devils will compete for 3 quarters but will fall out of contention late.
UVA - 31
Duke - 14