Looking Back on Week Six
posted by Ski Hat Guy
Now THAT was a football game. After playing flag football for most of the first half, Duke came out in the second half and took the game over. Even after giving up a long TD return in the third quarter, the Devils never wavered in their offensive display. NC State was simply outmatched by Thad Lewis and the Duke receivers. According to State coach Tom O'Brien, the Wolfpack tried just about everything on defense. The bottom line: Duke simply was the better team on Saturday. A few observations about last weekend's performance:
- For those that did not see the game, Thad Lewis did a great Peyton Manning on his best day imitation. Lewis was 40-50 for 450+ yards, 5 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, and zero turnovers. What makes his day even more impressive is that it could have been better. The Duke receivers dropped FIVE passes, including four in the first half. Two more passes hit receiver hands, but would have been very tough catches. That leaves three incompletions where you could say he missed. Folks, if you throw 47 of 50 catchable balls in a game, you are going to win a LOT of football games. Lewis made prudent decisions with the ball, taking what the defense gave him. He didn't force throws into coverage, and his receivers for the most part did great work after the catch. Sure, many of his throws were on WR screens and flare passes, which are easy throws to make. However, the timing of the Duke offense was just impeccable. The receivers were in the right place at the right time. And the passes were there just when they needed to be. I've followed Duke Football very closely for 17 years now. That was the best QB performance I've seen at Duke, period. There might have been some in the 80's that I missed. Lewis won the Walter Camp Foundation offensive player of the week award. He 100% deserves it.
- I don't know what has gotten into the offensive line recently, but Lewis's pass protection has been outstanding for the past three games. I noticed a subtle change in our base 3rd down shotgun look. Rather than lining up with a back in the backfield, the Devils are lining the line up with wide splits and bringing lining two TE's up behind the tackles as slotbacks. This formation has two advantages. One, if an opposing defensive lineman breaks through, the TEs have a chance to pick him off before he gets to the QBs. Having two good blocking TEs in Brett Huffman and Brandon King really helps the Devils execute this formation. Also helping is the pocket presence of Thad Lewis. Over the last two weeks he's done a great job of feeling where the pressure is applied and sidestepping it to by time in the pocket. The wide splits are also opening up the throwing lanes for Lewis to find guys down the field.
- Credit must also be given to Duke's defensive staff for making the necessary halftime adjustments. After playing like a sieve in the first half, the Devil defense pitched a shutout in the second. The defensive staff understood what the State offense was trying to do and made the adjustments necessary to compensate. As the Blue Devils offense continued to pressure State with their constant scoring, the defensive line won the battle in the trenches. Senior DT Vince Oghobaase is making a strong case for all-ACC honors. To be honest, if he keeps up this level of play in the second half of the season, he should get consideration for ACC DPOY. Duke will need to win 4-5 conference games for this even to be a discussion, but he has been the best ACC defensive lineman so far this season. Also kudos to the defensive backs for their pass coverage in the second half. Their effort was helped tremendously by the pass rush applied to State's Wilson, but the corners Leon Wright, Lee Butler, and Chris Rwabukamba played much better in the second half than they had in the three previous halves. Wright and Butler were rewarded for their coverage with interceptions to seal the victory.
- Now, lets talk about the things Duke needs to do better if they are going to be a bowl team. On the offensive side of the ball, the Devils are still having big issues running the football. Granted against State, they really did not have to. Still, the Devils are not getting a good push from their offensive line. In short-yardage, Duke is better off spreading the field than lining up in a power formation. Costly fumble aside, HB Re'Quan Boyette looked the sharpest he's been since his knee injury last year. Desmond Scott is quickly developing into a solid ball-carrying option. If Duke can get the running game to a competent level, they might become downright scary on offense. The Devils might have to wait until the Virginia game to do this, as Maryland 's swiss cheese secondary is too inviting a target to pass the ball for Duke to try and pound the run.
- On the defensive side of things, the Devils are still getting pushed around some in the running game, especially when teams run away from Oghobaase. All of State's best running plays came when they attacked the perimeter of the defense on the side that Oghobaase was not lined up on. To their credit, they played that run much better in the second half. Toney Baker is a good back, but no one should average over 10 yards per carry against your defense.
- The special teams still has much room for improvement, especially in kickoff coverage. Granted, State standout TJ Graham is one of the nation's best kickoff return men. Still, the Devils have to close those holes in coverage and not allow the big return. The punt coverage is looking good, and the place kicking seems to be settling down. Now, if the kick coverage can fix what ails them, the special teams could turn into a net positive. That is something Duke needs to do to win those four games necessary for a bowl bid.
For a complete list of blog entries as well as discussion and comments, visit Ski Football Forum.