Roper gives Florida fans a show

The Duke offense spent its New Year's Eve putting up numbers the Gators haven't dreamed of in years. After scoring 48 points with 661 total yards, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will pack his bags and try to bring the same success to Gainesville as the new Florida offensive coordinator. He showed signs for optimism at Florida on Tuesday night in Atlanta.

The sixth-year offensive coordinator at Duke has shown the ability to build his offense around the strengths of the playmakers on the roster. It's easy to see how he makes that work together for the Blue Devils.

The Duke offense leans heavily on quarterback Anthony Boone, who finished the night 29-45 for 427 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 27 rushing yards and one touchdown. When the Blue Devils get into the red zone and want to keep the ball on the ground with the quarterback, it's Brandon Connette that gets the call. He added a rushing touchdown of his own on Tuesday, ending the season with 14 rushing touchdowns.

The Duke offense showcased runs out of the pistol formation and shotgun, hitting big plays on the ground of 41 and 25 yards to keep the defense from selling out to stopping the pass.

In the end, it was balanced. Roper called 37 running plays to 45 passing plays.

Josh Snead (17) and Juwan Thompson (11) anchored the rushing attack, totaling 196 yards on the ground. Shaquille Powell added two carries to keep the other backs fresh, but Roper mostly stayed with his two most trusted backs throughout the game. With the return of Mack Brown, Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor for the 2014 season, Roper will likely incorporate a third back into his attack.

While the Duke ground game kept Texas A&M honest on Tuesday, the arm of Boone is what made the difference.

The Blue Devils hit nine passing plays for at least 15 yards. The nine went for 15, 18, 23, 23, 25, 26, 32, 33, and 37 yards. Jamison Crowder was the favorite target of the night and of the season for Duke. He doesn't have ideal size at receiver, but his speed and athleticism help him make plays after the catch. He plays bigger than the listed 5-9 and attacks the ball in the air.

Crowder ended Tuesday with 12 catches for 163 yards and one touchdown. He caught a 59-yard touchdown from Boone, good for his ninth career touchdown reception of at least 50 yards in three years under Roper.

The Blue Devils threw mostly from three-receiver sets. Second on the team with six catches for 116 yards was Duke tight end Braxton Deaver. If Roper wants to keep the tight end an important part of his offense, he'll need to develop someone at the position for the 2014 season.

The numbers were the big thing for Florida fans. Less than an hour after losing running back Dalvin Cook to Florida State, it was Roper's team that took the field and started breathing some life into the Florida fan base.

Duke scored 48 points in its bowl game against a Southeastern Conference team. The Gators haven't scored that many points since posting 54 against Furman at the end of the 2011 season. Florida's biggest yardage total in recent years came in the final game for Tim Tebow in the Sugar Bowl after the 2009 season when the Gators went for 659 yards.

Every game for Roper won't be what Tuesday was. The Chick-fil-a Bowl still served as an opportunity for the new Florida offensive coordinator to flex his muscles and give a slight preview of what is to come. The Duke roster is full of players that have been running Cutcliffe and Roper's system since they stepped on campus, and that will be the issue going forward.

The Florida players are on their third offensive coordinator in four years, but Roper spent Tuesday showing plenty of reasons to believe he can fix an abysmal offense in Gainesville.

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