Sunday, October 21, 2012

Duke 33, UNC 30: Blue Devils' Rewind

Duke (6-2, 3-1 in the ACC, first in the Coastal Division)

The epigraph: "That’s what college football is all about right there. Playing a big rival, being at home and playing in front of a fantastic crowd, the best crowd I’ve ever seen here, and that really pushed us over the top." — Duke quarterback Sean Renfree

What worked: Duke ran the ball more effectively than they had at any point in David Cutcliffe's five-year tenure. Against UNC's 14th-ranked rushing offense, Duke collected 234 yards on the ground, the most for the Blue Devils since they ran for 253 in an Oct. 28, 2006 loss to Vanderbilt. Duke attempted a season-high 53 rushes, and Juwan Thompson gained 64 yards on 11 carries, Jela Duncan 74 yards on 22 handoffs, and Josh Snead set a new career-high with 99 yards on 15 attempts.

"Sneed was on fire. He was possessed, the way he played tonight," Cutcliffe said. "He was knifing, and he’s more physical than people think."

Duke freshman kicker Ross Martin was also 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, connecting from 20, 28, 30 and 43 yards. Martin is 14-for-15 on the year, with his only miss coming in the season-opener against FIU. For a team that has long been plagued by special teams miscues, the value of his stability is immeasurable.

Defensively, Duke was able to virtually eliminate any passing attack the Tar Heels attempted during the first three quarters, as starting quarterback Bryn Renner was 10-of-19 for 36 yards. And while Gio Bernard did gain 143 rushing yards that was significantly lower than the 219.5 he had averaged over the past two weeks in victories over Virginia Tech and Miami.

What needs work: Ideally Duke doesn't let UNC score three touchdowns during a 21-0 run in the fourth quarter. If the Blue Devils, who are currently in first place in the Coastal Division, want to make their dreams of playing in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte a reality, they will need to tighten up in upcoming games against the physically superior Florida State and Clemson squads.

What's next: No. 11 Florida State awaits Duke in Tallahassee. So far this year, the Blue Devils have vanquished two long losing streaks—the 12-game slide against Wake Forest and the 8-game skid against the Tar Heels. In fact, this is only the third time since 1970 that Duke has beaten its two annual in-state opponents and first since 1989 (1982 was the only other season). But the reality is that the Blue Devils have never beaten the Seminoles and are 0-17 all-time against FSU. That matches the longest conference losing streak in ACC history, as Virginia beat Wake Forest every year between 1984-2000.

The epitaph: "It’s a huge burden off our shoulders, I’ll tell you that. Every year we’ve talked about going to a bowl game, and every year we didn’t reach that goal. This year we have met the goal, and we still have four or five games left to play." —Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell

-- Laura Keeley


Anonymous said...

Congrats Duke! Don't rest on your laurels, you lead the Coastal and have a championship to chase...