X Factor: Duke football vs. Virginia

X Factor: Duke football vs. Virginia

Duke will hope to avoid a letdown Saturday at home against Virginia after a shocking win last week at Notre Dame. The Blue Devils’ offense was finally clicking in all phases, but the Cavaliers also have a strong passing game and notched their first win of the season last week against Central Michigan. Every week throughout the football season, the Blue Zone will break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest:

Duke: Safety Alonzo Saxton II

Saxton was forced into action against the Fighting Irish when starting safety and co-captain DeVon Edwards tore his ACL and MCL early in the first quarter, and he rose to the occasion with five tackles and a pass breakup. Saxton also forced a fumble in Duke’s loss to Wake Forest Sept. 10. The Columbus, Ohio, native will have to maintain his high level of play Saturday and for the rest of the season in Edwards’ absence, and the Blue Devils’ secondary will have its hands full against Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert, who has thrown for 279.8 yards per game this season.

Although Saxton is expected to get his first start of the season Saturday, he is no stranger to the playing field. The junior started eight games last year at cornerback while Bryon Fields was sidelined with a torn ACL, finishing the season with 38 tackles and one interception before transitioning back to the rover safety position in the offseason. Edwards' production—an All-ACC defensive back and All-American kick returner—will likely be impossible to replace, but Duke is fortunate to have a reserve ready to step in with as much experience as Saxton. The Columbus, Ohio, native may share time in the defensive backfield with redshirt freshman Jordan Hayes, who led the Blue Devils with seven tackles last week. Read more »

Recruiting roundup: Duke coaches visit top-10 prospects Trent Jr. and Bamba

We'll start this week's roundup with a look at a pair of visits by the Blue Devils' coaching staff to prospects in the Class of 2017. 

Duke's contingent visited five-star guard Gary Trent Jr. Tuesday in hopes of working their way to an eventual commitment from the high school senior. Trent is the No. 8 prospect in the 2017 ESPN 100 and holds tremendous value to programs around the nation due to his connection with the No. 3 overall prospect Wendell Carter. Trent and Carter have stated their interest in choosing a program as a package deal, and the Blue Devils are expected to land both highly-touted recruits. 

Trent took to Twitter to highlight his visit with Duke's coaching staff this week.  

Duke in the MLB: Stroman shuts down Yankees in Blue Jays' win

Former Blue Devil Marcus Stroman turned in another stellar performance in a no-decision against the New York Yankees Saturday afternoon. 

The 5-foot-8 right-hander was dominant in seven scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five to improve his ERA to 4.34. In a crucial game for the Toronto Blue Jays' playoff implications, Stroman was locked in a pitcher’s duel against the veteran left-hander C.C. Sabathia. Both pitchers neutralized their opponents through seven innings, with the two starters combining to allow just five hits.

In a game that had the makings of a third straight wasted quality start for Stroman, the Blue Jays' offense finally erupted in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs and nobody on base, Josh Donaldson singled and Edwin Encarnacion walked to set the table for cleanup hitter Jose Bautista. Bautista delivered in a big way by blasting a 2-0 pitch over the left-field wall, giving his team a 3-0 lead that held up as the final score.

Stock Watch: Duke football reverses skid with stunner at Notre Dame

Stock Watch: Duke football reverses skid with stunner at Notre Dame

The bell of the Blue Zone stock exchange has rung again, meaning it's time to take a look at who is rising and falling with their performances for Blue Devil sports teams. Each week, the Blue Zone will look at whose stock is on the rise and whose stock has taken a hit from the week in the world of Duke athletics.

Bull Market—Trending Up:

Duke football: In one of the biggest upsets in program history, Duke overcame a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and a 35-28 fourth-quarter deficit to claim a much-needed victory against Notre Dame. Duke (2-2), a 20-point underdog entering Saturday’s game, was coming off a 24-13 loss to Northwestern to play a historically strong Fighting Irish team at Notre Dame Stadium.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns—the best performance of his young career. Redshirt senior wide receiver Anthony Nash had a career game with 123 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard catch-and-run touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to tie the game at 35. The Blue Devils' running game also improved tremendously, with 208 rushing yards after combining for 154 yards on the ground in back-to-back losses to Wake Forest and the Wildcats.  Read more »

This week in Duke history: Duke football welcomes African-American opponent to Durham in 1950

This week in Duke history: Duke football welcomes African-American opponent to Durham in 1950

The nation may currently be dealing with the intersection of race and sports, but the issue is certainly not new.

It hit home for Duke Sept. 30, 1950, when the Associated Press recapped the Blue Devils' 28-14 victory against Pittsburgh. The Panthers featured tackle Flint Greene—who became the first African-American football player to play a Southern Conference game in North Carolina.

The milestone came three years after Jackie Robinson made his major-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers and several years before the Civil Rights movement picked up the momentum that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The article included a statement issued by Duke President Hollis Edens: Read more »

Duke football player of the week: Week 4

Duke football player of the week: Week 4

Daniel Jones

Statline: 24-for-32, 290 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, one interception.

The good: Redshirt freshman Daniel Jones led the Blue Devils to a comeback win in one of the most hostile environments in all of college football to pull off a 38-35 upset against Notre Dame. After delivering solid performances the past few weeks, the Charlotte native had the game of his young career, as he showed a level of poise and mastery of the offense beyond his years. Jones entered the game leading all FBS freshmen in passing yards, total offense and completions, and he came out of it with a more solidified position on the top of those statistical leaderboards. Read more »

Around the ACC: Week 4

In a weekend that saw ACC teams go 8-0 against nonconference opponents, The Blue Zone breaks down the performances of the ACC's 12 teams in action.

Duke 38, Notre Dame 35

Duke (2-2) rode into South Bend, Ind., as a 20-point underdog, prepared to play against one of the most storied programs in college football in front of its sold-out home crowd of 80,000 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Blue Devils came home with a shocking victory, as quarterback Daniel Jones threw for three touchdowns and freshman kicker A.J. Reed, who had missed his first three college field-goal attempts, kicked the game-winner through the uprights to seal the deal. Duke rallied from an early 14-point deficit and a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to snap its two-game losing streak.

North Carolina 37, Pittsburgh 36 Read more »

Thoughts on the AP poll: Week 4

Four showdowns between ranked teams in Week 4 started to create some separation at the top of the major conferences.

Wisconsin makes B1G statement 

Although they came away with a victory against then-No.5 LSU in the first week of the season, the Badgers entered their contest against Michigan State looking to make a statement to prove that the upset of the Tigers was no fluke. They did that and more with a dominant 30-6 victory on the road that catapulted the team to No. 8 in this week's rankings. Wisconsin's defense forced four turnovers and will face an even tougher challenge next week on the road against No. 4 Michigan. The Spartans suffered their first loss of the season and tumbled from No. 8 to No. 17.

SEC picture begins to emerge  Read more »

Chronicle postgame: Duke football vs. Notre Dame

Chronicle postgame: Duke football vs. Notre Dame

Following Duke's 38-35 upset win at Notre Dame, The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar breaks down the Blue Devils' comeback. After falling behind 14-0 in the game's first 6:03 and losing redshirt senior safety and captain DeVon Edwards to a knee injury, Duke rallied to play its best football of the season and stun 80,000 fans in South Bend, Ind.

The Blue Devil offense finished with 498 yards of offense thanks to standout performances across the board, and true freshman A.J. Reed's first career made field goal with 1:27 sent Duke to a win it desperately needed.

Extra point: Duke football vs. Notre Dame

Extra point: Duke football vs. Notre Dame

Duke picked up one its biggest wins in program history Saturday afternoon, shocking Notre Dame 38-35 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. The Blue Devils overcame an early 14-point deficit and a possible season-ending injury to one of their leaders in the first quarter to snap a two-game losing streak and return to .500 at 2-2. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Get on the board early: After a slow start that saw redshirt senior safety DeVon Edwards exit with a knee injury and the Blue Devils fall behind 14-0, they exploded for 28 points in the first half. Duke found a rhythm offensively, gashing Notre Dame both on the ground and in the air. Although the Blue Devil offense cooled off in the third quarter, Duke scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win the game.
  • Limit big plays by Notre Dame’s offense: Duke struggled to prevent explosive plays in the passing game—the Fighting Irish averaged 17.3 yards per completion. But the Blue Devils slowed down Notre Dame’s running attack, surrendering 4.1 yards per carry and just one run that went for more than 20 yards, and got stops in the fourth quarter when it mattered most.
  • Stop the mistakes: Unlike in its previous meetings with Wake Forest and Northwestern, Duke was consistent on both sides of ball. After committing 10 turnovers in their first three games, the Blue Devils lost the ball just once on an interception and were whistled for only one penalty, which backed them up five yards. 

Three key plays:

  • 8:44 remaining, first quarter: After Edwards got hurt and the Fighting Irish took a 14-0 lead, Duke quickly responded when junior running back Shaun Wilson returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, using a juke move to dodge a would-be tackler and outrunning Notre Dame's coverage the rest of the way. The return shifted the game’s momentum, as the Blue Devils then stopped the Fighting Irish and knotted the game at 14-14 on their following drive.
  • 6:47 remaining, fourth quarter: Notre Dame began to regain control of the game when they took a 35-28 lead with 7:46 to play. But Duke rebounded once again with a three-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 64-yard touchdown reception by redshirt senior wide receiver Anthony Nash, who sprinted down the left sideline for his second touchdown of the day after catching a short pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones.
  • 1:24 remaining, fourth quarter: Following an interception by senior cornerback Breon Borders, the Blue Devils drove down the field and took an 38-35 lead with a 19-yard field goal by A.J. Reed, the first made field goal of the true freshman's career. Duke’s defense then forced a turnover on downs on the Fighting Irish's ensuing drive to clinch the win.

Three keys stats: Read more »