Making the Grade: Duke football vs. Tulane

Making the Grade: Duke football vs. Tulane

Behind a steady offensive attack and a stout defensive performance, the Blue Devils handled Tulane 37-7 to start off the season with a victory. Duke scored the first 23 points of the contest to put the game away by early in the fourth quarter. Despite coming into the game with numerous inexperienced players at skill positions, Thursday's victory allowed the Blue Devils to identify the play-makers they can rely on throughout the year. 

Offense: B+

Pass: Growing pains are certainly to be expected with redshirt junior quarterback Thomas Sirk replacing Anthony Boone—who was the winningest signal-caller in Duke history. But Sirk shined in the Thursday night spotlight, completing 27-of-40 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns. The Glen St. Mary, Fla., native was not only accurate on his short screen passes, but also kept the defense honest by completing passes over the middle of the field. The quarterback did struggle a couple times forcing the ball into double coverage down the field, but finished with a big zero in the turnover category. One of the biggest positives for the first-year starter was his ability to throw when moving out of the pocket. By evading the pass rush and keeping his eyes downfield, Sirk was able to give his receivers extra time to get open and make big plays. 

Rush: The Blue Devils looked to establish the run from the early going and succeeded with 206 yards on 49 carries on the ground. The strong performance from the backfield allowed the team to finish with a 36-24 advantage in time of possession. Duke's rushing attack primarily featured running back Shaun Wilson and Sirk, both of whom finished with 15 carries on the night. Coming off of a leg injury, Wilson flashed the ability to make nifty moves after getting past the first line of the defense and clearly has the speed and agility to hurt opposing defenses. On the other hand, Sirk's ability to make plays with his feet contributed to his ability to excel in the pocket and gave the Blue Devils multiple options on offense.  Read more »

Extra Point: Duke football vs. Tulane

Extra Point: Duke football vs. Tulane

Duke kicked off its season on a positive note Thursday night, easily dispatching Tulane 37-7 at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans. Thomas Sirk led the way in his first career start at quarterback, amassing more than 350 total yards. Several other new starters had big days for the Blue Devils—including wideouts Johnell Barnes and T.J. Rahming—and the defense shut out the Green Wave for the first three quarters in a complete win for head coach David Cutcliffe’s squad.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Find a healthy balance between run and pass for Sirk:

Mission definitely accomplished here. Sirk completed an efficient 27-of-40 passes for 289 yards, quieting the critics who said he couldn’t function as a passer in a starter’s role. The redshirt junior looked crisp from the early going, and played mistake-free football from the pocket. Sirk made plenty of plays with his feet as well, showing that the transition to full-time signal-caller will not take away from his ability to escape the pocket and pick up chunks of yards by scrambling. He finished as the team’s second-leading rusher with 68 yards on 15 carries.

  • Strong play from the defensive front

Despite featuring a very undersized defensive line, Duke was able to hold its own on the line of scrimmage. Tulane managed just 23 yards on the ground—with a miniscule 1.1 yard-per-carry average—and its running backs never had much room as the Blue Devil defense easily penetrated into the backfield. The Green Wave was forced to try and move the ball through the air early and often after they fell behind quickly, but whenever they tried to establish the run, there was nowhere to go. Read more »

HALFTIME REPORT: Duke 13, Tulane 0

NEW ORLEANS—After a slow start and an early fumble by wide receiver Johnell Barnes, the Blue Devils soon settled down.

Duke leads Tulane 13-0 at halftime at Yulman Stadium after a three-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Sirk to Shaquille Powell and a pair of Ross Martin field goals.

During Duke’s second drive, Sirk completed a 16-yard pass to Barnes. Despite a 14 yard rush by Sirk and a 10 yard rush by Shaun Wilson, Duke’s offense stalled and Martin converted a 32 yard field goal to give Duke a 3-0 lead.

Duke’s defense has showcased the bend-don’t-break style it utilized for much of last year, holding the Green Wave on each of their six third down attempts. Read more »

Third and goal: Duke football vs. Tulane

Duke travels to Yulman Stadium in New Orleans for its season opener against Tulane Thursday at 9:30 p.m. The Blue Devils enter the season having made three straight bowl appearances, but will need to overcome key departures on both sides of the ball to have a successful campaign this season. Here are three keys to this evening's contest: 

Find a healthy balance between run and pass for Sirk

Last season, quarterback Thomas Sirk had a strong performance on the ground against Tulane—recording five rushes for 94 yards and a touchdown. But with the departure of former quarterback Anthony Boone, Duke is going to need Sirk to excel in the passing game. Sure, there was good Boone and bad Boone, but both versions could at least keep the Blue Devils in the game. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery runs an offense predicated on an efficient passing quarterback who has the ability to make plays with his feet. Although Sirk completed 10 of 14 pass attempts a season ago, it remains to be seen how the backup quarterback can adjust to being an every-down quarterback that defenses will gameplan against.  

Sirk will also not have the benefit of passing to experienced wideouts as leading receiver Jamison Crowder is now a member of the Washington Redskins. Although there are a number of intriguing options within the receiving corps such as tight end Braton Deaver and wide receivers Max McCaffrey and Johnell Barnes, it remains to be seen who Sirk can find an early rhythm with.  Read more »

X factor: Duke football vs. Tulane

Duke travels to New Orleans Thursday for its first season opener on the road since 2005 to face off against Tulane at Yulman Stadium at 9:30 p.m. The Green Wave are seeking revenge after last year’s 47-13 blowout loss to the Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium, while Duke is looking to kickoff non-conference play in a winning fashion. Every week throughout the football season, we’ll break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest.

Duke: linebacker Zavier Carmichael

One of the biggest questions coming into 2015 for the Blue Devils is how the inexperience of the defensive front will handle larger, more experienced offenses. After the departure of mike linebacker David Helton and the career ending ACL injury to Kelby Brown in the offseason, the burden is upon sophomore Zavier Carmichael to step into the role of the defensive quarterback for Duke this season.

Last season as a freshman against Tulane, the Eight Mile, Ala., native recorded five of his 20 tackles for the season coming from the sideline to replace Helton. This time around, Carmichael will be called upon to read offensive schemes and step up as a defensive leader at the mike position. If it was not tough enough replacing Helton’s team-high 134 tackles from 2014, filling his cleats as the defensive signal caller adds to the pressure. If the Blue Devils want to improve their defensive performance from last season against the Green Wave—when they allowed 231 yards on 58 carries—then Carmichael has to prove ready to lead early and often on the road. Read more »

Tough February headlines Duke basketball's 2015-16 ACC schedule

After sending three teams to Elite Eight a season ago, the ACC has established itself as one of the premier conferences in the nation, making the Blue Devils' quest to win their first regular-season conference title since 2010 a difficult one. 

The ACC released the 2015-16 men's basketball conference schedule Wednesday afternoon. 

After a grueling non-conference schedule that includes a showdown with Kentucky and a rematch of Duke's Sweet 16 contest against Utah, the Blue Devils open up ACC play Jan. 2 at Boston College.

The highlight of Duke's conference slate is a pair of matches against rival North Carolina. After knocking off the Tar Heels twice a season ago, the Blue Devils will look to continue their winning ways in the rivalry. But North Carolina is widely expected to open the season as the favorite to win the ACC and ranked in the top three nationally. Duke will travel to Chapel Hill Feb. 17 for the first matchup between the Tobacco Road rivals.The Blue Devils will then host the Tar Heels in the regular season finale March 5, when a conference title could be on the line.  Read more »

Season Preview: The Chronicle's guide to Duke football's 2015 schedule

The Blue Devils kick off the regular season Thursday night in New Orleans against Tulane, one of four non-conference games on Duke's schedule in the first two months of the season. From the Blue Devils' conference opener Sept. 26 at home against defending Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech to the regular season finale at Wake Forest, The Chronicle gets you ready for the season with a look at all 12 of Duke's opponents, and the rest of the ACC.

Sept. 3: at Tulane

Sept. 12: vs. N.C. Central

Sept. 19: vs. Northwestern Read more »

Frank Jackson commits to Duke basketball, becomes second player in Class of 2016

Five-star combo guard Frank Jackson committed to Duke Tuesday evening, joining second-ranked recruit Jayson Tatum as the Blue Devils' second commitment in the Class of 2016.

Jackson announced his decision Tuesday at a press conference at Lone Peak High School, choosing to come to Durham while turning down offers from other suitors, including Stanford and in-state hopefuls BYU and Utah. The 6-foot-3 guard is the No. 14 player in the 2016 ESPN 100 and one of the top high school players at his position, showcasing the ability to both score off the dribble and knock down perimeter jump shots. The Lone Peak, Utah, native has also flashed the ability to get to the line at will and help set up open looks for his teammates.

Recruiting Roundup: Jackson to announce decision tonight; Bolden, Porter Jr. cut lists

Let's start with the biggest news of the week—five-star guard Frank Jackson plans to announce his college decision tonight at 6:30 p.m. 

After his standout play during summer tournaments, Jackson emerged as the Blue Devils' top guard target in the Class of 2016. The Lone Peak, Utah, native is ranked 14th in the 2016 ESPN 100 and is widely considered to be one of the top shooters in his class.  

Jackson just took his official visit to Duke this past weekend and his decision to commit so soon after his trip to Durham may suggest that the Blue Devils have a good shot at landing him. According to 24/7 Sports Crystal Ball, Duke is the unanimous favorite to land the talented guard, garnering all of the votes. In addition to the Blue Devils, BYU, Stanford and Utah appear to be in the running for Jackson's services. The 6-foot-3 guard had this to say to the Salt Lake Tribune before his visit:  

"The four schools I have right now, I love each and every one of them, I think they’ve been really good to me. I like to hear what they have to say. But when I know where I’m going to go it will be nice.”

Staying with the class of 2016, big man Marques Bolden cut his list to eight yesterday and the Blue Devils made the cut.  Read more »