daviskoppenhaver_juanbermudez

Duke upset North Carolina two weeks ago in part because it did not turn the ball over all game.

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Third and goal: Duke football vs. Miami



Duke last chance to qualify for its fifth straight bowl game will come in its regular-season finale Saturday at Miami at 3:30 p.m. The Hurricanes have won three games and are heavy favorites to beat the Blue Devils, but Duke has already pulled off surprising upsets this year against Notre Dame and North Carolina. Here are three keys to another surprising win for the Blue Devils.

Pressure the quarterback

Led by quarterback Brad Kaaya, Miami has a prolific offense that has outscored opponents by at least 14 points in all of its wins. Kaaya has a 61.1 percent completion rate and 2,854 passing yards on the season. He is the leader of the Hurricane offense with 19 passing touchdowns and makes up a formidable backfield tandem when coupled with Mark Walton, who has 14 rushing touchdowns and has surpassed 1,000 yards this season.

Kaaya is not a mobile quarterback, though, struggling to make plays as soon as he encounters pressure from the defense. The junior needs time in the pocket to be able to make accurate passes, and in two of Miami’s four losses, the opposing defense has had at least five sacks and three quarterback hurries. Strong performances from Duke linebackers Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris could disrupt Kaaya's rhythm and force him into game-changing mistakes.

Limit turnovers

In all three of the Blue Devils' wins against FBS opponents this year, they have done a good job of taking care of the ball. Duke had no giveaways in the key victory against the Tar Heels Nov. 10, and quarterback Daniel Jones has only thrown one interception in the last six games. But the Blue Devils have had trouble holding onto the ball all season with 14 lost fumbles, so cutting down on turnovers and playing with discipline will be key against Corn Elder and the Hurricanes' experienced defense. Miami has only lost three fumbles on the season, so Jones and the offense will have to control the ball to compete with Kaaya and the Hurricanes.

Win the special teams battle

Duke knows all too well how much of an impact Miami can make on special teams. In last year’s game between the two teams, the Hurricanes won on a controversial final play on a kickoff return highlighted by eight laterals before Elder dashed down the sideline for a touchdown. Although that play involved a lot of luck, the Hurricanes have also consistently put themselves in good field position with their kickoff and punt returns this year.

After All-American and All-ACC return specialist DeVon Edwards tore his ACL early in the season, Duke has been lacking in the special teams area ever since. Shaun Wilson has filled the position for the last two months, with one kickoff return for a touchdown in the Notre Dame game. The Blue Devils also lost punter Austin Parker to a broken clavicle a month ago, with walk-on senior Danny Stirt struggling as his replacement. In addition, freshman kicker A.J. Reed has not had much success at all throughout the season, making just 3-of-9 field-goal attempts. Duke will need its special teams to deliver a rare complete performance to have a good chance against the Hurricanes.


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