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Johnathan Lloyd will need to step up for Duke against Pittsburgh. 

X Factor: Duke football vs. Pittsburgh



After losing three straight games, Duke will look to get back on track Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium against Pittsburgh, which has not beaten a Power Five team thus far. 

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. This week, Blue Devil receiver Jonathan Lloyd and Panthers quarterback Ben DeNuccci are under the spotlight. 

Duke: Wide receiver Johnathan Lloyd

Touted as one of the deepest receiving units in the Cutcliffe era, it seems as though the Blue Devils wide receiving corps have been spread too thin. Although Duke has 10 players with at least seven receptions, it will need some of their secondary receivers to step up in order to keep up with the Panthers’ prolific offense.

The Blue Devils have been searching for a secondary option behind junior T.J. Rahming, and the time has come for fellow junior Johnathan Lloyd to rise up into that role. Despite being second in receiving yards for Duke, Lloyd has been relatively quiet on the season. The Graham, N.C, native has gained more than 50 yards in a contest just once this season, and has totaled just 22 yards on two receptions over his last two games. 

While Lloyd has not made an impact as of late, he has shown an ability to make plays—he's broken off four of more than 20 yards this year— and could be primed for a breakout performance against a Pittsburgh secondary ranks 111th in the nation for passing yards allowed. The junior had a breakout nine-catch, 82-yard performance Sept. 29 against Miami and could be poised to catch a few more passes this week. A solid performance from Lloyd Saturday against the Panthers could go a long way to getting the Blue Devil passing game back on track heading into the heart of ACC play.

Pittsburgh: Quarterback Ben DiNucci

With the Pittsburgh defense allowing nearly 450 yards per contest and starting quarterback and Southern California transfer Max Browne lost after season-ending shoulder surgery, the importance of getting the offense on track early and often will be magnified against a strong Blue Devil defense. Whether or not the Panthers can explode out of the gate will depend on DiNucci, a sophomore, who has seen a fair amount of action thus far. 

After sharing the load with Browne for the early part of the season and starting against Georgia Tech Sept. 23, Dinucci took the reins last week and had mixed results in his second career start, completing 19-of-32 pass attempts for 170 yards and a QBR of 59.8, while throwing a touchdown and an interception. DiNucci won't be doing it all by himself, however—he has explosive weapons in receivers Rafael Araujo-Lopes and Jester Weah, who have combined for almost 800 yards this season. 


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