Duke bested N.C. Central 54-17 in last weekend's Bull City Gridiron Classic. Here is a breakdown and report card of the different parts of Duke’s game.
The Blue Devils’ rushing game was improved against the Eagles, but still left more to be desired. With 29 rushing attempts, the Duke gained only 4.4 yards per rush, totaling 128 rushing yards during the game. N.C. Central held the Blue Devils to one rushing score, a five yard run by Josh Snead in the third quarter.
Blue Devil quarterback Sean Renfree showed up against the Eagles, with a total of 274 passing yards, securing a 70.6% completion percentage and three touchdowns. His down field vision proved an asset for the team, allowing him to complete seven passes to the game's leading receiver, sophomore Jamison Crowder, for 84 yards and a touchdown. The play of the game, however, was without a doubt Renfree’s 18 yard touchdown pass to Josh Snead late in the first half, giving the team a significant lead over NC Central heading into halftime.
X’s and O’s: The ease with which Duke’s offense was able to advance up and down the field should give the team a fair amount of confidence in their ability to execute their game-plan. However, despite what the scoreboard said, they cannot continue to rely solely on their passing game to produce wins. Though the Blue Devils were the favorite against NCCU, better teams are strong enough to shut down a team that doesn't post considerable rushing yards.
Although Duke had occasional trouble holding off NC Central running back Andre Clarke, Duke managed to keep the Eagle rushing attempts at bay, allowing for only 2.5 yards per attempt. In 39 rush attempts, the Eagle backs managed a meager 98 rushing yards.
The Eagles, like the Blue Devils, relied heavily on their passing game. NCCU quarterback Jordan Reid threw for 218 yards, completing 17 of 26 passing attempts after relieving starter Matt Goggans. Reid averaged 8.4 yards per completion, a higher mark than that of Renfree, who averaged 8.1 yards per catch. He also completed three passes of greater than 30 yards, each one to a different receiver. Junior corner back Ross Cockrell came away with two interceptions, one of which he returned 32 yards for a touchdown, earning him ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors.
X’s and O’s: The defense, all in all, had a slow start, but managed to hold its own, despite the extensive list of injured players, whose absences have cost the Blue Devils significantly. A problem may arise when Duke takes on tougher opponents and the potential weakness at the corners is exposed.
Special Teams: B+
Highest remarks go out to Lee Butler, the senior corner back whose 65 yard punt return helped put Duke up 10-0 late in the first quarter. This gave the Blue Devils, not only a powerful lead early on, but also their first punt return touchdown in 11 years. Butler returned a total of three punts during the game, totaling 106 yards. The Blue Devils scored in all three phases, a first since 2004.