Coming off a historic victory over Wake Forest, Duke returned home for a crucial game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Due to successful play on the defensive side of the ball and a potent offense, the Blue Devils defeated the Cavaliers 42-17. Here is an analysis of Duke’s successes and failures during the game.
Pass: Quarterback Anthony Boone proved effective despite his lack of experience. He completed about 60 percent of his attempts, throwing four touchdowns. Where Boone proved most dangerous was in the long ball. He was a threat over the top and showed a good level of finesse. If injured starter Sean Renfree is unable to play against Virginia Tech, Boone will need to continue to improve his shorter throws, which were lacking accuracy on Saturday.
Rush: The rushing offense improved steadily in Saturday’s game. Jela Duncan, who made his presence known against Wake Forest, and Juwan Thompson combined 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Boone provided a dual threat option for the offense that proved valuable especially early. Duke average 5.1 yards per carry. In order to succeed in the next few weeks, such production will be necessary from the rushing attack.
X’s and O’s: The offense appeared to work more effectively with Boone at the helm. His running ability proved beneficial for the Duke system. The balance between rush and pass was effective for the Duke offense, opening up the deep ball on play action. Receiver Conner Vernon became the all-time ACC reception leader on a screen pass that ended up losing yards in the first quarter, but soon after he added a masterful catch for a touchdown. Duke will need to look for continued production from the run game, along with that of Vernon and receiver Jamison Crowder, to win games late in the season. The Blue Devils need to work on third down situations -- they converted only 3-of-14 on Saturday -- and sustaining drives to win the possession game. If the team does not, better competition will take advantage.
Pass: The coverage improved throughout the game as the defensive line put pressure on Cavalier quarterback Phillip Sims. The secondary held strong throughout the game, recording two interceptions and holding Virginia to no touchdowns through the air. The defensive line performed well, especially during pressure situations. Duke will need the line and secondary to remain strong presences on the field to earn a potential upset against top ACC competition.
Rush: The defense lacked solid tackling, which allowed Virginia running back Perry Jones to gain 100 yards on the ground. Though the Cavaliers were unable to convert three fourth down and 12 third down opportunities, the Blue Devils could not hold back the Virginia rushing attack, often times requiring multiple players to bring down the rusher. Duke will need to improve its
tackling ability in the near future to continue its winning streak.
X’s and O’s: Despite a roster damaged by injuries, the Blue Devils defense played well. The two keys that they will need to improve upon are tackling ability, which will lead to controlling the line of scrimmage and rushing attack better, and first quarter play. It seems a trend now that Duke starts off slowly and then begins to control the game. The defense must make a statement by keeping opponents from scoring early to give the offense a chance to succeed.
Special Teams: A-
The kicking game remained strong for the Blue Devils. Punter Will Monday was effective over nine punts, averaging 47 yards per punt. The coverage teams were especially active on the kickoffs and punts holding the Cavaliers to limited gains in important situations in the first half.