After falling to Georgia Tech in a competitive game, Duke returned home for Senior Day at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday to take on another ACC Coastal Division team, the Miami Hurricanes. In a shoot-out with over 1200 yards of total offense, the Blue Devils were defeated by the Hurricanes, 52-45.  Here is an assessment of Duke’s successes and failures.

Offense: A

Pass: Quarterback Sean Renfree went out with a bang in the final home game of his career. He threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns with a completion percentage of 61 percent. Renfree, despite some difficulty throwing with the wind in Wallace Wade Stadium, had a career day, especially considering the fact that he had no turnovers. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder was a standout for the Blue Devils with 203 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Conner Vernon caught Renfree’s two other touchdown passes and made big catches throughout the day for 109 yards through the air.

Rush:  The rushing game was surprisingly pretty good. The three primary backs, Juwan Thompson, Josh Snead, and Jela Duncan all performed well against Miami’s defense. Duke ran for 151 yards and averaged around 4.7 yards per carry. Compared to past games against equally talented opponents, such production from the backs is strong and very beneficial to this team, especially when Renfree plays well.

X’s and O’s:  Though Duke did lose and could not convert on multiple opportunities to tie or surpass Miami throughout the game, one cannot fault the overall production of the offense. 583 yards of total offense and 45 points shows great improvements in this offense. Without any turnovers and controlling the time of possession, the Blue Devils had a great offensive day. The only issue to improve upon is third down efficiency and making plays in high-pressure situations.

Defense: D

Pass:  The good news for Duke’s secondary: Miami completed only 16 passes in the entire game. The bad news: the Hurricanes averaged 14.7 yards per completion, accrued 398 yards through the air, and notched three touchdowns from the arm of Hurricane quarterback Stephen Morris. The problem Duke continues to have this season is a lack of coverage on receivers down field and an inability to make tackles in shorter yardage throws, which in turn leads to big gains for the opposing offense. A big key for Duke leading into a bowl game and into next season will be to improve pass coverage down-field to limit opponent scoring and give the offense an opportunity to compete.

Rush:  It is no secret to the Blue Devils and their opponents that the defense continues to struggle with stopping the run game. Miami rushed for 248 yard on 40 carries averaging 6.2 yards per attempt. The total yards that the Hurricanes gained on the ground is problematic for Duke especially when the secondary has enough problems covering receivers. As bowl season approaches, the need for the Blue Devils to improve run defense in the future is evident. The key to improving run defense will be whether the defensive line and line-backing core can meet the rusher at the line of scrimmage before he gains any momentum.

X’s and O’s: Duke defense, despite issues controlling opponents offenses, has proven it is good at causing turnovers which often turn the game in the Blue Devils’ favor when the game is close. Against Miami, the defense caused no turnovers giving its opponent more opportunities to score, and the Hurricanes capitalized on the opportunities. Surprisingly, Miami was not efficient in third down situations converting only four of 12 attempts, showing that Duke has some ability to slow down offensive production. However, the defense cannot continue to give up so many touchdowns, that Duke must score on every possession to even have the chance of winning.

Special Teams: B-

The special teams play was not as strong as it usually is. The kicking game remained an asset as kicker Will Monday continued to punt well, despite the wind, and kicker Ross Martin made his only field goal attempt of the day, a 43 yard kick. The most important issue was the usage of trick plays in special teams. Duke gambled with an onside kick and came up short, setting Miami up with fantastic field positions. Such plays put unneeded pressure on the defense, which already has enough problems, to support mistakes in special teams.