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Third and goal: Duke football vs. Wake Forest

The last regular season game of what has turned out to be a season of ups-and-downs for Duke will be at Wallace Wade Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday against Wake Forest. Here are the three keys to this evening's contest:

Quarterback execution

After completing only 55 percent of his passes against North Carolina with one interception, one fumble and three sacks against him, quarterback Anthony Boone and Duke’s offense should look to repeat the performance it showcased last year against the Demon Deacons. Boone completed 24-of-29 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns in a big Blue Devil win on the road.

Even if it means driving the ball down to field goal range, putting points on the board will be key against Wake Forest, which held Virginia Tech scoreless in regulation en route to earning its first conference win last week. A redshirt senior, Boone, will be looking to perform, as this will mark the North Carolina native’s last game in Wallace Wade after two seasons at the helm that have been two of the best in school history... Read more

Third and goal: Duke football vs. North Carolina

After an error-filled defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech, Duke is clinging on to the top spot in the Coastal Division as they prepare to play in-state rival North Carolina. The No. 25 Blue Devils can protect their division crown by beating the Tar Heels Thursday and then Wake Forest the week after. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium. Here are the keys to this evening’s game:

Contain Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams

The junior signal caller is the heart and soul of the North Carolina offense, accounting for 28 of its 46 touchdowns on the year. He has put up solid stats through the air—with a 63.2 percent completion rate, 18 touchdowns, and 7.32 yards per attempt—but taking off as a runner is where he can cause real problems. Williams has found the endzone 10 times this year and racked up 623 yards with his legs. The Blue Devils' front seven will need to collapse the pocket and make sure to finish plays... Read more

Third and goal: Duke football vs. Virginia Tech

Sitting pretty atop the Coastal Division standings, the No. 19 Blue Devils have the opportunity to beat Virginia Tech for the second consecutive season, this time on their home turf. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium. Here are the keys to this afternoon’s game:

Force Michael Brewer to turn the ball over

Offensively, Virginia Tech relies heavily of a number of extremely talented freshmen for scoring. In fact, 75 percent of the team’s points have been scored by freshmen. Tight end Bucky Hodges and wide receiver Isaiah Ford have caught five touchdown receptions apiece and running back Marshawn Williams has led the team in carries with 119, rushing yards with 469, and touchdowns on the ground with four. All three, however, are still developing and are not going to beat Duke with their individual efforts.

Thus, their production depends highly on the performance of quarterback Michael Brewer, a transfer from Texas Tech... Read more

Third and Goal: Duke football vs. Syracuse

In its final road contest of the season, No. 22 Duke travels to Syracuse to take on the Orange at 12:30 p.m. at the Carrier Dome seeking its eighth win of the season. Here are the three keys to this afternoon's contest:

Pressure the quarterback

Syracuse will start sophomore Austin Wilson under center on Saturday after first and second string quarterbacks redshirt junior Terrel Hunt and freshman A.J. Long sustained injuries. Saturday’s game against the Blue Devils will be the first start for Wilson, who went 5-of-9 for 89 yards, with one interception, when he replaced Long last week against Florida State.

If Duke can successfully apply pressure to the Orange offense on third down and clear passing situations with blitzes, much like it did at Pittsburgh last week on important passing downs, the Blue Devils should be able to rattle Syracuse’s inexperienced play-caller. Syracuse’s offensive line is also missing three starters for Saturday’s game, which should make it easy for Duke’s under-sized defensive line to pressure the quarterback... Read more

Third and Goal: Duke football vs. Pittsburgh

After its second bye week of the season, Duke travels north to take on the star-laden Pittsburgh Panthers in a game with major ACC Coastal Division implications. Kickoff is 12:00 p.m. at Heinz Field. Here are the keys to this afternoon’s game:

Rely on the run game

Similarly to Duke, Pittsburgh’s biggest weakness this year has been its run defense. In each of its four losses, the Panthers have given up at least 155 yards on the ground and last week against Georgia Tech, they gave up a whopping 465 rushing yards against the Yellow Jacket spread option attack. Their struggles have them ranked ninth in the ACC in rush defense, a very different story than last year when star defensive tackle Aaron Donald clogged up the middle on a weekly basis.

Relying on the run game will allow Duke to move the ball down the field effectively and keep Pittsburgh’s star running back James Conner and wide receiver Tyler Boyd off the field... Read more

Third and Goal: Duke football vs. Virginia

A week after snapping a ten-year losing streak to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, the Blue Devils return to Durham to take on Virginia in hopes of keeping the goal of a second consecutive trip to the ACC championship game alive. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. in Wallace Wade Stadium. Here are the keys to this afternoon’s game:

More production from the passing game

So far this season, Virginia ranks second in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game at 91.5. Two weeks ago, the defense, headlined by linemen Andrew Brown, David Dean, and Eli Harold, held Pittsburgh’s star running back, sophomore James Conner, to just 83 yards on 21 carries. But despite star safeties Anthony Harris and Quin Blanding patrolling in the secondary, Virginia’s pass defense has been underwhelming, ranking 12th in the conference and allowing 239.3 yards per game through the air.

Thus, it should not come as a surprise that redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Boone will need to make more plays through the air than he has so far this season. The Weddington, N... Read more

Third and Goal: Duke football vs. Georgia Tech

Coming off of a bye week, the Blue Devils head southwest to try to hand the No. 22 Yellow Jackets their first loss of the season. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Here are the keys to this afternoon’s game:

Stop the explosive play

Duke’s troubles stopping the run this year continued against Miami as Duke Johnson rushed for 155 yards and a score two weeks ago. In the last three games, the Blue Devils have allowed an average of 212 yards on the ground. Georgia Tech ranks 11th in the nation, averaging 297.2 rushing yards per game led by option quarterback Justin Thomas (six yards per carry) and tailback Zach Laskey (five yards per carry).

Duke must understand that it’s not going to stop the run for the entire game, but must avoid giving up explosive plays throughout the entire 60 minutes. In order to do so, the secondary must be aware of wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who caught a pair of touchdown passes in last season’s 38-14 loss and is averaging 24.2 yards per reception this season... Read more

Third and Goal: Duke football vs. Miami

In its first conference game of the year, Duke will take on Miami in hopes of remaining undefeated and beating the Hurricanes in back-to-back seasons. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium. Here are the keys to tonight’s game.

Improve Run Defense

Last week, Tulane’s only offensive success came on the ground, where the Green Wave recorded 215 yards and two touchdowns. The Blue Devils must have a much better day defending the run in order to have a chance against a Miami team that features Heisman Trophy dark horse candidate Duke Johnson running behind imposing offensive linemen Shane McDermott and Ereck Flowers.

Duke's young linebackers—true freshman Zavier Carmichael and redshirt freshman Chris Holmes—must build on the valuable experience they gained early in the season and the defensive line will have to step up without Dezmond Johnson.

Duke Johnson was hurt during the Blue Devils' 48-30 victory against the Hurricanes last year... Read more

Third and Goal: Duke football vs. Tulane

Coming off a dominant performance against Kansas, highlighted by true freshman running back Shaun Wilson’s record setting day, the Blue Devils will take on Tulane in their last nonconference game of the year. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium. Here are the keys to this afternoon’s game:

Don’t rely too much on the big play

Against Kansas last week, Duke scored touchdowns of 36 yards in the air and 69 yards, 68 yards and 45 yards on the ground. Although it obviously had great success on a number of individual plays, the Blue Devil offense struggled to move the chains at times. With five punts on the day, Will Monday saw more action that he had in the first two weeks of the season despite the team’s wide margin of victory.

This week against Tulane, it is essential that Duke does not rely on home runs as the primary source of offensive production, especially considering the Green Wave boasts a strong pass defense. Defensive end Royce LaFrance, who recorded 6... Read more

Third and goal: Duke football vs. Kansas

After a comeback victory against Troy last week, the Blue Devils return to Durham with hopes of improving to 3-0 against Charlie Weis’ Kansas Jayhawks. Kick-off is at 3:30 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium. Here are the keys to this afternoon’s game:

Force turnovers

Despite two victories by large margins, the Blue Devil defense has yet to record a turnover. Sophomore safety DeVon Edwards managed to force two fumbles against Troy, but the Duke defense recovered neither. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles would love to see the Blue Devils make a more concerted effort to attack the football when going to make hits and to see his unit wreak more havoc in general Saturday against the Jayhawks.

As for the passing game, Kansas’ dual-threat sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart struggled in limited action last season, completing just 36.5 percent of his attempts and throwing no touchdowns and two interceptions. Duke’s defensive backs, "the cheetahs," should feel comfortable being more aggressive, taking risks and jumping routes... Read more