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100 snaps tire depleted defense

In his weekly press conference Monday, head coach Ted Roof said that Maryland's huge time-of-possession advantage Saturday wore down his defense and contributed to the second half collapse. Duke's defense, which accumulated even more injuries Saturday, was on the field for 100 Terrapin snaps.

What may have been even more startling than the 55-21 final score in Saturday’s loss to the Terrapins was the disparity between Duke and Maryland’s times of possession. The Terps were on offense for more than 41 minutes, a telling sign as to why the Blue Devils are struggling, head coach Ted Roof said Monday.

The difference in time of possession and Duke’s inability to hold onto a lead are related, said Roof, whose team has surrendered a first-half advantage in each of its four games this season. Numerous defensive injuries have contributed to the poor tackling and missed coverage assignments, and Roof’s ability to give his starters a rest has been limited.

The defense is going to be lacking even more depth next Saturday as the injury bug refuses to leave the Blue Devils. Both Alex Green (leg) and Brian Greene (hand) are expected to miss the contest against The Citadel. Justin Kitchen, filling in on the defensive line for an injured Phillip Alexander, also received treatment Monday morning but should be ready to play this weekend.

Roof will alter his practice routine in an effort to refocus the team and help the Blue Devils maintain their first-half play through the end of the game.

“Our focus has to be on executing and sustaining,” Roof said. “We’ve had the lead in every game but haven’t been able to sustain, and that will be a major point of emphasis this week.”

Fatigue slowed the Blue Devil defense Saturday. Chris Davis’ kickoff return and John Talley’s interception return, both of which went for touchdowns, contributed to Duke’s unusually high defensive play total, but the number worried Roof and his staff.

“We played 58 snaps [on defense] in the first half and depth was a concern,” Roof said. “Sometimes that’s a ball game, and we did it in the first half.”

By the end of the game, the defense faced 100 Maryland snaps when the coaching staff would like to keep opponents to fewer than 65.

As a result, Duke stopped just four of the Terps’ 20 third-down attempts and gave up 685 yards in total offense, many of which came after initial contact.

“I saw a fatigued defense and fatigue usually leads to missed tackles,” Roof said. “We’ve got to improve our angles of pursuit. To help us with fatigue we’ve got to get off the field on third down on defense, and we’ve got to stay on the field on offense on third down. The combination of those two will help our tackling.”

In contrast with Maryland’s ability to marshal first downs, the Blue Devils advanced the chains just eight times the entire game and were 2-for-9 on third-down conversions. With so many short three-and-out series, the offense failed to score points and the defense had to quickly return to the field.

“Some of [the letdowns are a result of] state of mind, some of it’s depth, some of its maturity,” Roof said. “We’ve got to address it all. Obviously the maturity thing, Father Time’s got to take care of that, we can’t do a whole lot about that, but we’re going to look into maybe changing how we practice a little bit. We’re going to look at everything we do.”

One focus will be on improving the quality of his team’s practice repetitions. Roof said the effort has not been the issue, but he will stress that the players cannot simply go through the motions if they expect to win, nor can they take an opponent like The Citadel lightly.

“If [the Bulldogs] get this win this is their season right here,” sophomore Casey Camero said. “Same with us though, we’re 0-4 right now. We’re desperate for our first win just so we can get this thing going.”

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