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Duke boosts confidence with dominant showing

Saturday's game against VMI featured several season firsts for the Blue Devils: It marked the first 100-yard rushing game by a Duke running back, the first touchdown pass by a Blue Devil quarterback, and the first game action for a number of players.

But most importantly, the Blue Devils executed plays and imposed their will on the athletically inferior Keydets for their first win of the season.

"It was something that we needed to do," defensive end Eli Nichols said. "We expected to do it and we went out and did it. I think it is a great confidence booster for us."

For the first time this season, the Blue Devils outplayed their opponents in every phase of the game-offense, defense and special teams. The first-team defense smothered the Keydet offense-with 4 minutes left in the third quarter and the game well in hand, the Blue Devils had allowed just 17 yards on 32 offensive plays.

But perhaps most relieving to Blue Devil fans, Duke finally flexed some offensive muscle. In contrast to last week's shutout, when Duke mustered just 35 yards for the game, Duke ran the ball effectively and relentlessly against the Keydet defensive front. The Blue Devils gained 235 yards on the ground with a gaudy 5.2 yards per carry average.

"Our emphasis all week was to establish the run because when you establish the run you give the defense a break," running back Justin Boyle said. "Our offensive line and fullbacks did a great job today. The holes were huge and all I did was just run."

Boyle was the most effective Duke running back on Saturday, picking up 113 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. The sophomore, who now has four of Duke's seven offensive touchdowns, outperformed senior Cedric Dargan, who mustered just over three yards per carry despite scoring two touchdowns.

Boyle's effort was the hallmark performance of a number of young Duke players who turned in impressive games against the Keydets. True freshman Michael Brown started at middle linebacker and finished as one of the team's top four tacklers. True freshmen defensive linemen Clifford Respress and Ryan Radloff blocked a kick and a punt, respectively, and Glenn Williams, another true freshman, forced a fumble.

"We played about everybody who had a set of shoulder pads today, which is a good thing because it teaches some of our younger kids about game speed and where we need to improve," Roof said. "At the same time, they can realize they are just an ankle [injury] away from being thrown in the game. I think we learned some good lessons today."

The most impressive freshmen, however, played on the other side of the ball. Re'quan Boyette proved his ability as a game-breaking running back, ripping off 45 yards in just two plays on the Blue Devils' second-to-last touchdown drive. Freshmen quarterbacks Zack Asack and Marcus Jones picked apart the Keydet defense with surprising efficiency. Although they played only with the game well in hand, the duo completed five of their six passing attempts as Asack led the Blue Devils to the end zone on both of his drives.

This is not to say that Duke played a perfect game Saturday, however. Starting quarterback Mike Schneider avoided drive-killing interceptions but had a decidedly mediocre day against a weak VMI defense. The redshirt junior completed just 8 of 17 passes for 69 yards and had several balls tipped by Keydet defenders. The Blue Devils continued to shoot themselves in the foot with costly penalties, including one on the opening kickoff that nullified a 40-yard return. And although the game was well in hand, the Blue Devils' defensive reserves allowed two touchdowns to a team that scored just seven points against William & Mary last week.

But at the end of the game, the score read: Duke 40, VMI 14. And to Roof and the football team, that's all that matters.

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