Third and Goal: Duke football vs Boston College

Following last weekend’s victory against previously-ranked Georgia Tech 34-20, Duke looks to close out a strong four-game homestand at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Boston College. The homecoming matchup will provide unique challenges for an up-and-down Duke squad. Although the Blue Devils have shown flashes of defensive brilliance against two ranked opponents, they have struggled mightily on offense which could make them vulnerable against a strong Boston College defense. Here are three vital keys to the conference battle:

Put up points in all three areas of the game 

In three victories this season, the Duke offense has hung big numbers against their opponents,  averaging 42 points per game and nearly 488 yards of total offense. But quarterback Thomas Sirk and the rest of the Blue Devil passing attack has struggled at time this season. With the Eagles' defense ranking as one of the country's best and allowing a little more than one touchdown per game so far, Duke will likely have its struggles moving the ball Saturday. Expect for the Blue Devils to continue to pound the ball on the ground with Shaquille Powell—who registered three touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets—and Jela Duncan who has returned from an early season injury. 

If Duke's defense or special teams unit can help put the offense in scoring territory or even put up some points of their own, the Blue Devil offense will have much less of a burden Saturday. Duke has already received two kickoff return touchdowns from safety DeVon Edwards this season and will look for their dynamic return man to help flip the field for them on special teams. Defensively, the Blue Devils have averaged nearly a turnover per contest and will look to force more Boston College miscues to support the team's offense. 

Force the Eagles to take to the air 

Since head coach Steve Adazzio became the head coach of the Eagles in 2013, Boston College has employed a heavy rushing attack. The Eagles' ground game has accounted for 231 yards per game and 11 of the team’s 16 total touchdowns. But outside of their 76-0 blowout win against Howard, Boston College has done little with the ball in their hands. The Eagles have scored just 41 points in their other three games and the quarterback duo of Troy Flutie—nephew of Eagles legend and 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie—and Darius Wade has struggled mightily to keep defenses honest. 

The Blue Devils defense has been stout against the run this far, having limited opponents on the ground to just under three yards per carry. Against a dangerous Georgia Tech triple-option attack, Duke held the Yellow Jackets to their lowest rushing output in two years. With Adazzio announcing Monday that the Eagles would be without leading rusher Jon Hilliman for their first road game of the season, Boston College will look to its quarterbacks to play a bigger role Saturday. Considering the inexperience and limitations of both as passer, forcing Boston College to go to the air could give the playmakers in the Blue Devil secondary a chance to take control of the game.  

Start fast and build on momentum

Although Duke's defeat at the hands of Northwestern was a punch to the gut in the early portion of the season, the Blue Devils got out to a quick start against the Wildcats before falling and led Georgia Tech 19-3 after a quarter a week ago. The team's ability to start fast and play mistake-free football will be key as Duke has shown its ability to play well with a lead. 

Coming off a big win a week ago, the Blue Devils must be aware of the potential big-game hangover effect and must stay focused with expectations for the team rising. Although the road to the Coastal crown now runs through Durham, a loss Saturday could hurt Duke drastically in the conference standings. With Boston College visiting Wallace Wade on Homecoming weekend, emotions will certainly be riled up in the early going. But if the Blue Devils are able to manage their emotions and play like the smarter team Saturday, they have a good chance to moving to 4-1 on the season. 

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


Share and discuss “Third and Goal: Duke football vs Boston College ” on social media.