The Blue Devils’ first game at Wallace Wade Stadium this year ended in triumph, as Duke hammered FCS opponent North Carolina A&T 45-13. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways, stats, and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three Key Takeaways:
1. Quentin Harris can pass the ball
After a rough showing against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Quentin Harris redeemed himself in Duke’s home opener, setting two personal records against North Carolina A&T. The redshirt senior passed for 345 yards and scored a total of five touchdowns, both of which are career bests. Additionally, all four of Harris’ passing touchdowns were longer than 20 yards. The quarterback’s passing performance in the game serves as a great first step in quieting the doubters of his aerial reliability.
2. Promising young wide receiver corps
Reports of the Duke wide receiver corps’ death have been greatly exaggerated. Following the loss of T.J. Rahming, Johnathan Lloyd and Chris Taylor, the outlook for Duke’s 2019 group of pass-catchers was bleak. Against the Alabama defense in the season opener, the melodrama was amplified. However, hope arrived in the form of freshman Jalon Calhoun, who dazzled for 108 yards off eight receptions and two touchdowns. The receiver connected with Harris for the first touchdown of the season for the Blue Devils, adding another score late in the third quarter. Freshman receiver Eli Pancol and sophomore running back Mataeo Durant also tallied a touchdown apiece for the Duke offense. Further hope rests in sophomore wide receiver Jake Bobo, who caught 10 passes in his freshman season and is currently recovering from a fractured right clavicle.
3. Duke at Virginia Tech as important as ever
We know how Duke fares against a top-5 FBS team. The Alabama Crimson Tide destroyed the Blue Devils, seemingly scoring at will after the bizarre first quarter. After the home opener, we also know how Duke fares against an FCS team—albeit a good one. In this case, the Blue Devils put up numbers that would make an offensive coordinator salivate. Now that we have seen two far ends of the college football spectrum, we should probably look to a game that will challenge the Duke football team but is still winnable. On September 27, the Blue Devils travel to Blacksburg to take on the Hokies of Virginia Tech. The matchup has everything a curious Duke football fan could ask for. Away game? Check. Divisional rival? Check. ESPN coverage? Check. Not playing against Alabama? Check. Blue Devil fans should look forward to this game, as it will most likely serve as the first good indicator of the strength of this Duke football team.
Three Key Stats:
1. First down ratio of 31:10
Big plays were certainly not a rarity for the Blue Devils in this game. Despite this fact, Duke established a steady pace of decent yardage, oftentimes taking three or four plays to cross the first down markers. This resulted in drives stringing multiple first downs together to advance the Blue Devils down the field—Duke totaled 31 compared to 10 for N.C. A&T. Harris’ quick passes over the middle combined with Jackson’s inside runs and quick cuts chiseled away at the Aggie defense until time ran out. The opposition was unable to respond, as Duke’s front seven suffocated the A&T offense.
2. Eight minutes until A&T got on the board
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Some Duke football fans may forever hold in their hearts the memory of their Blue Devils holding No. 2 Alabama to zero points in the opening quarter of the 2019 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Those same fans, however, may also recall the time their team allowed N.C. A&T to jump out to a 3-0 lead after 7:46 in the teams’ next contest. The Aggies took advantage of good field position, starting the drive at the Duke 40-yard line following a failed 4th down rush attempt by the Blue Devils. After 17 yards of offense, the North Carolina A&T special teams unit trotted onto the field and Noel Ruiz calmly dropped in a 40-yard field goal. Thankfully, the Duke special teams and defensive units shored up, making such scoring opportunities a little more difficult to come by for the rest of the game.
3. 50-yard field goal from A.J. Reed
Midway through the third quarter, the redshirt junior made a 50-yard field goal, shattering his previous personal record of 38 yards against Virginia in 2016. Although the kick came at a time when the game was already starting to get out of hand, there was still cause for celebration, as until this season Reed had been only 3-of-10 on field goals in his career.
Expect a sea of blue next week as the Blue Devils take on the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The opposing team is coming off a 45-26 victory over Tennessee State and is looking to repeat their title of Conference USA East Division Champions. This game should be a win in the books, given that the Blue Devils continue to play their disciplined style of offense and aggressive style of defense.