Hitting the road for their first away game of the season, the Blue Devils will face a Middle Tennessee team hungry for a Power Five win. Here are three keys to the game Saturday:
Spy on the QB
Aside from a big touchdown run given up in the first half, Duke’s defense did a fine job last week against North Carolina A&T. However, one area of improvement can be to keep a better eye on the quarterback. The Blue Devils let Aggies quarterback Kylil Carter get loose on the ground for several runs last week, including two rushes of 20+ yards. Against elusive Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara, who this season has recorded 24 carries for 135 yards and one wild touchdown where he escaped the grasp of three Michigan defenders en route to the end zone, Duke cannot afford any more lazy arm tackles and might even consider a QB spy.
Week 2 Quentin Harris needs to show up
In replacing the big shoes of NFL quarterback Daniel Jones, Quentin Harris’ career as a starter has, perhaps predictably, been a tale of two games. While he struggled mightily Week 1 against Alabama by throwing for under 100 yards with two picks, he picked things up and showed off his arm against lesser competition Week 2, tallying 345 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He was particularly successful on a couple of deep throws, including a beautiful lob to freshman wide receiver Jalon Calhoun for a 38-yard touchdown. The Blue Devils will need Harris to continue his momentum from last week to get their first FBS victory of the season.
Clean up the penalties
Duke has been unable to play the game by the rules thus far this season, racking up nine penalties for 97 yards last week against North Carolina A&T— including two personal fouls. Committing 17 penalties across two games has the Blue Devils tied for 23rd-worst in the FBS, something that is not sustainable come conference play. Coach Cutcliffe will have to get his team to clean up their mistakes against a more competitive opponent in the Blue Raiders.