Duke fell to the Book on Teacher Appreciation Day, allowing Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book to carry his team to a 38-7 win. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three Key Takeaways:
1. Notre Dame was Big 12. Duke was Big Ten
Or at least it seemed that way. The Fighting Irish were looking to score, and they were looking to score fast. On its second offensive drive of the game, Notre Dame attempted three deep passes in a row along the sidelines, sending a simple message: they wanted pay dirt. It was clear that the Irish were looking for a shootout. Although I would like to say they were playing Oklahoma football, their defense was playing a little too well for me to make that statement. The Blue Devils played a game reminiscent of any Big Ten matchup in history: slow, conservative and low scoring. They were probably looking to “Duke” it out with Notre Dame, old-school style, but the outcome was a game that was too fast-paced and too offensive for them.
2. The Fighting Irish’s thoughts on the middle of the field? It’s free real estate
Notre Dame started its first few offensive drives hitting the sidelines on most of its passes. After they got their rhythm going, the Fighting Irish started to look to the middle of the field on slants and in-routes. Then they did it again. And again. Once they got their passing game between the hashes, they started to run the ball inside. The Irish’s quarterback also took advantage of the space made available to him, making good reads and booking it for multiple 45-yard runs. Combine that with his passing abilities, and he was proving to be a hard cover.
3. Potential chaotic end to the season
A loss to Notre Dame isn’t anything to be proud of, but it makes the remainder of Duke’s season a lot more interesting. Sitting at a record of 4-5 with matchups against Syracuse, Wake Forest and Miami ahead, the Blue Devils have to win two of these next three games to secure bowl eligibility. Syracuse is coming off a bye week following an embarrassing loss to Boston College. Wake Forest, which entered this past weekend ranked No. 19 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, just lost to unranked Virginia Tech. Miami is coming off a convincing rout of Louisville after a loss to Georgia Tech at home earlier in the season. In other words, any of these games are up for grabs, which isn’t a surprise considering we’re talking about the ACC Coastal.
Three Key Stats:
1. 197 total yards for Duke, 469 total yards for Notre Dame
This stat wouldn’t be surprising to you if you knew that Duke had 26 total yards in the first quarter. What’s crazy is that this isn’t the fewest yards the Blue Devils have produced in a quarter this season. In the first quarter against Virginia Tech, Duke had five total yards of offense. The difference between that game and this one is that Duke actually ended up beating Virginia Tech—by a lot. The exact opposite scenario happened against Notre Dame. To be fair, when your opponent finishes a game with nearly 300 more yards than you, it’s hard to expect a win.
2. One interception for Shaka Heyward
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The redshirt freshman had himself a game, finishing with a stat line of six tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and his first career interception. Even though the Blue Devils ultimately lost the game, it should be reassuring for them to know they have a guy that can put up great numbers against a top-15 team, especially if he also has three more years of eligibility after the season.
3. Season-high crowd of 40,004
Wallace Wade Stadium hosted a capacity crowd for Duke’s game against Notre Dame, with just over 40,000 fans in attendance. This was the first time since September of 2015 (against neighbor N.C. Central) that the stadium has filled every seat. Blue Devil and Fighting Irish fans alike came out to watch their teams in the frigid mid-30 degree weather, but after the game, some fans were undoubtedly feeling much colder than others.
Duke will stay in Durham to take on Syracuse next Saturday at 4 p.m. With a win, the Blue Devils will keep their bowl game hopes alive. With a loss, their bowl game hopes will still be alive, but less so—only a fraction of five-win teams get bowl invites, depending on their Academic Process Rate score.