Following an offseason filled with uncertainty, the Blue Devils will return to the gridiron on Saturday as they go on the road to take on No. 10 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. With newly minted starting quarterback Chase Brice at the helm, Duke will look to start this unique season off on the right foot in a battle with the Fighting Irish. The Blue Zone gives you three keys to Duke’s opening matchup against Notre Dame:
Force Book to throw
Last year, now-senior quarterback Ian Book came into Wallace Wade Stadium and accounted for four touchdowns and 320 total yards—139 of which came on the ground—in a 38-7 blowout victory. While he clearly dominated Duke’s defense, Book also tossed two of his six interceptions and was held well below his season average of 233 passing yards per game, tallying a lowly 5.6 yards per attempt. However, Book’s career rushing day and 149 yards from the Fighting Irish backfield more than made up for a lackluster passing day from the veteran signal caller. With top targets Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet moving on to the NFL and a crowded backfield led by the unproven freshman Kyren Williams, the Blue Devils need to seize the opportunity to stuff the run against a team that has lost six of seven games since 2016 in which it failed to top 100 rushing yards.
Hold the Line
Last week’s news out of the Blue Devils camp that All-ACC center Jack Wohlabaugh would miss the remainder of his senior season after an ACL tear came as a crushing blow to the offensive line. With the unit already working hard to move past the loss of Zach Baker at left guard, the young crew up front will not have much time to mesh at all, as Notre Dame’s defensive line is as stout and well-rounded as the remainder of its defensive unit. As redshirt junior Will Taylor steps in for Wohlabaugh to anchor the line, it is of the utmost importance that the offensive line adjusts on the fly and makes life easy for its new quarterback against an unforgiving Fighting Irish defense.
Cut to the Chase
It took Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe until the very last moment to make a decision as to who would be under center for his squad this fall. This past Sunday, he delivered the news that Clemson transfer Chase Brice, known for his late-game heroics against Syracuse in 2018, would receive the keys to an offense in dire need of excitement in the pocket. With a young group of pass catchers led by Jalon Calhoun and a key veteran in Noah Gray, the coaching staff should “cut to the Chase” this weekend. Cutcliffe needs to let his new signal caller drop back in the pocket as many times as necessary to not only build a rapport with his new weapons, but to keep the Blue Devils in a game that they will have to put up significant points to win.