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Five observations and more from Duke football's first half against Charlotte

<p>Running backs Mataeo Durant (above) and Deon Jackson have carried Duke's offense thus far.</p>

Running backs Mataeo Durant (above) and Deon Jackson have carried Duke's offense thus far.

In their only nonconference matchup of the season, the Blue Devils stormed out to an early lead and haven’t looked back. Anchored by two 60-plus yard runs from its two running backs, Duke leads Charlotte 24-7 as the teams head into the locker room.

Five observations:

1. Defensive shutdown: While Duke’s offense totaled 241 yards in the half, the Blue Devil defense held Charlotte to only 174 total yards, 78 rushing and 96 passing. Charlotte was held scoreless for the first 25 minutes of the contest before scoring late in the second quarter.

2. Special teams impress: After just missing out on blocking Charlotte’s first punt of the game, the Blue Devils made their way through the porous punt formation on the 49ers’ second attempt. Freshman Isaiah Fisher-Smith recorded the block as Charlotte's Connor Bowler’s punt traveled just 10 yards. With good field position at the 49er 31-yard-line, Duke quickly scored to put the Blue Devils up 14-0.

3. Running backs score early and often: Deon Jackson kicked off the scoring in the opening frame with a 65-yard touchdown run. On the next possession, Mataeo Durant punched the ball in with a three-yard run. In the first half, Jackson ran for 73 yards while Durant recorded 92 yards. Three minutes into the second quarter, Durant ran for 60 yards to Charlotte’s 10-yard line, and two plays later ran in for his fifth score of the year.

4. Avoiding turnovers: Although the vast majority of Duke’s offensive yards have been on the ground, Blue Devil quarterback Chase Brice did his part to put his running backs in position to be successful, not turning the ball over throughout the first half and completing five of nine passes for 58 yards.

5. Time of possession doesn’t tell the story: Duke’s first half was very efficient, its three scoring drives taking less than one minute each. As a result, Charlotte saw the ball in its possession for the majority of the half. In total, the visiting team held the ball for 21:10 while the Blue Devils only had the ball for 8:34.

By the numbers:

  • 82 seconds: The Blue Devils’ first two scores took only one minute, 22 seconds off the game clock. Duke needed only two plays to notch its first points of the contest and four on its next scoring possession to jump out to an early two-touchdown nine minutes into the contest. In addition, Duke’s third score early in the second quarter came on a drive that lasted only 47 seconds.
  • Three offside penalties: In the first half, Duke’s defense was called for three offside penalties. The first two penalties handed Charlotte two first downs.
  • Zero turnovers: Duke turned the ball over a grand total of zero times through the first half, with Charlotte posting its first turnover on a fumble just 16 seconds before the half ended.

A play that mattered:

One the second play of the game, running back Deon Jackson took the shotgun handoff from Brice and ran untouched through the opening on the left side of the offensive line. He took it 65 yards all the way to the end zone to hand Duke an early one-score advantage. The run marked the Blue Devils’ longest of the season. Jackson’s touchdown was his third of his senior season and the 16th of his career.

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