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Extra point vs. Charlotte: Duke cruises to victory on Halloween

Mataeo Durant was part of a ground game that accounted for 274 yards on Saturday night.
Mataeo Durant was part of a ground game that accounted for 274 yards on Saturday night.

On the last day of October, the Blue Devils made quick work of their in-state opponents. In the aftermath of Duke's second win of the season, the Blue Zone breaks down yesterday's contest with three takeaways, stats and what to look for moving forward. 

Three Key Takeaways: 

1. Running remains strong

Talk about ground and pound.  Duke’s running game yesterday was more than impressive. Deon Jackson, Mateo Durant and Jordan Waters each had at least 75 yards on the ground. On top of that, all three broke away a huge run of 60 or more yards. And on top of that? All of them found the endzone. In Duke’s highest-scoring game of the season, the rushing attack powered the offense forward on their way to 53 points in their only non-conference game of the year.  

2. Chase Brice is the best they’ve got

Brice has looked better and better as the season’s gone on. And against Charlotte, he went without throwing an interception for the first time since the season opener against Notre Dame. Brice also has his highest rating of the season, posting an impressive 144.3. However, he really did not have too many opportunities to throw the ball, only attempting 14 passes. During a few drives, we got a look at backup Gunnar Holmberg, who many fans have been calling for to replace Brice this season. However, it became clear why Brice has kept the starting job when Holmberg threw a lob pass into triple coverage and got intercepted.  While he was decent otherwise, it is clear that Brice is the answer to lead the offense.  

3. Special teams remain huge 

The most impressive unit of last season has kept their roll going. The special teams unit has been amazing for Duke all year. Various plays, such as the fumble recovery on the opening kickoff against Virginia and multiple blocked punts have given a team who struggles to push the ball downfield amazing opportunities to score. Both Charlie Ham and Porter Wilson, with their kicking and punting, respectively, have given Duke life in places that are usually taken for granted. Special teams have thrived in the bleakest of seasons for Duke. 

Three key stats:

1. One Turnover

Duke has led the nation in turnovers this season. It has been painful to watch at times.  Just as the Blue Devils are in a good position to put some points on the board, the ball is given away and you lose all hope. Yesterday was a completely different story. The only turnover of the day for the Blue Devils came on a poor pass by backup quarterback Gunnar Holmberg. The rest of the game was actually quite smooth. Not only was the ball well protected on offense, but the defense came through as well, taking the ball away from Charlotte twice. Duke actually finished with a positive turnover ratio for the second time this season, the other coming against Virginia Tech.

2. 8.1 Yards Per Rush

To put this stat into perspective: if Duke could consistently rush this well, they’d be the best in the nation, with current first-place Maryland clocking in at 6.8 yards per carry.  While I already raved about the impressive running game Duke had against Charlotte, enough can’t be said about what this team was able to accomplish.  Compare that to the first game of the season, when Duke put up just 2.5 yards per rushing attempt against Notre Dame. And yes, while there is a gap in the quality of the opponent, the growth has been consistent. Since that first game, Duke has looked better and better on the ground, reaching their peak in yesterday’s win.  

3. 28-yard reception for Garner

In an article last week, I wrote about breakout player Jarret Garner. The newfound star receiver has been a home run hitter for Duke in multiple games this season. His ability to make receptions downfield has been a great help for the offense, and yesterday he found himself with yet another reception of over 25 yards. Garner hauled in the ball with one hand in impressive fashion. While this was his only reception of the game he continues to show why he has become more integrated into the passing game. Look for him to continue his run as Duke takes on North Carolina in next week's Tobacco Road showdown.  

Looking Forward:

After an impressive start for North Carolina that saw them rise to No. 5 in the AP poll, they have lost two out of their last three and have looked much like a shell of the team they were to begin the season.  Quarterback Sam Howell has stayed extremely impressive and kept himself in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy, but the defense has given up an average of 37.5 points in their two losses. For a Duke team hitting its stride offensively, look for a real matchup between UNC and Duke.

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