This year's fight for the Victory Bell was lopsided, as North Carolina got off to an early lead and never looked back. The Blue Zone breaks down Duke's performance on Saturday with three key takeaways, stats and what to expect moving forward.
Three key takeaways:
1. The Mateo Durant show
Despite Deon Jackson’s production often being a key to Duke’s success, it was second string running back Mateo Durant that led the rushing stats. Durant has impressed just as much, as both seemed to have big games when the other one did. This week, however, in just one more rush than Jackson, Durant gained 99 more yards and added a touchdown. The South Carolina native did exactly what was needed of him, but he was one of the only ones.
2. Where was the defensive line?
Duke’s defensive line has been one of the very few bright spots for the program this season. Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje, who each have 7.5 sacks, were practically non-existent. In fact, one of the only times Rumph’s name was called was during his brief scrap with North Carolina’s punter, in which he picked up an unnecessary roughness call. It is no shock that when your best two players on defense struggle to make an impact, you give up 56 points and 573 yards of total offense.
3. Giving up sacks
Duke was sacked five times. There was no question that after multiple injuries this offensive line would struggle, but five sacks against a defensive line that has struggled a lot this season is not a good sign. The Tar Heels had given up 19 total sacks heading into Saturday so there is no reason they should have been able to get to the Blue Devil passers so often. It is difficult for an offense to perform when they are pressured this much and if Duke hopes to pull out a few more wins this season, this must be a focal point of improvement.
Three key stats:
1. 338 rushing yards
North Carolina produced more yards on the ground than Duke did total and added in five rushing touchdowns of its own. It is incredibly difficult to succeed when stuff like this continues to happen week after week. This game was expected to be an offensive shootout and no one had unrealistic expectations for Duke to be able to shut down one of the best offenses in the nation, but the one-sided offensive clinic North Carolina put on cannot happen again if the Blue Devils intend to rattle off more wins.
2. Two turnovers
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Yet again, the turnover margin went against the Blue Devils. While one more turnover ultimately would not have changed the unbalance of this game, it certainly doesn’t help. And it certainly doesn’t help when it has been such a problem for the team all season. Duke has now played eight games and has shown such little improvement in taking care of the ball. Among everything else that went wrong against the Tar Heels, turnovers have gone wrong in nearly every other game too. The defensive line isn’t always invisible, the offense shows signs of life and the score is not always a blowout, but turnovers are a recurring thing every week.
3. 70 yards for Harding Jr.
What a day for Duke sophomore Darrell Harding Jr. After beginning the season with just seven receptions and 90 yards in five games, Harding emerged as a bright spot of the offense with five receptions for 70 yards. The Blue Devils really struggled to move the offense, but Harding averaged 14 yards per catch and produced a nice-looking 28-yard play. Along with Jalon Calhoun, Jarett Garner, Noah Gray and the two-headed rushing attack, there is no reason this offense shouldn’t be able to produce. With the right protection, quarterback Chase Brice should have every tool necessary to produce more points.
Getting over this blowout loss to their arch-rivals is not going to be easy for the Blue Devils. Thankfully, they have an extra week to heal from the wounds the Tar Heels gashed. On November 21, Duke is scheduled to take on Wake Forest, another school just down the road from Durham. The Demon Deacons beat Virginia and Virginia Tech, both teams Duke has lost to, on their way to a 4-2 record on the season. They score 37 points per game, just below what North Carolina puts up at 40.9. In order to compete, Duke will need to address and rework everything that went wrong on Saturday. It won’t be easy, but it’s certainly not impossible.