Despite being 2-6 going into Saturday's contest, Florida State imposed its will on the Duke defense, rushing for 324 yards en route to a 56-35 victory. 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. Diamont Gives Hope
After losing Chase Brice and without usual backup Gunnar Holmberg, true freshman Luca Diamont stepped in at the quarterback position. In his first ever college game, Diamont did throw one interception. However, he showed signs of what could come with more experience, as he completed 5-of-8 passes, as well as adding 60 yards rushing. It takes a lot to step in the last game of the season as a true freshman, but the Venice, Ca. native filled the spot well. This game seemed out of reach multiple times, but the offense did put up its third-highest scoring game of the season. If head coach David Cutcliffe does decide to make a change at that position, Diamont may have done enough to put his name in the hat.
2. Turnovers galore
Another game, another giveaway. Actually, four giveaways. This has been a lingering issue for Duke all season. Taking care of the ball should be the top priority for teams, and unfortunately it went unfixed throughout the year. In fact, this Duke team finishes the 2020 season with a turnover margin of -18, last in the FBS. For reference, the next highest team has a margin of -12. It's not a good place to be, and the giveaways need to be corrected next year.
3. More Mataeo Durant
Despite being the second string back this year, Mataeo Durant finishes the season with more yards than Deon Jackson. Yesterday, he led the way with 127 yards and a touchdown, as well as 9.8 yards per carry. These stats prove just how valuable he has been for a Blue Devil offense that’s struggled greatly to produce this season. Being a junior, Durant would be eligible to enter into the draft if he chooses. If he does return next season, however, Durant should be pretty comfortable in the leading role. It’d be great to have a back of his caliber return to both produce and be a leader. In a team that continues its search for an identity, Durant’s ability to push forward on the ground could be a start.
Three Key Stats:
1. Six Rushing Touchdowns
It was hard to pick between the six rushing touchdowns or the 324 rush yards given up by Duke, but I felt like the six summed it up a bit more. Florida State scored more rushing touchdowns than the Blue Devils' total number of touchdowns Saturday, even when Duke put up its third-highest scoring game this year. It’s hard to imagine a much worse performance from a run defense. The offseason is a time to retool and reload, and hopefully the staff can figure out how to correct a hole that large. It’s hard to win games giving up production like that.
2. Zero Sacks Given Up
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On a positive note, Duke did not give up a single sack to Florida State. It didn’t do much to affect the end result, but perhaps it is a sign of growth in two areas. For one, quarterback awareness has improved. The two passers for the Blue Devils totaled 90 yards on the ground, displaying their ability to escape the pocket when the pressure is on. The other improvement is on the offensive line. A unit that’s sustained many injuries this year came together for their best performance in pass protection.
3. Nine Penalties
Lack of discipline seems to be another one of this team’s most recurring issues. In this game, the Blue Devils were flagged nine times for 70 yards. Penalties really hurt a team’s hopes to move the ball or to get the defense off the field. Either way, they kill chances to win. Duke did not win much in 2020, and a lot of the time saw high numbers of flags at the center of their results. Next year, the players and coaches have to do a better job of working on discipline.
The 2020 season, likely to be known as the COVID-19 season in the future, has finally come to a close for Duke. At times, it felt like this team had really improved and could go on to win some of their games. But in the end, mistakes added up and the season ended with a 2-9 record. It can really only get better from here for Duke, and the work has to start now. New recruits and time to heal injuries should be a huge boost as the team regroups for the 2021 season.