It has been a rough few weeks for Duke. First, it was an overtime loss after a failed comeback against Georgia Tech. Saturday was the real kicker for head coach Mike Elko’s squad, though. After it looked like the Blue Devils were in control late, the combination of a missed field goal, poor clock management and a rolling Tar Heel offense led to a 38-35 loss in Wallace Wade Stadium.
This week, the Blue Devils will head south to the Sunshine State, where they will play Miami in Hard Rock Stadium. Miami is on the upswing, coming off of a 20-14 defeat of Virginia Tech, while Duke will be looking to avoid turning a two-game skid into a three-game losing streak. Let’s take a look at what the Hurricanes will have in store for Elko’s Blue Devils.
On the offensive side of the ball, the name to know is Tyler Van Dyke. After a rough few games against Texas A&M and Middle Tennessee, the third-year sophomore quarterback bounced back against the Hokies, throwing for an impressive 351 yards with a 63% completion rate and a 74.1 efficiency rating. Van Dyke is different from most of the quarterbacks Duke has faced off against thus far because he is very much a stay-at-home pocket passer. He has averaged -0.1 rushing yards per game, preferring to get rid of the ball rather than take hits or attempt to run the ball downfield himself.
Compared to a signal caller like Drake Maye of the Tar Heels, Van Dyke will likely be easier to track down. The Blue Devils should be looking to put some more direct pressure on the pocket to force him to either give up on the play or try to improvise, which is something he has struggled with this year.
That being said, the Blue Devils will need to be wary of a Miami quarterback’s speed when freshman quarterback Jacurri Brown is taking snaps. Brown has not passed at all when he has been on the field, but he had the longest run of the day against the Hokies, dashing for 19 yards.
Miami has been hit with injuries this year, too. Against the Hokies, the Hurricanes were missing seven starters and lost a tight end and wide receiver during the game, too. Most of those injuries are predicted to carry over to this week, although starting center Jakai Clark has been listed as likely to return and tight end Will Mallory will also likely be cleared by game day. The bright side for the Hurricanes is that the injuries have led to the discovery of some new hidden talent in players like Colbie Young, who evolved from warming the bench into a high-ceiling wideout talent.
“They've been banged up all around them, and their depth has been tested, but [they] certainly stand strong,” said Elko in his Monday media availability. “They've continued to roll out wideouts as each wideout has gone down and they still look very long and very athletic, and they can run around and make plays out there.”
On defense, Miami’s secondary has been decidedly mediocre, but the front four and pass rush are a very different story. Through six games, the Hurricanes have taken down the opposition’s quarterback a whopping 21 times, good for seventh in the NCAA. Defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor will likely be the primary concern for the Blue Devils’ offensive line, as he is currently leading the ACC in sacks with five for a total of 25 lost yards. He has also recorded six tackles for loss for 26 yards.
“The front four kind of stands out across the board, their ability to penetrate, rush the passer, stop the run, they're doing it all really well right now,” said Elko, “We're gonna have our hands full offensively this week for sure.”
Miami will certainly be an easier matchup for the Blue Devils than the Tar Heels were, but that does not mean that the Hurricanes will not be a challenge. They are getting healthier and showing improvement on both sides of the ball. Duke needs to be prepared for a tough game, and sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard will likely need to use his legs to stay out of trouble against a Miami defensive line that has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines. Otherwise, Elko’s squad will risk dropping a very winnable game and falling to a disappointing .500 after a red-hot 3-0 start to the season.
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