Third and goal: Running game, focus on the road important for Duke football against UConn

<p>Graduate Jordan Waters has been an integral part of Duke's rushing attack this season.&nbsp;</p>

Graduate Jordan Waters has been an integral part of Duke's rushing attack this season. 

After three straight home wins, Duke will look to maintain this streak on the road against UConn. The Blue Zone has three keys for a Blue Devil victory:

Stick to the gameplan

After three consecutive games at home, No. 18 Duke departs Wallace Wade Stadium for the first time this season with a trip up north to Storrs, Conn. Facing off against a UConn Huskies team which has had a less-than-ideal start to their season, the Blue Devils are aiming to keep the momentum rolling ahead of their primetime game against No. 9 Notre Dame next weekend. 

Especially after a long homestand, a first away game can be intimidating. Duke would do well to settle in quickly and continue playing the football that has propelled it to a 3-0 record early on. If junior quarterback Riley Leonard can string together a couple of solid drives and the stout Blue Devils defense can shut down a struggling UConn offense, Duke should return to Durham with another win.

Run early, run often

The Blue Devils have quickly cemented themselves as one of college football’s premier ground offenses. Amassing an impressive 728 yards on the ground through their first three games, they are currently ranked fifth in the country in rushing yards per game. Against a bottom-third Huskies run defense that has looked rather porous so far — conceding 179.7 yards per game — expect a high volume of carries to be split between dangerous backfield duo Jordan Waters and Jaquez Moore. 

Duke has already set a run-heavy precedent this season, with over 60 percent of its plays from scrimmage coming on the ground. The Blue Devils are not afraid to hand it off on traditional passing downs, and have uncorked many big gainers on third down. If Duke can establish the run from the jump, the options will expand dramatically for Leonard — a formidable rushing threat in his own right. 

Manufacturing a rhythm is key to controlling the pace of a football game, and the Blue Devils have the firepower and depth on the ground to do just that. If they can chain together solid chunks of yardage in the run game, UConn will undoubtedly struggle to turn the tide. On the other hand, if Duke’s rushing offense is stifled early, the Huskies certainly have the talent to make the game interesting. 

Stop the run early, stop the run often

Despite the bulk of UConn’s yardage coming out of the air, the team has two running backs capable of carving out big yardage on the ground. Junior Devontae Houston and sophomore Victor Rosa have both racked up over 150 rushing yards through three games while sharing reps at a roughly equal rate. 

The Blue Devils’ bend-don’t-break style of run defense may be in for a real test against this Huskies duo, as Duke has allowed its opponents to press into scoring position quite frequently in the early going. Although it has only conceded one rushing touchdown thus far and boast one of the best red-zone defenses in college football — both significant feats — the Blue Devil defense has often found itself with its back to the wall. 

Duke has allowed an average of 147.7 yards per game on the ground, conceding a sizable amount of field position even without being punished inside its own 20. The Blue Devils’ ability to contain the run in the UConn half will prove pivotal in this contest, as keeping these backs out of the red zone will make the game much less cramped for Duke.


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