Extra point: Stagnant offense, poor offensive line play lead to Duke football's shutout defeat at Louisville

While quarterback Riley Leonard started the game, the Blue Devil offense could not get any rhythm.
While quarterback Riley Leonard started the game, the Blue Devil offense could not get any rhythm.

Duke football suffered its second straight defeat with a 23-0 loss at Louisville. The Blue Zone analyzes the action with three key takeaways, stats and a look ahead:

Three key takeaways

Costly injuries: 

Saturday’s matchup was the site of many weighty injuries for Duke. While junior quarterback Riley Leonard took the field for the matchup after a consistent battle with his ankle the past two games, other injuries prevented the Blue Devils from playing at full strength against the Cardinals. Struggling with a lower body injury, All-ACC left tackle Graham Barton recorded no playing time and essential interior lineman Jacob Monk’s first-quarter lower body injury required medical attention and kept him out of the game, costing Duke two experienced players. 

Slow offense

Leonard was cleared to take the field for the Blue Devils’ matchup with Louisville, but their offense still suffered greatly with the 6-foot-4 signal caller back in action. Duke’s typical electric offense made no appearance tonight, as a mix of careless mistakes and a strong Louisville defense kept it quiet. The Blue Devils failed to activate their effective running game, flooding crucial first and second-down plays with disappointment. While the passing game showed potential, the 151 passing yards weren’t enough to carry Duke to a win. 

Consequences in the polls

Throughout the beginning of the season, Duke showed great promise to make the ACC championship. The Blue Devils kicked off this season 4-0, and their efforts on the field have demanded consistent attention. Unfortunately for Duke, its third loss in four games may result in significant consequences in poll rankings. This recent decline virtually eliminates head coach Mike Elko’s crew from excelling in the playoffs.   

Three key stats: 

51 rushing yards: 

Duke’s offense, overall, was disappointing, but its running game fell especially short against Louisville. While the Blue Devils usually gain yardage while rushing very quickly and efficiently in each game, the first quarter, marked with only two net yards, set a precedent for limited plays on the ground. Graduate running back Jordan Waters’ rushing yardage carried the team as he finished the night with 23 yards. The Blue Devils, however, couldn’t manage to break through opponent lines, resulting in a slim average of 2.4 rushing yards per play against the Cardinals.

Four sacks: 

Not only did Duke struggle running the ball, but the Blue Devils allowed Leonard to fall victim to four sacks from the Cardinals’ defense. Prior to the kickoff, Duke had only allowed opponents' defensive attacks to permeate the line resulting in sacks five times all season — the least among any team in the conference. Immense pressure from Louisville's defense unfortunately left Leonard vulnerable, and Cardinals’ defensive lineman were quick to take advantage of these moments of weakness.   

Nine offensive penalties

In an effort to become more ambitious on the field, the Blue Devils’ aggression got the best of them throughout the matchup. Promising moments were hindered by penalties from offensive lineman when scoring was crucial. A mix of false starts, personal fouls and holding calls put a stop to Duke’s efforts. Each offensive lineman picked up at least one offensive penalty— a concrete reason for the Blue Devil crew to polish their game for future competition.

Looking ahead: 

Duke returns home Thursday as Wake Forest pays a visit to Wallace Wade Stadium.  The Blue Devils will strive to improve their at-home record by returning to electric plays as seen in their last home matchup against neighborhood rival N.C. State. Coming off of two road losses against Florida State and Louisville, the Blue Devils will be expected to make a significant comeback this week. Wake Forest, after a blowout loss to Florida State, is surely hoping to give Duke a run for its money. The Blue Devils must refine both their offense and defense to hold Wake Forest down. 


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