No. 16 Duke football improved to 5-1 with a resounding 24-3 victory against N.C. State. With three key takeaways, stats and a look ahead, the Blue Zone breaks down all of the action:
Three key takeaways
1. Big plays win games
While No. 16 Duke’s offense struggled in gaining consistent yardage in the absence of junior quarterback Riley Leonard, it was still able to put 24 points on the board through explosive plays for big yardage. The Blue Devils scored their first touchdown on an incredible 69-yard pass from redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV to the team’s leading receiver, Jalon Calhoun. A similarly amazing 83-yard run by graduate Jordan Waters to open the second half reeled in another touchdown for Duke.
2. Lockdown defense
As the story has gone for Duke football this season, the Blue Devils’ defense was nothing short of an iron wall. The Wolfpack’s only three points came on a long 57-yard kick through the uprights early in the first after Belin’s interception. Throughout all four quarters of play at Wallace Wade Stadium, N.C. State was not once allowed into the red zone. The defense was further highlighted with a critical interception by redshirt sophomore linebacker Tre Freeman to put the Duke offense eight yards from the goal line — a position from which Belin was able to convert.
3. Shakiness from Belin, but promise for the future
Belin’s first career start for the Blue Devils was not exactly pretty. Struggles with accuracy led the New York native to only four completions on 12 attempts. The 6-foot-3 quarterback ended up with only one pass attempt in the second half as head coach Mike Elko opted to prioritize keeping the clock moving. Although the numbers from Saturday night might not have been remarkable, Belin IV showed off a strong arm that will open the doors for long downfield tosses once further command is established.
Three key stats
1. 194 rushing yards
Movement on the ground was critical for the Duke offense with uncertainty in the passing game. Waters contributed 123 yards to this effort, with further support from junior Jaquez Moore and Belin IV to combine for a total of 194. This movement provided some offensive consistency and kept the drives running.
2. 52-yard field goal
Sophomore kicker Todd Pelino stumbled in the Blue Devils’ loss to Notre Dame two weeks ago, missing two field goals. Against the Wolfpack, Pelino showed some signs of getting back into form as he nailed a career-long 52-yard attempt early into the second quarter. Further expansion of his range will be critical as Duke aims to ramp up scoring moving into a difficult stretch of ACC play.
3. 11 penalties for 87 yards
N.C. State was plagued with missteps that sent the flags flying. The team committed 11 penalties for 87 yards, compared to a sacrifice on flags of only 33 penalty yards from Duke. One of these flags was a critical illegal formation call that resulted in a turnover when the down was replayed. Overall, the Wolfpack were simply not hot enough on either end of the field to afford such critical losses to penalties.
Duke travels to Tallahassee, Fla., next week for a primetime matchup against No. 4 Florida State. This will be the Blue Devils’ biggest road test so far and perhaps one of the most critical opportunities for the team to pursue postseason aspirations. There remains uncertainty if we will see Leonard or Belin IV spinning the ball come time. Regardless, Duke will need to bring its best in what is poised to be a high-energy contest with big implications for the conference.
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