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Observations From Duke’s Loss to No. 7 Louisville

Credit:Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Devils put up a valiant effort against the top 10 Cardinals on the road, but fell 24-14.  Duke controlled the game, dominating the time of possession, and won the turnover battle, but it wasn’t quite enough in the end.  The Blue Devils executed a mistake free, ball control offense just well enough to put themselves in position to win.  In the end a tough roughing the kicker call on a missed field goal attempt by Louisville ended Duke’s chance to put together a game winning or tying drive.  Duke has next week off before travelling to Georgia Tech for a crucial game.

Key Observations 

It was a masterful performance by the defense.  Duke went toe to toe with one of the most prolific offenses in the country.  With the exception of a handful of spectacular plays the Blue Devils controlled Heisman hopeful Lamar Jackson.  The defensive line was able to get pressure in the backfield, but in most cases Jackson was able to elude the defense and avoid the sack, with the exception of once when Joe Giles-Harris corralled Jackson late in the fourth quarter.    Duke did amass 5 tackles for a loss and had the run option stuffed on most attempts.  The secondary played well.  Freshman Mark Gilbert made some nice plays and Breon Borders had excellent coverage most of the night.  Jackson was held to 13/26 passing for 181 yards and one touchdown.  He ran for 144 yards and the game sealing touchdown.  The Blue Devil defense has played well for most of the season.  Louisville was held to season lows in yards and points.  Duke can build off this performance. If they can slow down the Cardinals there isn’t an offense in the country that should scare them.

Duke played a very clean game as well.  Turnovers have been the biggest problem for Duke this year.  To give themselves a chance against Louisville they would have to play mistake free football and they did.  Daniel Jones was an efficient 14/21 passing.  He only threw for 129 yards, but did have 2 touchdowns.  The Blue Devils had 39 rushing attempts in the game.  Their game plan was to control the clock and keep Lamar Jackson on the sideline. They did that converting 8/16 third down attempts and possessing the ball for over 37 minutes.  Duke telegraphed nearly every play call until the fourth quarter touchdown pass to Johnathan Lloyd, reducing mistakes by taking fewer chances.  Duke played discipline football too.  The Blue Devils were flagged for just 3 penalties.  While the late roughing the kicker call ended Duke’s chances it was still a very clean game on both sides of the ball.

Duke’s performance was good enough to turn the season around even in defeat.  Duke is currently 3-4 on the season, but the way they’ve played when they’re at their best is good enough to beat every team remaining in the schedule.  Running the table isn’t likely, but Duke can do enough things well to be in every game the rest of the way.  It won’t be easy with attrition becoming more of an issue for the Blue Devils.  Due to Duke’s APR scores 5 wins may be enough to return the program to their fifth straight bowl game.  They have a chance to get there.

Additional News & Notes 

Senior receiver Anthony Nash and punter Austin Parker both suffered a broken clavicle in the game.

This will be the first year Duke goes winless against the Atlantic Division since 2010.