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Observations From Duke’s Loss to Virginia

Credit:Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Duke couldn’t carry over any momentum from their victory at Notre Dame last week.  Daniel Jones had 5 interceptions and one fumble in the end zone on a sack in the fourth quarter.  Duke got off to a good start, but the freshman quarterback’s six turnovers were simply too much for the Blue Devils to overcome.  Duke is now 2-3 overall and 0-2 to start ACC play.  They will host Army next week for their final nonconference matchup of the season.

Key Observations

For all the glimpses of brilliance you see in Daniel Jones he’s still a freshman quarterback in his fifth career start.  Jones got off to a good start, throwing a strike to TJ Rahming on Duke’s second possession to give the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead.  But Jones would throw four interceptions in the first half, two led to Virginia touchdowns.  Jones does almost everything you can ask of a freshman quarterback, but one has to wonder if he should be attempting 28 passes in the first half.  That’s seems like just too much to ask.  The play calling has to be consistent and balanced.  Duke was at a disadvantage running the ball with Jela Duncan out with a leg injury, but after making a few things happen early in the first quarter on the ground they seemed to abandon the run for some reason.  The Blue Devils would make more of an effort early in the second half to balance the offense, but went back ti the pass happy ways in the fourth quarter and just couldn’t execute well enough down the stretch to pull out a victory.

Duke also hasn’t been able to put it all together on defense.  DeVon Edwards isn’t the kind of player you can easily replace, but even before this game and going back to last season, the Blue Devils have really struggled to defend the big play, particularly over the middle of the field.  For all the talent that Duke has recruited in the secondary, covering deep routes has been a real weakness.  It’s particularly frustrating to see since the team employs a defensive scheme that puts five guys in the defensive backfield.  Duke hasn’t been able to generate as much pressure on the opposing quarterbacks the last two weeks, but even when they have managed to get in the backfield the secondary hasn’t been able to hold their coverage long enough.  The Duke defense rebounded briefly in the fourth quarter, forcing a couple punts and an interception by Ben Humphreys, but the offense couldnt do anything with the opportunities.  The defense has played well against the run for most of the season and did so against the Cavaliers, but when the opposing team gets five extra opportunities due to turnovers by the offense, the bending defense will most likely break. They did Saturday afternoon.

It looked like Duke might have turned a corner in last week’s breathtaking win, but everything they did well in South Bend was nowhere to be found in Durham against the Cavaliers.  Duke had just one turnover and one penalty against the Irish.  While the penalties weren’t excessive against Virginia, they were untimely.  And the turnovers were the difference in the game clearly.  So it goes with a talented, but very inexperienced team.  There are guys on this roster who are going to be big time players for years to come for Duke, but this season there will continue to be some growing pains for sure.  After the Blue Devils got back on track and evened their record at 2-2 the hope was that these young talents could learn while winning, but after starting the conference season 0-2, with both losses coming at the hands of Duke’s weakest conference opponents, it seems any success this season won’t really be quantifiable.  The chances for the Blue Devils to get enough wins to earn a fifth straight bowl trip are dwindling if not gone altogether.

Additional News & Notes

Duke starts the ACC season 0-2 for the third time under David Cutcliffe.  The last time they started 0-2 they went undefeated the rest of the regular season to win the Coastal Division title in 2013.

Virginia has back to back victories over Duke for the first time since the 2006 and 2007 seasons.