When: Saturday, September 12, 2015. 6:00 PM.
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina
Line: Duke -39
Last Time: Duke 45, NC Central 0. The Blue Devils opened the 2013 Coastal Division Championship season with a home shutout of the Eagles. Duke rushed for 257 yards as a team and the defense only allowed 9 first downs in the victory. All four of the main running backs for Duke averaged at least 5.0 ypc, with Jela Duncan leading the way with 76 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Shaquille Powell added 47 yards on 9 carries. Jamison Crowder returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown. Breon Borders picked off a pass in his first career game. It was Duke’s first shutout since 1989.
What to Watch For:
1. Young Depth: In the season opening win over Tulane, Duke showcased a lot of the young talent we’ve heard about in recruiting over the last couple seasons. Despite it being the first game of the season and on the road, the staff felt comfortable letting some of the young players, some true freshmen, get some game experience. And many of them made keys plays in the game. Five true freshmen and 8 redshirt freshmen saw the field in Thursday’s opener. TJ Rahming got the start at wide receiver and caught 6 passes for 70 yards. Brandon Boyce recorded a sack late in the game and was one of four new defensive linemen to get into the game. Duke should have an even easier time with Central than they did with Tulane. This game will be a good opportunity for these young players to get some more extended playing time.
2. Vertical Offense: Duke’s offense in recent years has always had big play capability. That was the one thing missing when Duke took the field against Tulane. Thomas Sirk was very accurate, hitting receivers in stride, throwing from the pocket or on the move, but he could not connect with his receivers on any deep routes. Sirk is playing with a wide cast of receivers, most of them seeing their first extended action. It’s going to take some time for Sirk to build the chemistry and get his timing down with each different receiver. The offense was stilll dynamic. The run game made some big gains, the read option was ran very efficiently, and Sirk made plays with his arm and legs. As they add the big play dimension as the season progresses they will become that much tougher to defend. I’d expect Duke to look to take some shots down the field early and often, capitalizing on their athletic advantage.
3. New Season, “New” Stadium: While we are still about a year away from the finished product, Saturday’s home opener will be a debut of sorts for a revamped Wallace Wade Stadium. Since the last home game of the 2014 season, the field and stadium have already undergone some massive changes. The field has been lowered and new seats installed closer to the action will take the place of the track that used to circle the field of play. In addition, a new 3,175 square foot video board has been installed. These renovations will have a great impact on the gameday experience for Duke fans, an experience that will get even better as the new facilities and updates are completed. The new luxury tower won’t be complete until the start of the 2016 season, but there is plenty of excitement over the debut of the completed renovations. The stadium transformation has coincided with a transformation of the football program as a whole. It’s a testmament to the administration for recognizing that to compete with other national programs on the field, you must invest in facilities just as much as you invest in talent.