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Observations from Duke’s win over Syracuse

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s road game against Syracuse had all the makings of a trap game for the division leading Blue Devils.  It was the final road contest of the 2014 season before the Blue Devils begin a three game home stretch against division foe Virginia Tech and local rivals North Carolina and Wake Forest.  The Orange are a bottom half Atlantic Division team battling through injuries and needed to win out to secure bowl eligibility.  For the majority of the contest the game lived up to its billing as a potential struggle for Duke.  It took some late game heroics from some of the Blue Devil’s key guys to finally pull away in the fourth quarter, but a win is a win and Duke is now in prime position to successfully defend their Coastal Division title.

Key Observations:

The Duke defense rebounded from the shootout against Pittsburgh.  Duke gave up just 224 total yards, including just 105 through the air and just 3.2 yards per carry on the ground.  Duke was not able to get any pressure on the quarterback, a lingering problem for this Duke team, but the secondary continued their strong play.  Sophomore cornerback Breon Borders had two interceptions on the day.  One on a deep, errant pass and the other on a spectacular play in which he came across the field to snag a ball out of the air on a deep sideline pass.  This was the second 2 interception game for the young, talented corner.  The last coming in the ACC Championship game against Florida State.  These were Borders’ first interceptions of the season as he has been more of a shutdown corner this year and not tested very often by opposing quarterbacks.  Borders now has 6 interceptions in his young career.

Jamison Crowder appears to have returned to the level of play that has garnered him plenty of national attention over his career.  The first part of the 2014 season featured consistent play from Crowder, but not the jaw dropping performances we had become used to over the last 3+ seasons.  Crowder has been lights out over the last three games totaling 26 catches for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Crowder also added his first punt return for a touchdown in the win over Syracuse that came at a time when the Blue Devils needed it most.  Duke found themselves in a dog fight entering the fourth quarter before Crowder delivered the score that proved insurmountable by the Orange.

Issac Blakeney was noted as one of the guys to watch coming into the 2014 season.  The first two games of the season seemed to suggest that the senior wide receiver was ready to take the next step.  Blakeney had 9 catches for 135 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first two games of the season, but had been virtually nonexistent since.  Blakeney returned to the spotlight against Syracuse, displaying his size, strength, and athleticism and scoring both offensive touchdowns for the Blue Devils.  The first on a juke-move and run down the sideline and the second on a ridiculous catch over a defender late in the fourth quarter to ice the game.  Blakeney is very important for the Blue Devils.  When he is involved and playing well the Duke offense is so much more dynamic.

Additional News and Notes:

Jamison Crowder became the 11th player in ACC history to top the 5000 total yard mark in a career.

With the win, Anthony Boone became the winningest quarterback in Duke history.  He sports an overall record of 18-3 overall and 18-1 in the regular season.

Duke has completed the “away game” portion of their schedule for 2014 finishing 4-1.  Duke is 9-1 on the road over the last two seasons.

Duke now has 8 wins in back to back seasons for the first time since the 1938-1939 seasons.  Duke has never won 9 games in back to back seasons.