Observations from Duke’s Win Over NC Central

Shaun Wilson goes for the TD against NCCU / Duke Blue Devils / Photo by Chris Summerville

Shaun Wilson goes for the TD against NCCU / Duke Blue Devils / Photo by Chris Summerville

Duke debuted a renovated Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium in their home opener Saturday night.  The Blue Devils rolled to a 55-0 victory in front of a sold out crowd.  After a slow start to the game, Duke ended up with 655 yards of total offense.  It was another strong showing for Thomas Sirk and the running back duo of Shaq Powell and Shaun Wilson.  The Blue Devils will now prepare to host Northwestern next weekend.  The Wildcats are 2-0, including a win over Stanford in week one.

Key Observations

Shaun Wilson is starting to look like an RB1.  The sophomore is off to an impressive start this season.  After leading the Blue Devils in rushing against Tulane, Wilson carried his strong performance into the home opener.  His yards per carry wasn’t as strong this week as NCCU was devoted to clogging the middle, but Wilson proved he is a threat on any given play.  In the second half Wilson took a short swing pass and turned it into an 89 yard touchdown, this was in addition to his short touchdown run on the goalline earlier in the game.  Duke is blessed to have two backs that could start for a majority of college football teams (they’ll have three once Jela Duncan returns from injury).  Shaq Powell will remain the starter, most likely, but Wilson’s elusiveness and speed on the outside makes him a huge asset, particularly in the offense the Blue Devils like to run.

After Duke’s first possession it appeared the first game jitters may have moved to game two for Thomas Sirk.  The QB had an interception on a deep ball called back because of an offsides penalty, which he may have been aware of, and followed that up with a throw that bounced off the back of an Eagle defender.  It could’ve been nerves, opening the home slate in front of a huge crowd with new found expectations for the program.  Whatever the cause, Sirk shook them off and turned in another quality game.  He finished the game 15-22 for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Sirk actually led the Blue Devils in rushing with 89 yards on just 9 carries with a touchdown.  Sirk will face his toughest competition yet next weekend when Northwestern comes to town.  The Wildcats have been tough defensively in their first two games and are particularly stout up front.

The defense almost held their opponent scoreless last week, but gave up a long touchdown pass late in the game.  The Blue Devils got their shutout this week.  The Duke defense was tough against the run once again and only allowed one third down coversion in the entire game and only nine first downs overall.  They only notched 2 sacks and didn’t force any turnovers, but did generate consistent pressure and kept the Eagles’ QB uncomfortable for the majority of the night.  The staff continued to rotate in many young players on defense, with DT Brandon Boyce playing particularly well.  The continued development of these young players up front will go a long way in determining how successful this defense can be against tougher competition as the season goes along.  The talent isn’t in question, its just making sure they are prepared for the big moments that lie ahead.

Additional News & Notes

Thomas Sirk had the first 300 yard passing game for Duke since Anthony Boone’s performance in the Chik Fil A Bowl in 2013.

Sirk’s 89 yard touchdown to Shaun Wilson was the third longest pass play in Duke history.  Number one is a 99 yard touchdown connection fron Sean Renfree to Jamison Crowder in 2012.

Duke improved to 2-0 for the third consecutive season, a first since 1955.



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