Overall, Saturday was a success for Duke as it left Wallace Wade Stadium with a 47-13 win against Tulane.
But the devil is in the details.
Duke coach David Cutcliff was pleased with his team’s play on special teams, defense and in the running game, but the list of what needs work includes penalties, turnovers and fundamentals.
“We’ve got to tackle better and get ourselves in front of people,” Cutcliffe said. “And we can throw and catch it better than we’re doing. We’re not as consistent with the pure execution of our offense.”
As sloppy as Duke was, Tulane (1-3) was far worse. Duke scored 21 points off five Tulane turnovers, including two interception returns for touchdowns, one on special teams.
The Green Wave’s starting long snapper, Michael Lizanich, tore his hamstring during warm-ups, severly limiting Tulane’s ability on field-goal and punt attempts.
Backup Matt Marfisi’s first snap was so high that it sailed through the goalposts, like a field goal, out of the back of the end zone for a safety. That put the Blue Devils, who never trailed, ahead 16-7 in the first quarter.
That was not the Green Wave’s most destructive punt attempt of the game. That came in the fourth quarter, when another bad snap resulted in a fumble. Linebacker Rae Juan Marbley scooped it up and tossed the ball forward into the hands of Duke’s Joe Ajeigbe, who returned the interception 12 yards to make it 47-13.
Tulane also a muffed punt that set Duke up at the Green Wave’s 24-yard line. Shaun Wilson finished the drive with a TD run.
And the miscues didn’t stop there. Tanner Lee threw three interceptions, one of which was returned 22 yards for a TD by Bryon Fields, and the offense failed twice on fourth-down conversion attempts from inside the Duke 25. They also missed an extra point.
Except for a lost fumble in the fourth quarter Wilson showed once again why he deserves to have a bigger role in the offense.
One week after the freshman set the school single-game rushing record, Wilson led Duke’s running backs with 70 yards on seven carries. Thomas Sirk was effective too, gaining 94 yards on five carries, two of which went for 43 and 50 yards.
The Green Wave also ran the ball well. Lazedrick Thompson averaged 6.5 yards a carry, gaining 124 yards on 19 carries. Many of his yards came on runs straight through the heart of Duke’s defense.
That’s a concern the Blue Devils need to address quickly, with a trip to see Miami and Duke Johnson next Saturday, in addition to match-ups with Pittsburgh and James Conner, who is averaging 175 yards per game, and Georgia Tech’s option attack.
“A lot of our guys were getting out of their gaps,” linebacker David Helton said. “Whether it was the interior D-linemen or the linebackers. We were hitting (the gap), but we were kind of falling out or something, and it would leave holes.”
Quarterback Anthony Boone also had issues. He fell short of Cutcliffe’s goal of a 60 percent completion percentage, finishing 15 of 27 (55 percent) for 181 yards and an interception. There could have been more picks, and Boone was visibly frustrated at times.
“The ball didn’t come off his hand good,” Cutcliffe said. “There are those days. We’ve got to take a look at that. The first thing he can’t do is react to anything as a quarterback. Just be consistent and play the next play. He’ll do better at that.”
Still, Duke did what it needed to do in nonconference play, picking up four wins. Now that part of the season is “meaningless,” according to Cutcliffe, and it’s onto the main event: defending the Coastal Division title in a race that appears wide open.
DUKE 47, TULANE 13
Duke—Sirk 1 run (Martin kick), 12:10.
Tul—Hilliard 5 run (DiRocco kick), 7:03.
Duke—Snead 2 run (Martin kick), 4:11.
Duke—FG Martin 31, 4:21.
Duke—Boone 1 run (Martin kick), 11:45.
Tul—Thompson 4 run (kick failed), 6:57.
Duke—Wilson 7 run (Martin kick), :17.
Duke—Fields 22 interception return (Martin kick), 11:52.
Duke—Ajeigbe 12 interception return (Martin kick), 8:43.
|Time of Possession||34:28||25:32|
RUSHING—Tulane, Thompson 19-124, Butler 10-65, Badie 15-39, Hilliard 6-30, James 1-(minus 3), Lee 6-(minus 12), Team 2-(minus 28). Duke, Sirk 5-94, Wilson 7-70, Boone 10-42, Powell 5-20, Snead 6-18, Ajeigbe 7-14, Team 2-(minus 2).
PASSING—Tulane, Lee 14-35-3-160, Marbley 0-1-1-0. Duke, Boone 15-27-1-181, Sirk 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Tulane, Rush 3-41, James 2-45, Shackleford 2-23, Encalade 2-19, Badie 2-12, Butler 1-9, Veal 1-7, Thompson 1-4. Duke, Crowder 6-119, McCaffrey 4-22, Reeves 1-13, Snead 1-13, Blakeney 1-9, Schneider 1-3, Powell 1-2.