For those expecting public soul searching in the aftermath of Duke’s poor performance at Miami—don’t.
“I don’t want to overevaluate this game,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “Most importantly, I just want to continue on the path. Next week is just a new opportunity. Nobody needs to doubt anything.”
Cutcliffe made a point to praise the Blue Devils’ effort and attitude, and, obviously, both are important. Right now, there is just a disconnect between want-to and results, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Duke (4-1, 0-1 ACC)
What worked: Punter Will Monday had his strongest game of the year. He had plenty of chances—nine punts in all—and averaged 49.2 yards per punt. Three times he pinned the Hurricanes inside the 20 and kicked another two into the end zone, minimizing the return damage.
And despite all of Duke’s issues on offense, the game was still within reach with less than 10 minutes remaining. The Blue Devils were just down by six when quarterback Anthony Boone threw his first interception. He would throw another one later in the game—that, combined with an Issac Blakeney strip fumble made it three Duke turnovers. Ever the optimist, Cutcliffe said, "If we would have done nothing else differently, had we just not turned it over in the game, how much better was our opportunity to win? Take that, and you have something to build upon."
What needs work: The offense as a whole needs to do the basics better: throwing, catching and snapping the ball (there were multiple mishandled shotgun snaps and snap infraction penalties). And while the offense is figuring out its issues, the defense needs to minimize big plays. Two stood out on Saturday: a 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-19 when safety Jeremy Cash was fooled and slowed by cramps, and a 47-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter when Bryon Fields was beat in coverage.
Five days after Cutcliffe said that Duke was intentionally running the ball more (on 53 percent of offensive snaps) and compared a good running game to a dominating defense, the Blue Devils went away from the run. Boone dropped back to pass on 67 percent of the Blue Devils’ offensive snaps, and he never did find a rhythm. The Blue Devils’ lone touchdown came on a drive that featured 44 rushing yards by Shaquille Powell—over half of Duke’s total rushing yards for the game.
The score was 9-7 Miami after that. Still, Duke opted to run the ball only 15 times for the rest of the game—74 percent of Duke’s snaps after that touchdown drive were passing plays.
This is new offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery’s first season calling plays.
What comes next: a well-timed open date for Duke. In two weeks, the Blue Devils will resume play at Georgia Tech. Cutcliffe is 0-6 against the Yellow Jackets in his time at Duke.