Duke Now

Duke vs. Tulane: what worked, what needs work, what's next

Freshman Zavier Carmichael comes down with his first career interception against Tulane Saturday.
Freshman Zavier Carmichael comes down with his first career interception against Tulane Saturday. Chuck Liddy

Duke (4-0)

Beat Tulane 47-13

What worked: Tulane was sloppy in all three phases, and Duke was there to take advantage. The Blue Devils scored 21 points off Tulane's five turnovers -- 14 came directly on pick-sixes by Joe Ajeigbe and Bryon Fields, respectively. Fields, a sophomore cornerback, and freshman linebacker Zavier Carmichael both grabbed interceptions on zone coverages, a result of good play calls by defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and sound recognition by the players themselves.

Head coach David Cutcliffe said repeatedly this summer that Duke would have to run the ball better in order to defend its division title—so far, so good on that front. The Blue Devils averaged 6.1 yards per rush Saturday (256 total). Freshman Shaun Wilson continued to make a claim for more carries, and Boone successfully executed the zone-read throughout the game (the first touchdown drive came exclusively on quarterback runs).

Also, third down was a bright spot for Duke—the Blue Devils converted 7 of 13 chances (53.8 percent).

What needs work: Duke's run defense had difficulties maintaining gap integrity and filling holes against Tulane's two-running back set. The Blue Devils hadn't been expecting that -- the film suggested the Green Wave would operate with a single back -- and Tulane's three main rushers averaged a combined 5.2 yards per carry. Don't be surprised if Miami, with standout running back Duke Johnson, tries to mimic what the Green Wave did successfully.

Also, the passing game needs to be crisper all around. Quarterback Anthony Boone needs to locate the ball better, making it easier for his receivers to catch. His receivers need to run better routes, and his blockers need to be sharper on protection assignments. Boone needs to be more sound mechanically, too, with the ball coming off his fingertips cleaner.

What's next: ACC play begins with a primetime trip to Miami, as Duke and the Hurricanes have a 7:30 kickoff date. The Blue Devils beat up on the Hurricanes last year in Durham (however, Johnson was out with an injury).

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