Duke vs. FSU: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Alex Wade

The Blue Devils faced off against the heavily favored Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, hoping to avoid a blow out. However another slow day on offense coupled with an inability to slow down the 'Noles' offense sealed the deal in another lopsided loss.

What went right?

The Duke offense and defense had moments where they looked decent. The offense had a few quality drives in the first half, including an 83-yard TD drive for the only Blue Devil score. The defense was able to record 6 sacks and recover 2 fumbles. The Duke kickoff return team also had a stellar day. Senterrio Landrum give Duke one of its best special teams performances in recent memory, returning 5 kicks for 180 yards.

What went wrong?

Two of Duke's goals coming into this game were to eliminate big plays by FSU and limit their own mistakes. The Devils were unable to accomplish either. FSU had two defensive touchdowns, a long pass play for another TD, several big kick returns, and two blocked field goals. Duke shot themselves in the foot on many occasion by committing 10 penalties for 107 yards. The biggest mistakes of all came in the red-zone. Duke had 5 trips inside the FSU red-zone, and came away with but a single touchdown. Conversely, FSU had 5 trips into the Duke red-zone, and came away with 5 touchdowns.

Player of the game:

Duke senior defensive tackle Matt Zielenski had a solid game for the Devils, recording 4 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He was constantly fighting through double teams to disrupt the rhythm of the FSU offense He spearheaded the run defense that gave up only 96 yards, 63 of which came on one Greg Jones scamper early in the first quarter. For his efforts, Zielenski is this week's TDD player of the week.

Final Analysis:

This game was a simple case of one team just being much better than the other. FSU has superior athleticism at just about every position, especially at wideout. Duke played OK in spurts, but the raw ability of FSU was just way too much for the Blue Devils to handle. On offense, Duke moved the ball fairly effectively between the 20's, but was unable to score points once inside the FSU red-zone. On defense, Duke did some good things such as record 6 sacks. Big plays, however, ruled the day. FSU had plenty of them while Duke had few.

Looking Ahead:

Duke will have an opportunity to start fresh, as they will be off this week. The staff will be able to get back to basics and review the good and bad from the first five weeks of the season. Unfortunately, there will be more bad than good to review. Duke has scored a grand total of 17 points against three quality Division-I opponents. Rice is ranked below a dozen I-AA opponents in the Sagarin ratings so they are not considered a quality opponent in this discussion. The Devils were shut out in their opener against UVA. Then they defeated two pretty bad teams in Western Carolina and Rice. Now the Blue Devils are riding a 2 game losing streak, with crushing losses to Northwestern and FSU.

To say this season to date has been a disappointment for the Blue Devil faithful is an understatement. Despite only being 1 game below where most though the team would be after 5 games, Duke has only played one decent game this year, a 29-3 drubbing of 1-AA WCU. The rest of the time, the Devils have played uninspired, unimaginative football, which does not bode well for the futures head coach Carl Franks and his staff. They are going to have a tough time keeping the teams' spirit up, as the schedule doesn't get any easier in the coming weeks. After the break, the Devils face a crucial three game stretch against Maryland, Wake Forest, and NC State, respectively. All of these teams should finish in the middle of the pack or better in the ACC. If Duke is to salvage the season, they must find a way to defeat one or two of these teams. Otherwise, any hopes for postseason action for the Blue Devils well be gone.

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