The Duke defensive front seven served notice that they will be a force to be reckoned with for the 2005 season. The Devils allowed ECU only 103 yards rushing, with less than a 3 yard-per-carry average. DE Eli Nichols, DT Brian Sallee, and DT Casey Camero were seen often in the Pirate backfield. Last year Chris Davis was the standout kickoff return man. This season, sophomore Ronnie Drummer made the instant impact, returning a first-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Coming into the season, Duke had some question marks along the offensive line. While they did not play stellar, Duke was able to gain 162 yards on the ground, with the majority of the carries logged by Justin Boyle and Cedric Dargan. Boyle also matched his touchdown total from last season scoring twice for the Devils.
Where to start… The Duke defense did a great job limiting ECU on first and second downs. They were, however, not about to stop the Pirates on 3rd down. On three separate occasions, Duke allowed conversion of more than 10 yards. Duke also struggled mightily on defending the deep ball. Pirate WR Aundrae Allison had receptions of 50 and 33 yards. Despite the difficulties of the defense, Duke still had ample opportunity to walk away from ECU with a relatively easy victory. Duke once again struggled with red-zone offense. Duke twice turned the ball over inside the ECU 15-yard line, one on a botched handoff between Mike Schneider and Boyle, and the other an interception at the goal line on 1st and goal from the 3. Schneider also threw two other interceptions on plays where the secondary wide receiver was open. Even with these mistakes, Duke might have had a chance had it not been for the abysmal play of the punt and kick return units. Duke gave up a 52-yard punt return and a 50-plus yard kickoff return. Two mishandled kick returns and a punt return blocking mistake gave the Devils poor starting field position in the second half.
TDD Player of the Week:
This week's game ball goes to sophomore linebacker Pat Bailey. After spending his freshman year at defensive end, he moved to linebacker and seems to have found a permanent home. In his first collegiate start, Bailey led the defensive charge with 11 tackles and two forced fumbles. For his efforts, Bailey is the TDD player of the week.
The Devils let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers on Saturday. There really are no excuses for the poor performance. Duke is a team that does not have a great margin for error, and they made way too many errors on Saturday. From the 3 interceptions, to the botched special teams plays, to the long pass completions allowed, Duke played a very sloppy game. The entire off-season was covered with stories about the improvements the Devils were making on and off the field. The fact that Duke was in the game as poorly as they played shows they have improved. Unfortunately, you are judged by wins and losses and if you don't win, the improvement all goes for naught.
Duke will get a rude introduction in to the 2005 ACC season as defending champion Virginia Tech comes to Wallace Wade Stadium this weekend. The Hokies got a real early start in their title defense, downing NC State 20-16 this past Sunday. Tech is one of the conference favorites this year, and Duke is picked to finish last. On paper, this game will be a mismatch. Duke will have to play a near perfect game to have a chance this weekend, and cannot afford any of the silly mistakes they made against ECU. Duke will find the Hokies to be much better than ECU on both sides of the ball. Any mistakes this weekend could be deadly. Head Coach Ted Roof will have a tough task this week, getting his team mentally focused after their crushing loss this past weekend. The Devils lost a game they should have won, and the talk of progress right now is just that, talk. Progress is judged by wins and losses, and Duke faces a monumental challenge this coming Saturday.