After losing the first two games of the season to Richmond and Stanford, Duke has won two straight against Boston College and Tulane. The Blue Devils make their first visit to FIU on Saturday to take on the Panthers. Time to get a little more wise about Duke with Blue Devils beat writer, Steve Wiseman, from the Durham Herald-Sun.
1. From watching some Duke games and looking at the numbers, it seems the Blue Devils are more successful with the pass than the run. Is that what Duke does best on offense and who are some of the Devils playmakers?
SW: Yes, Duke is a pass-first offense and will be as long as David Cutcliffe is the head coach. The wrinkle is that Duke’s approach is the possession passing game, built on short interior routes or screen passes. That’s a big reason why quarterback Sean Renfree has completed 72.7 percent of his passes this season.
Over the last two games, however, Duke has begun to throw downfield more and it has led to two consecutive wins. His favorite targets are all-ACC wide receiver Conner Vernon (26 catches, 388 yards, 3 TDs) and Donovan Varner (22 catches, 236 yards).
The running game has been among the worst in the nation the last two seasons but sophomore Juwan Thompson is giving it a boost this year. He’s averaging 5.2 yards a carry and Duke has already scored 10 rushing touchdowns.
2. How mobile is Sean Renfree? Does he make plays with his legs? Those type of quarterbacks seem to give FIU trouble.
SW: Renfree (left) has limited mobility, despite the fact that he’s run for three touchdowns this season. He’s a classic drop-back passer and isn’t especially fast. However, Duke routinely inserts back-up quarterback Anthony Boone into the game for a change of pace. Boone is very fast and elusive. He’s also completed 12 of 16 passes so he’s a threat there, too. Boone normally plays in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but that’s not set in stone. The coaching staff works hard to keep defenses on edge.
3. What are Duke's defensive strengths and who are some of the defensive players that the Panthers have to be aware of?
SW: Duke has been tough against the run this season after switching to a 4-2-5 defensive alignment. This set up has an extra safety on the field in place of a linebacker, which has boosted the team’s speed. The Blue Devils are also getting far better play from their defensive front against the run. Duke allowed 208 rushing yards per game last season, worst in the ACC. This season, Duke is fourth in the ACC (109 yards per game).
Key players defensively are senior safety Matt Daniels (right), who is adept against the run and the pass, as well as linebacker Kelby Brown. Senior nose guard Charlie Hatcher had two sacks last week and is the experienced hand on a young defensive line.
4. What are the thoughts around Duke and in Durham about FIU? Are the Devils upset about being a homecoming opponent?
SW: The way Duke has played football for most of the last two decades, folks here are accustomed to the Blue Devils being homecoming opponents. Duke hasn’t had a winning season since 1994 and never has the luxury of overlooking the opposition. (See the Richmond loss on Sept. 3 this year). Duke knows it’s in for a tough fight at Florida International, given the program’s success last season and the win at Louisville this season. The Panthers are the kind of athletic team that figures to give Duke fits.
5. Your prediction and score for Saturday's game?
SW: While Duke’s defense has played better this season than last, it is a bit banged up. Defensive end Kenny Anunike was leading the ACC in sacks before being lost for the season to a knee injury last week. Starting cornerback Ross Cockrell also missed last week’s game and may not play this week. That means more young, inexperienced players will be asked to take more reps. That could be a problem on the road. I’m going to say Florida International gets back on track, takes advantage of a couple of Duke mistakes, and wins 27-23.
Don't forget tommorrow (Friday) at the FIU/WKU home volleyball match, FIU will retire volleyball great and four-time All-American Yarimar Rosa's No. 3 jersey. We'll have a couple of videos on the ceremony and a tribute to Yari (right) on The Prowl on Friday.
que bola fiu: Speaking of baseball. Oye pp, the braves are tremendous muertos. 8 game loss streak to get eliminated.
PP: Don't remind me. I stayed up to watch all 13 innings to the end of the season last night.
T.D.A.O.S.: Pete, what happened to Phil Haig? I don't see him on the roster.
PP: He's no longer on the team.
*Thanks Sam Lewis photo (Rosa)