Don’t look now, but there is a word that can be used to describe the defense for Duke football that I think it is safe to say was the furthest thing from people’s minds when the season began. Two games into the season it may be time to call the defense a…strength.
That’s right, folks, the defense that gave up nearly 500 points and gobs of yards last year appears to be a strength for the Blue Devils. They’ve given up just twenty-three points in two games, already have a shutout, have harassed quarterbacks, flown to the ball, created turnovers, and over all just been a pain for opposing offenses to deal with. A unit that was a liability is now an asset.
The competition doesn’t matter
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Why don’t ya pump the brakes there, super chief, they haven’t exactly played offensive juggernauts so far.” That’s right, they haven’t. But did that matter last year? In 2021, the Buke Devil defense held just two of twelve opponents under thirty points and one of those was North Carolina A&T, an FCS school. Over their final six games, they gave up an average of fifty points per game. FIFTY. So, it doesn’t matter who they have played in their first two games of 2022, this Duke defense is a far different animal than what was seen last year.
Temple’s offense is bad, no question. But the Blue Devils were able to make a very balanced Northwestern offense one-dimensional by stopping them from running the ball-the Wildcats averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. Evan Hull might just be the best running back Duke will see this season and I doubt of they’ll face one who runs harder. Veteran quarterback Ryan Hilinksi is one of the better quarterbacks they’ll be matched against. Despite the presence of preseason All-American tackle Peter Skoronski, the defensive line sacked Hilinski twice, were credited with five quarterback hurries, and generally gave him little time to throw down the field. Sure, he threw for 435 yards, but he had to throw it sixty times to reach that total. He was very often forced to throw short because the Blue Devils were breathing down his neck and he had to get rid of the ball.
They will most certainly face offenses that will pose a bigger challenge, but this Duke defense has turned into a unit that can be relied on to give the team a chance to win each time they step on the field. Keep in mind, it is early in the season-this group is only going to get better.