Mike Elko’s Duke football team bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 38-17 drubbing of Virginia at Wallace wade Stadium Saturday night. So, did we learn anything about this team. Yeah, we most certainly did.
They’re resilient and have bought in
When you were just 3-9 last year and have won only ten games over the previous three seasons, a losing mentality can creep it’s way into a program. Instead of the pouting and finger pointing that can infect a team after a disappointing loss like the Blue Devils’ had to Kansas, you saw a team that bounced back strong in their next performance. Communication and tackling problems were corrected from the week before, and the team looked better prepared mentally. Credit Elko and his staff for understanding how to handle their team, but credit the players for buying in and believing the message.
Big Blue Meanies
Going into Saturday’s game, Virginia’s defense had proven to be just plain nasty. But they met as Duke offensive line that was just plain mean. The Big Blue Meanies pushed, shoved, drove, mashed, and pretty much bludgeoned that defense in paving the way for the team to rush for 243 yards. Against a defense that had twelve sacks and seventeen quarterback hurries, they gave up just one sack and two hurries, and gave Riley Leonard a clean pocket to throw from the majority of the night. The ACC certainly noticed their performance-center Jacob Monk was named as a co-lineman of the week by the conference. The Big Blue Meanies are a rugged, physical bunch who will be a handful for any of the defenses they’ll face the rest of the season.
ALSO READ: Total team effort used to whip Virginia
A better pass rush is still needed
Yes, I know the defensive line batted down six passes (linebacker Shaka Heyward got one of those), but there has not been a consistent enough pass rush the last two games and that concerns me. They’re going to face a couple of quality quarterbacks in North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Sam Hartman of Wake Forest in the coming weeks. Although I think Maye’s stats are a bit inflated due to some of the competition they’ve played, there is no way the Blue Devils can let either of those guys stand back there and have all day to throw-they’ll get picked apart by them. If the defense has an Achilles heel, this is it in my opinion.
Those big shoes seem to fit Waters and Coleman
Before the regular season began, I wrote an article talking about the big shoes the running backs needed to fill with the departure of Mateo Durant. Durant ran for a school single-season record 1,241 yards last year. Waters and Coleman are already at 567 yards after just five games and are averaging more per carry than Durant. They have also combined for eight touchdowns already-Durant had nine all of last year. I think Coleman has improved greatly since the beginning of the season and I’m now comfortable with either being on the field. Both are physical runners who will not hesitate to punish a defender.
Five games into the season and here we are talking about mostly positive things we’ve learned about the Blue Devils. What we want to see is a continuation of the positives and improvement in the problems. Mike Elko and his staff have done such a great job handling this team and getting them to buy into the culture he is creating. Keep it going against Georgia Tech this week.