Monday, September 27, 2010

Poor defense, brutal losses put Duke in familiar situation

Duke has had five winning seasons since 1974, so it’s not like the current state of the program should come as a shock. But for a program that truly felt it had the chance to win at least six games, and reach a bowl, the current 1-3 record is embarrassing.

Duke has made progress under David Cutcliffe and has improved its speed and athletic ability. But at some point, the Devils have to win, or all the talk of turning this around starts to have a heard-this-before feel. The Blue Devils have lost three straight games, each of which was devastating in its own right.

The 54-48 loss at Wake Forest only continued the chasm between the two programs. The Deacons are established now under Jim Grobe and even have an ACC title; Duke, with all its wealth and prestige, simply can’t beat the black and gold.

The Alabama game was on national TV and a great story line, but Duke didn’t hold up its side of the deal and lost 62-13. More humiliation followed Saturday, with Army roaring out front and winning 35-21 at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Now Duke is 1-3 and has to win Saturday at Maryland to have any chance of saving this season.
What has killed Duke is what has always killed Duke – poor defense. The Blue Devils are last in the ACC in scoring defense (44.5 points per game) and last in rushing defense (229.2). You combine all that with a ground game giving you just 144.5 yards per game – 9th in the ACC – and you’re playing pitch and catch and hope for the best.

Cutcliffe is a great guy and solid coach.  But this brutal start for the Blue Devils is a reminder of just how difficult the road ahead is for Duke.

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