At times it looked like the Duke secondary was a high school JV team trying to play against professionals, it just looked that bad for the Blue Devils and that easy for Clemson.
The Blue Devils have come a very long way on the football field but are clearly still no match for a very talented offensive team in Clemson. For the first time this season Duke dropped its second consecutive game as the Tigers put up 718 total yards of offense to win comfortably 56-20.
Despite turning the ball over four times and despite seeing Duke win the time of possession battle, Clemson made quick work of the Blue Devils with the near perfect game from Tajh Boyd who threw for 344 yards five touchdowns while also running for 78 yards and a score. Boyd picked apart the Blue Devils secondary and threaded the needle on several deep passes.
“We can always be on top of a route. Your technique can be better,” Duke Coach David Cutcliffe said. “They’re good players. I knew going in Boyd was extremely accurate with the deep ball. You can’t throw it any better than he throws. He has the complete game.”
And it was those deep balls that ended up killing Duke and the Blue Devils know it.
“It is on par with Florida State. I’ll say that,” corner Ross Cockrell said of the potent Clemson offense. “You give up deep balls you’re going to lose games. We’ve got to take care of some things on the back end.”
For the second straight week Duke was clearly outmatched by a physically and athletically superior opponent. Duke found some success through the air in the first half, scoring 17 points but got nothing from the offense in the second half only scoring on a Ross Martin field goal in the third quarter. Cutcliffe talked about the need to step up their game when the opponent is as talented as Florida State or Clemson.
“The better the opponent the more solid your game plan has to be fundamentally,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve had a difficult time for eight quarters.”
Moving forward is about the only thing that the Blue Devils can do now with the most physically demanding part of their schedule behind them and an open week and two very winnable ACC games still left to play.
“The only way we will recover is to get better. Not say we will get better, but physically get better. We can do it,” Cutcliffe said.
“For us to finish like we want to finish we’ve got to play clean. The open date comes at a good time; we are pretty beat up. We will do some healing . We will do some immediate work. The number one goal is defining our goals at this point on. Number one is getting better.”
Duke stil has a lot to play for still even though they are already bowl eligible. At 6-4 (3-3 ACC), the Blue Devils are still in the running for a winning record and potentially in position to win the ACC Coastal Division. They will have to win their remaining two games to be in position to do it but the realization that this team still has something to play for this late in November is not lost on their coach or his players.
“We’ve got a lot of carrots out there. We’ve got a winning season. We’ve got a winning ACC season that is obtainable,” Cutcliffe said. “None of that will happen if we don’t go about getting better.”
“We definitely have things to play for. We’ve played the two best teams in the ACC I think and we didn’t put our best foot forward against them,” Cockrell said. “We’ve got a bye week. We are going to continue to work hard, continue to play hard and we’ve got two games left.”
Duke will play Georgia Tech next and they have proven to be particularly vulnerable against teams who have an extra week to prepare for them, although the Yellow Jackets are at home.
After that the Blue Devils will wrap up the regular season with a home game against Miami. Both games are winnable but as the ACC has shown, when it comes to just about every team but Clemson and Florida State, anything can happen and nothing is guaranteed.
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