Finding meaning in Duke's best win to date
Posted October 12, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Saturday’s 35-7 win over Navy was the best game of the David Cutcliffe era. In fact, he said it himself.
His exact words in his postgame press conference were, “I think that’s probably the best game we’ve played as a team since we’ve been here at Duke.”
Really, it is hard to argue from the couch, the stands, the press box or the other sideline.
“We got our butts whooped all the way around,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. “We got outcoached, we got outplayed. It’s been a long time since we’ve been beat that bad in every phase.” Slideshow: Duke dominates Navy, 35-7
The superlatives could go on and on. But what do they mean? At the end of the day, it was Duke’s fourth win of the year. They still need two to be bowl eligible and are winless in the ACC.
“I want this to mean something,” Cutcliffe said. “And for it to mean something, you have to get better. We just have to keep playing to better our football team and play to the standards we try and set here as a football team.”
The Blue Devils forced three Navy turnovers – including a game-changing fumble at the end of the first half knocked loose by Kenny Anunike as the Midshipmen were knocking on the door. After that, Navy never threatened again and was out-scored 21-0.
“Sweet, sweet, sweet,” Cutcliffe said of the play.
“That play was awesome,” Anunike said. “I remember everything was slowing down in my mind, I saw the quarterback was keeping the ball and I just said ‘go.’”
Duke held the nation’s No. 8 rushing attack, which entered the game averaging 294 yards per game, in check and then-some. Anunike said even though the looks are slightly different, the preparation that carried over from the Georgia Tech game helped. Navy ended the day with 230 yards on the ground, but fumbled twice and with the exception of one big play – a 47-yarder that set up their only score - was held to minimum gains.
Defensively, the Blue Devils played great Saturday, but remember that it is their mulligan game against an option team. They may want a mulligan against a team that throws it around like Pittsburgh did a few weeks back.
On third down, Duke went to half converting 7 of 9 and ended the day 10-for-16. They held a 24-18 edge in first downs. Anthony Boone, who got his first action in four games, went 32-for-39 for a career high 233 yards and three scores.
It is no question – to even the untrained eye – that the offense was much more smooth and in rhythm with Boone under center. That is no knock on Brandon Connette who was more than serviceable as a back-up, but Cutcliffe said it himself, “Anthony earned that spot in camp.”
A balanced attack also helps. Duke ran 37 running plays Saturday to 39 passing plays. The yards-gained was also very close to 2-to-1. That is as balanced as it gets – especially with four running backs. Getting better in that department: Shaquille Powell scored his first career touchdown Saturday and Jela Duncan didn’t even see the field until the second half.
What lies ahead are six shots at two wins - at Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina; home for NC State and Miami. All the games are in the ACC and four are in the state of North Carolina. Should they get the two, history awaits them.
“It means a lot to come out and perform, but at the same time it doesn’t mean anything,” said Duke defensive back Jeremy Cash, who hauled in his second interception of the year Saturday. “We are still trying to become the first team in Duke history to go to back-to-back bowls.”
“It’s a great feeling right now,” Anunike said. “We don’t want just two more wins though, we want them all.”
Should they not get two, well, let's just wa