After beating UNC, the Blue Devils improved to 4-0 and looked like a dark-horse candidate for the Coastal division. All four wins were by double-digits and Duke’s offense was humming, averaging 40 points per game. Then came September 29th, a home match, under the lights on a Friday, against fellow undefeated ACC foe, Miami.
The first quarter looked promising, Duke’s defense shut down Rozier, the running game remained consistent and they moved the ball into Miami territory twice. But every time Duke reached the red-zone, the drive stalled miserably. Twice they settled for field goals, and the other trip resulted in a sack on 4th and 1. On 3rd down, converting seemed nearly impossible and they only did so five out of 19 attempts. Miami went on to roll Duke, 31-6.
In the post-game press conference, David Cutcliffe took full responsibility. “That’s got to be on me. I’ve got to help our players. I’ve got to find out what the circumstances are. We’re going to take a long hard look at that and we will be better.”
However, Duke hasn’t gotten better. Since the loss to Miami, Duke has lost every game and is only averaging 13 points per contest. Again, prior to Miami = 40 points. After Miami = 13 points.
Personally, I don’t believe Cutcliffe needed to take the blame. He has a history of success and frankly, is the only reason Duke has gone from rejoicing after a good half against VMI to complaining about a bad bowl game.
Instead of blaming the Duke head coach, I’m going to blame Daniel Jones. Since that Miami game, he just simply has not been the same quarterback.
Here’s his stat line before the disaster on September 29th:
Completion %: 62
Passing yards per game: 226
TD / INT: 5 TD’s / 1 INT
Completion %: 46
Passing yards per game: 170
TD / INT: 3 TD’s / 4 INT’s
That includes games against FSU and PITT, who could both miss bowls. Both of those games were at home, and Jones was given opportunities late, but failed to convert. If this trend continues, the Blue Devils could from Coastal division dark-horse, to missing a bowl and a second consecutive 4-8 season.
Duke needs to win this weekend, and not just win, Daniel Jones needs to play like a star. This five-game losing streak isn’t on the defense, only Miami has scored more than 30 points against the Blue Devils, and I would blame at least one of those touchdowns on Duke’s offense not moving the ball.
Army comes into this game with a 7-2 record. They’ve only allowed one team to score 30 or more points; Ohio State. Last week, they completely shut down Air Force and won 21-0. These teams met in early in October last year, and Duke won. Yet, it was Duke’s defense that won the day, only allowing Army to score six points. Daniel Jones completed just seven passes, for 41 yards and threw a touch down. Time after time, he was bailed out by the defense.
The defense has continued to play well this year, he has good running backs, he has talented receivers, his offensive line is mostly healthy and he has a quarterback guru for a coach. At some point in his career, he has to own up to his performance; no more excuses. This weekend is when Daniel Jones will define his career as either a dud or the future of the program.