Back Duke Making a Statement on Defense

Back To ACC

Duke Making a Statement on Defense

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

Featuring a quarterback like junior Daniel Jones, this is a program with talent all over the field. That said, Duke is winning with defense.

Two weeks into the college football season, Duke has one of the most impressive resumes in the country. At 2-0, the Blue Devils have convincing wins over Army and Northwestern, a pair of teams who each won ten games a year ago. Duke won those pairings by a combined 34 points, including beating the Wildcats 21-7 on the road on Saturday. David Cutcliffe's Blue Devils, already, have positioned themselves as a top contender in the ACC Coastal Division and a team to watch nationally. 

Though Cutcliffe is known as an offensive guru, and his latest unit has been impressive, Duke's defense has been the story early on, a notable continuation from last fall. The Blue Devils have currently allowed just 21 points, the program's lowest total against two FBS foes to start the season since 1971. In the opener, Duke held Army to 168 rushing yards, its fewest tally going back to early November of 2016. The last time Northwestern scored less than the seven points it compiled against the Blue Devils was the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day 2016.

This past weekend, Duke did what good defenses do. The Blue Devils were at their best when it mattered most, as the Wildcats were just 1-of-5 on fourth downs, and the unit forced two key turnovers. Duke allowed merely five yards per pass attempt and only 3.1 yards per rushing try. After a Northwestern touchdown on the opening drive of the afternoon, the Blue Devils promptly adjusted, responded and did not give up another point all game. Correspondingly, the nation's longest power five winning-streak just ended.

Duke is led by star linebacker Joe Giles-Harris, a talent Southern Pigskin editor Jim Johnson called the best at his position in all of college football in the summer. Recent efforts have been team-wide. In addition to Giles-Harris' 17 total tackles to date, linebacker Ben Humphreys and safety Dylan Singleton both have 21. End Victor Dimukeje has 1.5 sacks, while safeties Michael Carter II and Marquis Waters have an interception and a fumble recovery a piece. Even without injuried All-ACC corner Mark Gilbert, there are multiple standouts across the depth chart. 

Co-coordinators Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri have implemented a scheme that is clearly resonating.

Last year, the Blue Devils ranked third in the ACC in scoring defense, ahead of the likes of Miami and Florida State, surrendering just 20.2 points per game. Duke, two games into this season, are down to 10.5.

The Blue Devils, impressively, have not allowed an opponent to score more than 24 points in a single game in their last six outings overall. Forget momentum, a monster appears to be building. Featuring an accomplished quarterback like junior Daniel Jones, this is a program with talent all over the field. That said, Duke is winning with defense.

With an upcoming game at Baylor and a critically-important ACC opener with Virginia Tech in two weeks, the Blue Devils will continue to have opportunities to prove themselves on the big stage. So far, Duke has played like a top 25 team. Most, dating back to a 2013 conference championship game appearance, are aware of the Blue Devils' recent rise and many, see past successes on offense, know Cutcliffe's resume quite well. This Duke defense is now making its introduction.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports