Duke starting quarterback Sean Renfree spent most of the first half throwing swing passes instead of looking downfield. CREDIT: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
Sunday reflections on Duke's 50-13 loss at Stanford took the form of a Monday newspaper story this week. With minimal more ado, a triaged list of concerns and issues for the Blue Devils. Naturally, the most pressing is at the top.
And yes, Nos. 1 and 2 cover pretty much the entire offense. Echoing that thought, head coach David Cutcliffe called the first half the worst offensive performance Duke has turned in during his five-year tenure.
1. The passing game
The most serious problem is also the most unexpected. With fifth-year senior and three-year starter Sean Renfree under center, and one of the ACC’s most prolific receivers in conference history, Conner Vernon, in the fold, the passing attack figured to be one of Duke’s strengths. But the Blue Devils seemed reluctant to attempt anything other than a swing pass to either the right or left flat in the first half against Stanford, trying the move 13 times. Only two of those went for more than five yards, as the Cardinal linebackers quickly figured out the game plan and used their speed to swarm the receiver as soon as he caught the ball.
“We stuck to the game plan,” said backup quarterback Anthony Boone, who relieved Renfree in the third quarter. “We didn’t change the game plan, but the defense did a really good job executing their twists and getting after their pass rushes, disrupting our backfield and our run game.”