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Duke vs. Troy: what worked, what needs work and what's next

Brandon Connette continues to settle in as Duke's quarterback. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Duke (3-2)

Beat Troy 38-31

Game story
Game notes
Sidebar on Josh Snead, courtesy of Jack Daly

What worked

For the third consecutive game, quarterback Brandon Connette showed significant improvement and comfort in his role as the starter. After accounting for six touchdowns last week, he added another five Saturday, three through the air and two on the ground. He finished 20-of-28 (71.4 percent) for a career-high 324 passing yards and added 55 rushing yards on 17 carries.

Postgame: Thoughts from Duke's 38-14 loss to Georgia Tech


Kelby Brown was all over the field for Duke, leading the team in tackles. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

DURHAM—A few thoughts that didn't make the game story from Duke's 38-14 loss to Georgia Tech:

•••Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee didn’t complete many passes—eight of the 16 he attempted—but he collected 125 yards on those passes, an average of 15.6 yards per catch (the longest went for 24 yards).

After the game, both head coach David Cutcliffe and linebacker Kelby Brown said it was the wheel route that gave the Blue Devils’ defense issues. For that route, a running back will run out of the backfield and towards the sideline, as if he is looking for a quick flare or swing pass. Instead, he’ll cut upfield along the sideline. Wide receivers can run it, too.

Top 10 most important players for 2013 Duke football: No. 8, Will Monday

Will Monday, shown here against FIU, will help Duke's young secondary tremendously if he can consistently pin opponents deep in their own territory. Credit: CHRIS SEWARD

With football season just around the corner (practice starts Aug. 5), it’s time to turn some focus to the gridiron and what lies ahead for the 2013 Blue Devils. There are two major goals that need to be checked off the list to further separate Duke’s present and future from it’s disastrous past: clinch the program’s first winning season since 1994 and make back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time…ever.

To do that, Duke will need some players to step into new roles and others to take on larger ones. With that in mind, here’s a look at the 10 most important players for the upcoming season. Be sure to check back daily for the unveiling of the full list.

No. 8: Punter Will Monday

Duke football postseason awards

Conner Vernon is one of many Blue Devils to pick up a few postseason awards. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

A one-stop rundown of all the Duke postseason awards:

CB Ross Cockrell—honorable mention All-American (Sports Illustrated), first-team coaches' All-ACC team, first-team coaches' All-ACC team, first team All-ACC

Ross Martin—honorable mention All-American (Sports Illustrated), Freshman All-American (Sporting News, CBSCollegeSports.com), honorable mention coaches All-ACC team, honorable mention All-ACC

QB Sean Renfree—Jim Tatum Award (top senior ACC football senior-athlete),  National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, Pop Warner National College Football Award, AFCA’s Good Works Team, Senior CLASS Award finalist, East West Shrine Game participant

David Cutcliffe chosen ACC Coach of the Year by his peers

 

David Cutcliffe was voted ACC Coach of the Year by the other league coaches. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Mirroring the media's selection one week ago, the ACC coaches voted Duke's David Cutcliffe Coach of the Year. Cutcliffe received seven of 12 possible votes.

Cutcliffe, in his fifth year at Duke, took over a program with 10 total wins in the eight seasons before he arrived. Since he came to Durham prior to the 2008 season, Duke is 21-39 (.350) and, this year, competed for the ACC Coastal Division title until the penultimate week of the regular season, finishing 6-6 and earning a berth in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati. 

Cornerback Ross Cockrell, punter Will Monday and wide receiver voted for an All-ACC football team, as well as Players of the Year, Rookies of the Year and a Coach of the Year award. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players and cast ballots for two points for first-team and one point for second-team selections. were also named first-team all-ACC by the coaches. Vernon was one of three players chosen for the first team that the media picked for the second-team. 

Duke CB Ross Cockrell and P Will Monday earn first-team all-ACC honors

 

Duke punter Will Monday was one of two Blue Devils to receive first-team all-ACC honors. Credit: CHRIS SEWARD

For the first time since 2003, Duke had two players selected for the first-team all-ACC squad. Overall, nine Blue Devils received all-ACC honors

CB Ross Cockrell and P Will Monday both made the first team. Cockrell, a redshirt junior and co-captain, leads the ACC with five interceptions, and he ranks third in total passes defended (17). In 12 games, he has amassed 63 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, and 12 pass breakups. Monday, a redshirt freshman, leads the ACC and ranks 14th nationally in punting average at 44.12 yards per punt. 

Here are two feature stories from earlier in the year, one on Cockrell and the other on Monday

For the third year in a row, Duke WR Conner Vernon was a second-team all-ACC selection. This year, he has caught a team-best (and school single-season record) 75 passes for 955 yards and seven touchdowns. Earlier this season, Vernon became the ACC’s all-time leader in both pass receptions and receiving yardage with 273 catches for 3,630 yards. In 2009, Vernon was on the freshmen all-ACC team. 

Vernon received 51 votes this year—two fewer than Boston College, WR Alex Amidon, who made the first team ahead of him. Amidon has 78 catches for 1,210 yards on the year. 

Rewind: Duke at Florida State

 

Duke S Walt Canty (4) can only watch as FSU punt returner Tyler Hunter goes 75 yards for the score. Credit: STEPHEN M. DOWELL, Orlando Sentinel

Duke (6-3, 3-2 in the ACC)

Lost to FSU 48-7

The epigraph: "I told our team it was not a product of their preparation. We have a very committed team. We practiced well. It was not a product of we’re bowl-eligible, now we’re going to shut down. That’s not the case. It is a product of playing a very good team. We didn’t respond to that very good team." —head coach David Cutcliffe

What worked: Big-picture wise, not much. But when coach David Cutcliffe went back and reviewed film, there were individual plays that Duke did win.

A few notable numbers: The Seminoles entered the game with seven fumbles on the entire season, but they put the ball on the ground four times against Duke, including three times in the third quarter. The Blue Devils did recover all four loose balls.

A quick primer in punting mechanics

 

Will Monday, who only has punted in three college games, is already among the best in the nation. Credit: CHRIS SEWARD

I spent a few minutes on Monday with Duke punter Will Monday, who ranks 10th in the nation with an average of 45.63 yards per punt. He is also the only freshman ranked in the top 40. More fun facts in the story here.

Anyway, at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Monday is a decent-sized guy. And when it comes to punters, size does matter, according to Jamie Kohl, a kicking coach that has worked with Monday since high school.

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