Duke's Conner Vernon, Brandon Connette and Sean Renfree watch the final plays of the Blue Devils' 56-20 loss to Clemson. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Duke (6-4, 3-3 in the ACC)
Lost to Clemson 56-20
Epigraph: “We were there, but they have just made the plays. That’s what it came down to.” —Duke CB Lee Butler
What worked: Duke did find holes in the Clemson secondary early in the game. Sean Renfree completed three passes for at least 10 yards on Duke’s first drive, which ended with a 46-yard field goal from Ross Martin. Renfree found Jamison Crowder for a 77-yard touchdown reception on the Blue Devils’ second drive, which was the longest pass of the fifth-year senior’s career. Renfree also found Crowder for a 37-yard completion on the first play of the second quarter, and he finished with 189 passing yards in the first half, going 13-of-22. Of course, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd had 314 passing yards in that same span.
What needs work: Duke’s defense had even fewer answers for Clemson than the unit did for Florida State. Anytime a team tops 700 yards (for only the second time in school history), it’s not a good night. The Tigers ended the game with 339 yards rushing and 379 yards passing, season-highs for a Duke opponent in both categories. And, just like Florida State’s EJ Manuel did last week, Clemson’s Boyd completed several deep passes, going 8-for-11 for 285 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions on pass attempts of 21 yards or more. The Blue Devils attempted to play man coverage on the Clemson receivers. It didn’t work.
Back to the turnovers for a second: Duke has forced eight turnovers in the past two games and has zero points to show for them.
“One of the old game axioms is to play for breaks, and when comes your way, score, but we’re not getting points off of turnovers,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “It’s odd, we’ve taken care of the ball and taken the ball away in big numbers, but we’re not doing anything.”
What’s next: After 10 straight weeks of Saturday games, Duke finally has a well deserved—and much needed—open date. The Blue Devils are the last team in the ACC to receive their week away from football.
The epitaph: “We’re not down. We are a bowl team, and we have a lot more games left. We’re not down at all. We are still going to fight.” —Butler