Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 36 of 55 SEPT. 26, 2016 37 BY BRYAN DRISKELL DUKE RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE The Blue Devils' rushing attack averaged a respect‑ able 172.5 yards per game during their 1‑1 start, but it has been wildly inconsistent. In their opener against North Carolina Central, the Blue Devils racked up an impressive 308 yards in a 49‑6 victory. A week later in a 24‑14 home loss to Wake Forest, the offense was held to just 61 rushing yards on 25 attempts when sacks are removed. The loss of starting fifth‑year senior quarterback Thomas Sirk over the winter has crippled the Duke rushing attack. Sirk led Duke last season with 803 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. The new starter — redshirt freshman Daniel Jones — has just 34 rushing yards through the first two games. Notre Dame has struggled stopping the run un‑ der defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, allowing 173.0 rushing yards per contest during the first 28 games of his tenure in South Bend. Against Duke, the Irish have a favorable matchup and should control the game. Notre Dame starts more 300‑plus pounders (two) along its defensive line than Duke starts (one) along its offensive line. All told, Duke's offensive line averages just 292 pounds, while the Irish defensive line averages 292.5. Advantage: Notre Dame DUKE PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Despite the loss of Sirk and the graduation of lead‑ ing receiver Max McCaffrey, the Blue Devils threw the ball relatively well in the season's first two games. Duke ranked 36th nationally with 279.5 yards pass‑ ing per game after its first two contests. Jones has 521 yards in his first two starts, with 332 coming against Wake Forest. The Blue Devil quarterbacks completed 63.5 percent of their passes and tossed just one interception in 74 attempts. Weapons are aplenty for Duke, with three different pass catchers hauling in at least nine passes, and 12 different players have caught a pass. Talented sopho‑ mores T.J. Rahming and Johnathan Lloyd were tied for the team lead with 10 receptions apiece. Lloyd hauled in a 55‑yard reception in the opener, and senior Anthony Nash caught a 56‑yard pass against Wake Forest. Outside of those two passes, the starting Duke receivers averaged just 8.4 yards per reception. Notre Dame has struggled with the big play through the early part of the season, allowing four receptions of at least 44 yards in the first two games. If it can limit big plays, Notre Dame should be able to handle Duke's passing attack. Duke gave up six sacks in the first two games, while the Irish defense failed to record a sack. Protecting the quarterback will be key for the Blue Devils, and getting after the quarterback is a major factor for the Irish defense. Advantage: Notre Dame GAME PREVIEW: DUKE On PaPer Sophomore wide receiver T.J. Rahming was tied for first on the Duke team with 10 receptions (for 81 yards) through two games. PHOTO COURTESY DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY

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