Extra point: All-around performance propels Duke football to 3-0


Duke football dominated North Carolina A&T 49-20 to move to 3-0. With three key takeaways, stats and a look ahead, the Blue Zone breaks down everything you need to know about the Blue Devils runaway victory:

Three key takeaways:

1. Quick start

Duke wasted no time Saturday night, starting the game with a 67-yard kick return by last week’s ACC Defensive Back of the Week, junior kick returner Jaylen Stinson. It set up a 38-yard touchdown catch by junior tight end Nicky Dalmolin 15 seconds into the game. The Blue Devils would score on their next offensive possession as well. The defense got involved too, with redshirt junior captain DeWayne Carter scooping up a strip-sack fumble and taking it 35 yards to the house. In the blink of an eye, Duke was up 21-0 only eight minutes into the game. By halftime, the score was 28-6, the game already out of reach. Quick starts have been the key to the Blue Devils’ success, with both sides of the ball playing with a tempo and hunger head coach Mike Elko is surely pleased with.

2. Leonard’s efficiency

It was another stellar night for quarterback Riley Leonard. The sophomore had an efficient stat line, posting 155 passing yards on just 11-of-12 attempts with two passing touchdowns before many of the starters were pulled at the end of the third quarter. The passing game was only one part of Leonard’s performance as he also picked up 66 yards using his legs when needed, highlighted by a beautiful 56-yard touchdown run, his second rushing score of the game. The Fairhope, Ala., native looked comfortable the whole night. Besides an uncharacteristic interception in the second quarter, he was confident with his decisions, getting the ball out fast and into the hands of his receivers. With Leonard playing as well as he is, the Blue Devils continue to roll past opponents through the air and on the ground.

3. Defensive dominance

The Duke defense was dominant, holding North Carolina A&T to just six points in the first half. The defensive line was especially effective as it hounded the Aggies’ quarterbacks, stuffed the running holes and forced two fumbles—including the one Carter returned for a touchdown. The Blue Devils were everywhere, breaking up passes, completing tackles and simply flying to the ball wherever it went. With help from the offense, much of the Duke starting defense was able to come out before the fourth quarter even started.

Three key stats:

1. 56 yards

Leonard’s big night was capped off with a 56-yard scamper to the end zone on a read option—the longest rushing play of the year for the Blue Devils. It was another great night on the ground for Duke. The team rushed 35 times for 222 yards and four touchdowns. A strong ground game opens up the passing game, and Leonard took full advantage of his running backs en route to the team win.

2. Three games

That’s all it took for the Blue Devils to match their win total from last year, and they have done it in exquisite fashion. Coach Elko has the team humming right now, and the fans are feeling it too—over 30,000 were in attendance last night. The Elko era is off to an impressive start; Wallace Wade hasn’t been this loud in years.

3. One point

It was a boring night for redshirt junior punter Porter Wilson whose only punt came at the start of the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, it was a great punt. The ball was downed inside the five-yard line. While not needed much, the special teams unit still deserves recognition. Field position is crucial, and the Duke returners put the offense in great starting positions for their possessions. Additionally, they foiled a fake punt attempt in the third quarter when the Blue Devils were already up 42-6. It truly was an all-around victory.

Looking ahead:

Duke looks to continue its perfect start to the season and finish nonconference play strong in Lawrence, Kan., next week, although it will be no simple challenge. The Jayhawks, like the Blue Devils, have a fresh coaching staff invigorating life into a once-struggling program and have similarly started 3-0. To get to 4-0, Duke should look to have another quick start and establish the run game early, two keys to their success thus far.

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