I’ve got no breakdowns for you on this one. This game doesn’t really deserve that treatment. Everything about this one is simple, and going deeper is just going to be superfluous. Here is your recap.
6 dropped passes
Duke touchdowns of 83 and 69 yards
If you’ve been reading the game analysis series so far this year at Trinity Road Times, you’ve seen our film breakdowns following each game. I’ve got none of that for you today, because it’s just the same thing it has been all year. This team has been self destructive in a couple key areas since week one, and here now in week seven, it’s the same team. It’s bad at all the same stuff it was bad at weeks ago, even the most ostensibly fixable things, and Saturday was its chef d'oeuvre.
Even in a game where so much went wrong, you still have a chance to earn a different outcome if you just catch the football. That’s how winnable this game was. State had a drop rate of 15% on Saturday night, an astronomically depressing number. Many of these were critical plays too, passes down the field with opportunities to create chunk plays or convert major third downs. Depending on how lenient you are, State is sitting at around 20 dropped passes this season through seven games. That’s horrible.
Defensively, I mean, you know what I’m going to say here. State was eaten up by the play fake and option concepts, just as it has been all year, and Duke used that weakness to find enough explosive plays to win. I said before the game that the team with more explosive plays would win, because there wasn't going to be a lot of sustained offense. That's what happened, and that's why Leonard's absence wasn't going to matter much. Henry Belin can run, and Duke was going to come with a heavy dose of read option, and there was a pretty good chance it would create a few explosives there. It did, and it had four or five total plays of more than 20 yards. I don't believe State had a single one, although it certainly had chances. Duke ended up with touchdowns of 83 and 69 yards. That’s 152 of its 301 yards on two plays. Yet again, an offense that was generally inefficient was able to mask that with a couple of explosive plays, more of which resulted from defensive busts than did not.
The team simply hasn’t gotten any better. It found a more accurate quarterback, but that failed to be a boost on Saturday when State racked up five drops in the first half and constantly got behind the chains with penalties. Once it got behind and found itself in more obvious passing situations, Duke started bringing the heat more and getting to the quarterback, and the game snowballed on the offense from there. The Pack really had a chance to calm this thing down in the first half, but it didn’t execute.
Football can be a really complicated game, but sometimes it’s not. It really wasn’t on Saturday.