In the final home game of the season for Clemson, the Tigers host the suprising Duke Blue Devils Saturday at Death Valley. A win for Clemson will push the Tigers (4-4) above the .500 mark for the first time this year and firmly position the team as a bowl contender. Duke’s last win in Death Valley came in 1980, when new head coach Carl Franks was a sophomore running back for the Blue Devils.
QUARTERBACKS- Duke quarterback Spencer Romine has been hot as of late. Last week against Maryland, the 6-3 junior lit up the Terrapins for 404-yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions on 27-42 passing. Things will get a bit tougher for Romine against the Tiger’s ACC-leading pass defense, especially since the Blue Devils top running back, sophomore B.J. Hill, will be out with a knee injury. For the Tigers, look for Brandon Streeter to step back into the starting quarterback position and ignite the slumbering Clemson offense in his final game at Death Valley.
RUNNING BACKS- Duke’s #8-rated ACC run defense could allow Travis Zachery to break out of a two game slump. Zachery has averaged only 3.1-yards per carry and 60.5-yards in games against Florida State and Wake Forest. With Hill out, the Blue Devils will rely on Latavious Wilks and Duane Epperson to fuel Duke’s anemic running attack, already ranked last in the ACC with a 75-yard per game average.
CLEMSON RECEIVERS VS. DUKE DEFENSIVE BACKS- The Tiger receiving trio of Rod Gardner, Mal Lawyer, and Brian Wofford is one of the league’s best, while Duke’s secondary is one of the league’s worst. If the 6-3 Gardner gets paired up against 5-9 cornerback Ronnie Hamilton, then watch out for the alley-oop.
DUKE RECEIVERS VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY- Duke boasts a star in wide receiver Scottie Montgomery. The elusive senior leads the Blue Devils with 38 receptions, with a 16.3-yard per catch average and four touchdowns. Junior Richmond Flowers and sophomore Ben Erdljac provide Romine with capable second and third options in Duke’s explosive passing offense. The Tiger secondary has faced the league’s best in Florida State and held their own. Regardless, the Blue Devils will be a challenge, but Carswell, Polite, Ardley and company should be up to the task.
DUKE OFFENSIVE LINE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSIVE LINE- Despite their struggles with the running game, Duke’s offensive line has been fairly effective at protecting Blue Devil quarterbacks, giving up a respectable 20 sacks on the season. Without much of a running threat to worry about, the Tiger defensive line should be able to set their sites almost exclusively on the quarterback. With adequate pressure on Romine, Clemson’s defense could potentially dominate.
CLEMSON OFFENSIVE LINE VS. DUKE DEFENSIVE LINE- Duke’s Chris Combs is the real deal. The 6-6, 275-pound senior has 13 tackles for loss and nine quarterback pressures despite being the chief focus of opponent blocking schemes. Aside from Combs, the Devils have been relatively ineffective up front at stopping the run. The Tigers will have an excellent opportunity at establishing the ground game on Saturday and if they are successful, the Clemson air attack will become even more lethal.
LINEBACKERS- The Tigers lead the ACC in sacks per game largely due to the play of the team’s linebacking corps. Keith Adams and friends could have a big day applying pressure to Romine with no significant running threat to deal with. The Blue Devils are led at linebacker by sophomore Todd DeLamielleure, son of former NFL great and current Duke Assistant Joe DeLamielleure. Duke’s linebackers are tough and smart, but their lack of speed and athleticism ultimately hurts them.
SPECIAL TEAMS- The Tiger special teams were impressive last week against Wake Forest. In particular, Ryan Romano’s punting has improved tremendously, with the junior averaging over 44-yards per kick in his last two games. Duke has arguably the league’s best kicking duo in place kicker Sims Lenhardt and punter Brian Morton. Lenhardt is 14-18 on the year, including 7-8 from 40+ yards, while Morton has averages almost 42-yards per punt. While Clemson’s special teams have shown improvement, Duke’s greatest strength could lie in their kicking game.
COACHING- Despite the Blue Devils’ 2-6 record, Carl Franks should be credited for making the most of Duke’s limited talent. The Blue Devils have been competitive in all but two of their losses while their offense has continued to gel. Unfortunately for Franks, the Blue Devils’ pass-happy offense plays right into the Clemson defense’s strengths. While Reggie Herring’s defense has had problems against the run, the Tigers have been brilliant against the pass, leading the ACC in both pass defense as well as sacks. Duke’s lack of defensive athleticism will likely allow Rich Rodriguez’ offense to explode. In short, Franks is a good coach, but you can’t win the Daytona 500 in a Pinto.
PREDICTION- With Streeter strapped in at quarterback, the Tiger offense will kick into high gear. Travis Zachery should be able to break loose for big day and the Clemson receivers will find lots of green as the offense heats up. Meanwhile, if the Tiger defense gets to Romine, defensive backs Ardley, Carswell, and Polite will be demons in the secondary. Duke isn’t as bad as their record indicates, but the Devil’s will be overmatched on Saturday.
Clemson- 38 Duke- 13
More on Duke vs. Clemson
Duke Blue Devils, 2-6, 2-3
at Clemson Tigers, 4-4, 4-2
Memorial Stadium, 81,474
THE GAME: The 44th meeting between these two teams find the Blue Devils looking for their second straight win of the season against a Clemson team coming off a 12-3 win over Wake Forest ... the Tigers have won 15 of the last 18 meetings and lead the rivalry 27-15-1, including a 14-4-1 mark in "Death Valley" ... four of the last six games have been decided by seven points or less while a fifth was a 29-20 overtime win by the Tigers in 1997.
LAST YEAR: B.J. Hill ran for 86 yards and one TD and Letavious Wilks rushed for 39 yards and two scores as Duke won 28-23 in Durham ... Clemson QB Brandon Streeter passed for 231 yards and two TDs.
THE COACHES: Carl Franks is 2-6 in his first year with the Blue Devils ... Tommy Bowden is 4-4 in his first year at Clemson and 22-8 in three years overall.
GAME NOTES: In his four starts in 1999, Clemson QB Woodrow Dantzler has averaged 209.8 yards passing and 290.5 yards per game in total offense while Duke's Spencer Romine, after throwing for a career-high 404 yards against Maryland, is now averaging 288.0 yards passing in his five starts this season ... after averaging 108.3 yards rushing in the three prior games, the Blue Devils were limited to a minus five yards rushing in the win over Maryland ... Duke is tied with Florida State for the fewest fumbles lost (4) in the ACC ... the Blue Devils have averaged 41.4 passes attempted per game while the Tigers are averaging 34.4 per outing ...the Blue Devils are looking for their first three-win ACC season since 1995 and only the second in the 1990's ... with a victory, Duke's Carl Franks would become only the second coach in Blue Devil annals to win his first three ACC road games ... Duke, which has averaged to 384.5 yards passing over the last four games will go up against a Clemson defense that leads the ACC and is 16th nationally in passing efficiency defense ... Clemson's Rod Gardner (55-704) and Brian Wofford (43-542) have combined for 98 receptions, 1,246 receiving yards and four TDs while Duke's Scottie Montgomery (38-621) and Richmond Flowers (33-532) have totaled 71 catches, 1,153 yards and eight scores.
Duke off (NCAA rank) CU def
20.3 (93) Points (25) 20.4
329.1 (83) Total Yards (41) 340.6
65.5 (114) Rushing (56) 145.0
263.6 (24) Passing (16) *101.2
CU off Duke def
23.0 (75) Points (88) 29.0
378.6 (53) Total Yards (102) 418.1
135.1. (72) Rushing (94) 188.3
243.5 (31) Passing (68) *123.5