No. 18 Duke takes potent ground game to UConn

no.-18-duke-takes-potent-ground-game-to-uconn

After starting the year with three straight home games, No. 18 Duke will hit the road to face UConn in East Hartford, Conn., on Saturday.

Duke (3-0) moved up this week in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll to its highest ranking since 1994. The Blue Devils are coming off a 38-14 home win over Northwestern, a game that saw Duke score five touchdowns on the ground.

Quarterback Riley Leonard and running back Jordan Waters each had two scores.

The Blue Devils are tied for the nation’s lead — with Texas State — in average rushing touchdowns per game with four. Duke also has been highly disciplined, averaging just 28.3 yards in penalties per game, which is tied for ninth lowest in FBS.

“I thought we ran the ball well last year too, but I think maybe a little bit more efficiently this year,” second-year Duke coach Mike Elko said. “I think we’ve been able to finish runs explosively a little bit more. I think there’s probably a little bit of extra juice in Jordan (Waters) and Jaquez (Moore) right now when they run the football, and I think that’s been really good to see.

Expectations seemed higher for UConn entering this season after the Huskies went to a bowl game last year, but UConn is 0-3 to start the season after falling at home last Saturday to FIU 24-17. On offense, UConn appeared to have some difficulty blocking the Panthers as it allowed nine tackles for loss.

That could continue to be a problem for the Huskies facing a Duke team that has 17 combined tackles for loss this season against Clemson, Lafayette and Northwestern.

“This is going to be one heck of a challenge,” UConn coach Jim Mora Jr. said. “The team we’re facing is arguably the best team we’ve played since I’ve been here, right on a par with Michigan last year.”

If UConn can’t upset Duke, the Huskies will need to win six of their final eight games to be bowl eligible. The Huskies haven’t appeared in back-to-back bowl games since 2009 and 2010.

“I know this isn’t how you want to start a season,” UConn tight end Justin Joly said. “But the way this team’s mentality is and the way we come back from things is something special.”

After catching 18 passes in 12 games last season, Joly is on track to surpass those numbers by a wide margin. He has 11 receptions this year for 109 yards. While Joly is a talented pass-catcher, UConn is still a team powered by its rushing attack, as Devontae Houston and Victor Rosa have combined for 309 yards on the ground this season.

The Blue Devils will be the second of three ACC opponents the Huskies will see this season — UConn lost to North Carolina State 24-14 in Week 1 and will play at Boston College on Oct. 28.

“I think it obviously jumps off the tape how well (UConn) played against (NC State). So I think it quickly gets your attention,” Elko said. “I think it tells you that they’re a lot better team than maybe the record would indicate.”

–Field Level Media

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