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October 25, 2006Duke's long awaited first win nearly came last week in a 20-15 loss to Miami.
After falling behind 17-0, the Blue Devils played what Ted Roof called the best half of Duke football in his tenure.
Building on that second half comeback is task at hand this week as Duke looks for the victory its fans are craving.
Here are the 11 key Blue Devils to watch this week as the Commodores come to town.
Week 8 HOT 11
Jomar Wright-It had been since week two that Wright had made more than two catches in a game, but the junior wide receiver broke out in a big way against Miami last week. He may have had a costly second quarter fumble, but everything else about his performance against the Hurricanes was great. 10 catches, 176 yards, including a couple of catches in excess of 35 yards. Vanderbilt's pass defense has only yielded 162 yards per game this season, but Duke can certainly feel better about its chances through the air this weekend after Wright's huge performance last week.
John Talley-For the third straight game and the fourth time in five games, Talley recorded an interception last week. It's not so much just the interceptions that have been so impressive, it's when they have come. Talley's third quarter interception at Alabama gave Duke a chance to take the lead, both of his picks in the FSU game allowed Duke to cling to a little bit of hope of making a comeback, and last week's second half interception against Miami kept the Hurricanes from possibly extending their second half lead to 22 points. Duke would love another big play from its best defensive playmaker against Vandy.
Thaddeus Lewis-Lewis threw four interceptions against Miami, but it's not the turnovers that fans remember from last week. Rather, the enduring image is Lewis leading a valiant fourth quarter comeback and directing a suddenly potent Duke offense. Developing week to week consistency is the next challenge for the freshman quarterback, who has been spectacular at times but still somewhat erratic and unpredictable at other times. Lewis has thrown for more than 250 yards in each of the last two games and has thrown a touchdown pass in three straight games.
Mike Tauiliili-Duke's sophomore linebacker hasn't been quite as productive in recent weeks, perhaps due in part to the absence of Eli Nichols at nose guard over the last three games. Dating back to the Virginia game, Tauiliili has had just four solo tackles, but we still can't bring ourselves to remove the middle linebacker from this list. His presence is crucial to the overall scheme and his leadership skills and knowledge add a lot of stability to what has been a pretty solid Duke front seven.
Jabari Marshall-Marshall didn't have as many opportunities in the kick return game last week, but that's good because it means Miami wasn't kicking off too often. Marshall didn't need a lot of returns to be effective though. He had two kickoff returns for a 24-yard average. One would be hard pressed to recall a return by Marshall that was anything but productive. The Blue Devils haven't had that type of consistency from any other area of the kicking game.
Jeramy Edwards-Edwards seems to appear on an every other week basis. That's because every time we remove him, he plays a great game the following week. The senior linebacker had his second 10 tackle game of the season against Miami, including 2.5 tackles for loss. One of those came on Miami's final possession when Duke had to have a defensive stand to get the ball back for its offense. Edwards was a key part of the defensive effort that stifled the Hurricanes in the second half. He and the rest of Duke's front seven will face a Vanderbilt running game that has averaged nearly 150 yards per game, so he will need another good week against another good offense.
Raphael Chestnut-The sophomore wideout made the first touchdown catch of his career last week against Miami, and it was a good one. Chestnut made a grab in the end zone despite tight coverage to pull Duke within 11 points at 20-9 early in the fourth quarter. After a fast start in Duke's first four games, Chestnut had quieted a bit in the two games prior to last week. He came back strong against Miami though, with four catches for 38 yards including the touchdown.
Norman Gee-The redshirt freshman earns a spot on the list this week because of his team first attitude and his ability to produce in a pinch for the Duke offense last week. After making a move to defense from tight end in preseason, Gee was pressed into duty on the offensive side of the ball again last week due to an injury to Nick Stefanow. He not only played but he produced, with a pair of receptions for 18 yards. He also played snaps on the defensive side of the ball and recorded a pair of tackles. It was a throwback type performance for a tough young player.
Requan Boyette-Boyette's fourth quarter touchdown run last week sent Wallace Wade Stadium into the type of frenzy unseen in quite some time. He ran for 33 yards on seven carries, teaming with Justin Boyle to give Duke a decent ground threat against Miami's talented defensive front. It was the touchdown run that remains vivid in everyone's memory though. He bounced off contact and refused to be denied until he had hit paydirt. It was the type of play that exemplified the attitude Ted Roof has worked so hard to instill in the Duke program.
Casey Camero-The big defensive tackle made a couple of key plays last week, including 1.5 tackles for loss. His usual leadership skills are even more important with his senior sidekick Nichols missing. Camero's numbers are down this year from last season, but he's been a more effective overall player. The main difference is he hasn't been forced to play as many snaps and there are more playmakers surrounding him in the front seven.
Codey Lowe-There has always been a fire burning inside Lowe, but a healthy fifth year has finally allowed it to shine for a consistent period of time. Lowe had third straight standout game against Miami, recording another eight tackles, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback sack in the near upset. The last three games for Lowe: 18 tackles, seven TFLs, and three sacks. That's flat out making plays and there's no reason to think Lowe won't continue that trend this week against the Commodores.
Moved in: Wright, Edwards, Chestnut, Gee, Boyette
Dropped out: Eron Riley, Vince Oghobaase, Leon Wright, Ronnie Drummer, Justin Boyle
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