Duke Blue Devils Have Talent to Compete in ACC, Need to Keep Working on Three Es

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 5, 2009

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head coach David Cutcliffe of the Duke Blue Devils looks on during the game against the Navy Midshipmen at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 13, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

For the better part of three decades or more, Duke Football simply hasn't had the talent to compete.

One could reasonably argue that in Coach David Cutcliffe's short tenure, he is starting to erase the gap in talent.

The Blue Devils clearly showed signs of that this past Saturday and, despite a tough loss to conference foe Virginia Tech, the Nation's No. 6 team didn't overwhelm Duke.

Usually when Duke meets up with a nationally ranked opponent on the football field, it is typically a case of one of these things not being quite like the other.

However, that isn't the case anymore. Duke has some horses now. Not as many as the best teams in the conference or country, but they are clearly more skilled than years past.

Now that Duke is bringing in the talent it comes down to the Three Es in order for them to start winning regularly: Effort, Execution and Efficiency.

For the most part, the Blue Devils have at least one of those down pat.

The effort has been there all year, even in the heart breaking loss to the FBC's Richmond Spiders and the lop-sided loss to Kansas.

Duke players and coaches alike have shown effort game in and game out. They simply are playing harder than they have since the days of Bill Murray and Wallace Wade.

The problem with this group of Blue Devils is the consistency of execution and the efficiency with which they execute.

Duke has to improve in these areas if they want to move on from close losses in big games to groundbreaking wins.

Right now they are close, but it’s those two little words that are holding them back.

Against the Hokies on Saturday, it was clearly a lack of execution on defense, especially in the defensive backfield that cost the Blue Devils huge chunks of yards, let alone momentum at critical points.

Offensively, execution and efficiency have plagued Duke all year. There inability to run the ball, again probably cost them.

However, let it be known that running back Desmond Scott is the real deal and when healthy he will be a serious player for the Blue Devils for years to come.

But, overall, the offense has lacked consistent efficiency in the passing game all year. Lewis put up good numbers but missed a couple big opportunities with wide-open receivers.

That must improve for Duke to build on the moral victory against Virginia Tech.

Duke can't continue to be happy with the moral victory though. They have to develop an attitude about winning. They have to be so offended by losing that the next opponent had better watch out.

Some teams have that. Duke has it in basketball, but it clearly isn't there yet in football.

This Saturday's matchup will tell us a lot more about this group of Blue Devils. In the past, Duke would typically come into a game after a moral victory and lay an egg.

They can't afford to do that against NC State. The Wolf pack is coming off a tough loss to Wake and will be loaded for bear.

And if Duke is to seriously compete to get to the middle or the pack this year in the ACC; this is a game they must win.

They must execute and be efficient. If they can combine that with the effort they are showing then only good will come of it.