Duke Football: Blue Devils Can Learn a Lot From Getting Dissected by Alabama

Mike KlineAnalyst ISeptember 20, 2010

Duke got a taste of the big time against No.1 Alabama and it wasn't pretty.
Duke got a taste of the big time against No.1 Alabama and it wasn't pretty.Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

So it wasn't the prettiest game in Duke football history but there is a lot that Duke fans can take away from the 62-13 shellacking handed to the Blue Devils by Alabama.

First of all no one expected the Blue Devils to win, so the lopsided score should come as no surprise. That being said there is a lot about the game that is lost in a 49 point loss.

The Blue Devils defense despite giving up 55 points, not including the PATs, showed some signs of improvement. At times the Duke defensive backs were right in the hip pockets of Alabama's receivers.

The problem was that Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy made some incredibly precise throws negating what was otherwise good coverage.

Duke's defensive front was also able to get some pressure on McElroy, but they could not compete upfront with the strength and size of the Tide's O-Line. That translated to Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram having their way on the ground.

The Blue Devils were more disappointing on offense despite being the first team to score a touchdown on Alabama. Duke's 13 points actually is more than the combined scores of the Tide's first two opponents and one was a ranked Penn State team.

Still quarterback Sean Renfree appeared anxious in the pocket overthrowing his receivers when they weren't dropping the ball. Renfree didn't get too much pressure but still looked rushed in the pocket.

His happy feet caused him to miss several open receivers and with the exception of a couple drives, the Duke offense appeared flat.

The one bright spot was the discovery of a new weapon in running back Josh Snead. Snead rushed for 83 yards on only 14 carries for a 5.0 yard per carry average. Not bad for a true freshman who doesn't weigh 200lbs soaking  wet.

Snead showed a lot of explosive quickness and toughness even running between the tackles on a few plays. Combing his running attack with current starter Desmond Scott who rushed for 39 yards on only nine carries and Duke appears to be taking a step toward balance on offense.

Duke's sudden discovery of a running game should ultimately make the Duke offense which relied almost entirely on the passing game last year, better. Duke is averaging more than 100 yards per game, a marked improvement from the mere 68 yards its averaged in 2009.

David Cutcliffe and Duke fans alike should be pleased with that stat alone,

Another positive from the Alabama game was the turnout and even early arrival of Duke students who have historically not made the pilgrimage from the student Tailgate to Wallace Wade. Perhaps it was the national media, or the No.1 team in the country that peaked their interest but Duke students showed and made a brief but respectable showing.

The kind of energy they bring is necessary for all Duke games. Sadly Duke's next opponent isn't nearly as high profile. For the Blue Devils to continue to progress they will need not only the talent Cutcliffe is amassing on the field but the support of the students as well.

For a brief part of the game on Saturday, it was there. It would be great for the program to see that every week.

Moving forward Duke must continue to show the type of improvement that it showed against Alabama and hopefully it will translate into more transparent growth.

Cutcliffe was not pleased with the Blue Devils loss and neither should the fans regardless of opponent, but understanding that the program is a work in progress should hopeful help the patience of the fan base and the coaching staff.

Duke has come a long way in Cutcliffe's nearly 2 and a half years. Saturday taught everyone that Duke football still has a long way to go, but there are clear signs they are closer than they have been in a very long time.