It definitely hasn't been the kind of start that David Cutcliffe and the Duke faithful had hoped for to begin the 2010 season.
The Blue Devils (1-2, 0-1 ACC) have dropped their last two games, one of which could have easily been a victory. In those loses, the Duke defense has given up an average of 58 points per game.
Of course, it doesn't help when you play the nation's No. 1 ranked team and defending national champions.
Still, Duke has at least improved on one facet of its game when compared to last season—the running game.
The Blue Devils ranked dead last out of 120 FBS schools in rushing in 2009. Duke was only able to muster 68 yards per game in 2009.
Compare that with the first three games of 2010 and there is no comparison: The Blue Devils are averaging about 156 yards per game, nearly 100 yards more than their 2009 average.
The biggest reason is the development of sophomore running back Desmond Scott. The Durham Hillside prospect was a nationally ranked multi-purpose back coming out of high school. He showed glimpses of his potential last season and led the Duke team in rushing, but that was with a combined total of less than 300 yards for the season.
So far this year, Scott is averaging 79 yards per game with an impressive 6.7 yards per rush and two touchdowns. Granted, they aren't Heisman numbers, but it is a marked improvement over last season.
Cutcliffe has to be pleased that the attention to improving the running game is starting to pay dividends.
During the Alabama game last Saturday, when seemingly everything went wrong in a 49-point beating at the hands of the champs, Duke fans found at least one silver lining: The performance of true freshman running back Josh Snead was perhaps the brightest spot on a dark day.
Snead, the speedy but sparingly used back, saw the most carries of his career against the Crimson Tide—and he showed exactly why Cutcliffe has him on the field.
Snead rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries for a 5.9 yards per carry average—that isn't bad for a true freshman against the best team in college football.
He was able to hit holes, and at times, very small holes quickly. He was able to bounce plays to the outside as well, taking advantage of his speed.
Scott didn't carry as much against Alabama, but surely if Snead can post those numbers against an Alabama defense that until Saturday hadn't given up a touchdown in 2010, he can do it again.
Combine his rising talents with those of Scott's, and Duke has a pretty attractive rushing attack.
There wasn't much to smile about against Alabama, but Snead gave Duke fans and coaches a small 5'9", 180-lb. reason to be a little more optimistic about the rest of the year.
With the combined efforts of Snead and Scott, Duke's future opponents can't just focus on the Blue Devils' passing game, but will now have to spend some time preparing for Duke's two backs, who could cause some major problems for opposing defenses.
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