The Duke Blue Devils have won nine games in a season for the first time since 1941. After going 18 years without a bowl game prior to 2012, Duke will be going to back-to-back postseasons in 2013. They are one win against the North Carolina Tar Heels in their regular season finale from winning the Coastal Division title and playing in the ACC title game. All of this football happening at a “basketball-school” like Duke can be attributed to an opportunistic defense led by junior linebacker David Helton.
Helton is leading the ACC in tackles this season as the only defender with 100-plus tackles recorded so far in 2013. His 105 tackles this season, an average of 9.55 per game, include 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack with two pass breakups. He is one of three Duke defenders to rank in the top-10 in tackles among ACC defensive players and has been a major factor in keeping the Blue Devils on the winning track this season.
At times, Duke’s offense can be a bit inconsistent. Quarterback Anthony Boone has a tendency to streak hot and cold in the passing game, but Helton and the Duke defense has stepped up when called on to lead the way to tough victories. In back-to-back games this season against the Virginia Tech Hokies and NC State Wolpack, Boone threw zero touchdowns and seven interceptions. Despite that poor showing, Duke won both games, in no small part to Helton’s 31 total tackles in those contests, including a season-high 19 in Blacksburg against VT.
To become a consistent winner in the ACC, Duke will need to get a more consistent effort out of their team, particularly Boone at quarterback. But when things go south, it’s been a huge boost this season having Helton on the defense to pick up the slack and have the Blue Devils on the verge of a truly historic 2013 season for this program.