For the majority of the spring, Duke’s offensive personnel decisions were peculiar.
Most of this anxiety stems from the 2021 season. At the conclusion of the season, the staff admitted they couldn’t get comfortable and find their rhythm. The obvious problem was they never let Sowers be Sowers.
Heading into 2022, the concern was did they learn their lesson?
Why was Canadian sniper Dyson Williams not starting?
Why was Sean Lulley, a quarterback who could take some playmaking load off of O’Neill and make the offensive more dynamic, not starting?
Why was senior Griffin Catlett getting first half reps against UNC in a de facto elimination game when he only had three points in his entire career?
What was the best version of Nakeie Montgomery?
Were they really unsure of how to handle O’Neill being shut off by UNC?
Would you be surprised to learn that only six Blue Devils scored in double digits?
Again, let’s ask, did they learn their lesson?
O’Neill finished the season with 53 goals on 163 shots and 21 assists. By comparison, the 2021 team, which also played seventeen games, had three players with 97+ shots. O’Neill (123), Robertson (102), and Sowers (97). Dyson Williams took the second most shots with 78. In that vein, it feels like Duke was willing to go down with O’Neill swinging despite not making the best decisions with regard to his supporting cast.
The aforementioned Williams scored 43 goals on 78 shots but only started 13 games. He appeared in 17. Asking him to run in from the midfield was a waste of his energy and likely put unnecessary stress on the defense.
Of course, Williams subbing off in transition didn’t happen every possession. Nor was he trapped playing settled six on six.
In each one of Duke’s six losses, the defense was incredibly porous for either an entire half, during crunch time, or both.
Jacksonville 14 Duke 12
They gave up 14 goals to Jacksonsville at home because the Dolphins had a Tufts transfer and they won 50% of the faceoffs because Jake Naso didn’t dress?
Penn 14 Duke 13 Overtime
The Quakers score 4 of the final 5 goals in the 4th quarter including the game tying goal with 0:02 on the clock.
Loyola 12 Duke 10
The Greyhounds took a 10-2 lead into halftime.
Syracuse 14 Duke 10
Tucker Dordevic was allowed to take 22 shots. Cuse had an 8-4 halftime lead and finished the fourth quarter on a three goal run.
Notre Dame 16 Duke 15
Duke trailed 11-8 at halftime.
Notre Dame 16 Duke 14
Duke was out scored 9-3 in the second half. The game ended on a six goal Irish run. Defensive coordinator Ron Caputo did not travel with the team. Former volunteer assistant coach Ned Crotty took his place.
Following the Syracuse loss, the team must have felt like every game was a must win scenario. The offense scored 80 goals at 16 goals per game over the final five games of the regular season.
Duke was 3-2 during that stretch.
Meanwhile, Harvard went 2-3 including a 7-6 win over Colgate.
Ohio State, the third best team in the Big 10, finished the season on a 3-2 run.
A season after wasting Michael Sowers’ bonus year, it was ultimately the defense that betrayed Duke.