Many fans were clamoring for running back Curtis Dukes to see the field following last week’s loss to the Ohio Bobcats. This weekend against Virginia, those fans got their wish.
Dukes made his debut late in the first quarter, rushing for five yards and four yards on consecutive carries. He was then pulled for Zack Zwinak, who failed to convert on a third down run. Why was Dukes pulled? I have an idea.
I don’t have an exact count, but I only counted two plays that Dukes was in on that were not handoffs to him. Dukes is a one-dimensional back. He looks natural running the ball, but having Dukes on the field limits what plays Bill O’Brien can call. He is and has been a liability in pass-blocking situations and apparently struggles to catch the ball.
Yesterday, starting running back Derek Day was targeted multiple times, including a 17 yard reception. Zach Zwinak was targeted twice and even fullback Mike Zordich had a ball thrown at him. Dukes, who had more carries than Zwinak and Zordich combined, had zero targets.
While his running ability is a skill that is needed by this Penn State offense, it’s a playbook that demands the running backs to be versatile. Bill Belton’s three catches last week, including the early touchdown are evidence of that. The staff may choose to rest Belton for another week while hosting Navy. If they do, it will be interesting to see what role Dukes plays next week. Dukes finished with 10 carries for just 30 yards but worse, he showed opposing coaches that he is one-dimensional.
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