The defense has a tackling problem
The defense wasn’t great. That shouldn’t stress fans too much. It was the first game. It is not unusual for a defensive unit to be a little rusty at first. There were a few busted coverages. That happens.
The reality is that for most of the game, the defense was doing what it needed to do to win. Unfortunately, the few moments through the first three quarters when the defense broke down was when Duke took advantage.
The primary problem for the defense was bad tackling, and it wasn’t freshmen or second-stringers. It was the main guys we expected to anchor the defense.
Barrett Carter was the guy who should have wrapped up Riley Leonard but didn’t. Nate Wiggins should have been able to tackle him or get him out of bounds but instead got juked out of his shoes, and Leonard scored on a 44-yard touchdown run.
Several other players either over-pursued or took bad angles. Again, being a bit rusty should be expected. Being completely out of position or whiffing on tackles is not something you would expect from a defense that we thought could be elite, or from individuals we thought could be elite.