Gridiron Devils serve notice with win at Vandy – Hoops can wait!

[private]Normally this time of year marks the beginning of basketball season in Durham.  The stage was set once again when the Duke Men's Basketball team walloped Virginia Union on Saturday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Just seconds after that win, the Duke Football team received the kickoff in Nashville, Tennessee against previously ranked Vanderbilt.

The Commodores had Duke in as a supposed sacrificial lamb for their homecoming and were ten point favorites.  A win would make Vandy bowl eligible and they had quite a streak going against the Blue Devils.  The majority of the fanbase and the nation thought it would be business as usual and that Duke would sport a losing record at days end.

Nobody told David Cutcliffe that it was basketball season.  Nope, he didn't get that memo.  Nor did anyone tell him that football usually folds up in late October.  Instead he served notice to the aforementioned fans and the nation that it's still football season in Durham.  Duke held on for an important 10-7 victory on Saturday pushing their record to 4-3 on the season.

The game certainly wasn't a work of art but the bottom line is that Duke dug down deep in a hostile environment and did what it takes to win.  In the process, Duke showed it is far from done and that they still have some fight left for the stretch run.

You can't blame some of the fans for their apathy.  If one were to add the bye weeks in with losses to Miami and Georgia Tech, they would realize it had been four weeks on Saturday since Duke tasted victory.  Many felt it would be hard to stop the slide in that they are still hanging on to a losing culture.  That's something fans were familiar with having been through more winless seasons in one decade than any school should go through in their history.

That said, make no mistake, the victory in Nashville is huge in many ways.   All of a sudden, Duke is going into next weeks Wake Forest game with spring in their step and there is reason to believe that it's indeed the "Dawn of a New Day."  Duke has now won on the road and defeated a team that has been playing good football.  It's the kind of spark which can carry over into November where Duke takes on its three in state rivals.  More importantly, it's a game where they can point to when on the recruiting trail.

So, let's get a good crowd on the road to Winston Salem this week and win or lose, let's pack the stadium when NC State comes to town.  Basketball season can be put on hold for a few weeks and in case you haven't noticed Duke is over .500 more than halfway through their season.[/private]

Tough defense drops Vanderbilt 10 – 7

[private]Chris Rwabukamba intercepted a Mackenzie Adams pass at the one yard line with 46 seconds left in the game to thwart a Vanderbilt comeback attempt and preserve a 10 - 7 Duke victory. With the road victory, the Blue Devils improve to 4 - 3 on the year and end a six game losing streak against the Commodores. For Coach David Cutcliffe, it is his first road victory since taking over the helm at Duke.

Duke was unable to capitalize on Vanderbilt mistakes throughout the game. Michael Tauiliili intercepted Adams on Vanderbilt's third play from scrimmage but Duke fumbled the snap on a field goal attempt and came away with zero points. Just before halftime, Duke blocked a Vanderbilt punt and took possession on the Commodores 13 yard line. A fumbled snap and penalty on the offense were followed by a missed 43 field goal attempt. In the third quarter, Vanderbilt fumbled a punt resulting in Duke starting off from the Vanderbilt 15 yard line. Duke failed to move the ball as Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was sacked but this time Nick Maggio converted the field goal and Duke expanded their lead to 10 - 0.

Duke's defense shutdown Vanderbilt's offense for most of the game with the Commodores only points coming on a 79 yard pass from Adams to wide receiver Sean Walker. For the game, Duke held Vanderbilt to 291 total yards and held the Commodores to 81 rushing yards. Duke was able to consistently pressure Quarterback Adams sacking him four times to compliment the two interceptions.

On offense, Duke achieved success with the short pass play. Thaddeus Lewis was 21 - 36 for 222 yards and a touchdown. Four Blue Devils caught multiple passes: Eron Riley caught nine passes for 83 yards, Johnny Williams caught four for 39 yards, Tony Jackson caught three for 74 yards and a touchdown, and Donovan Varner caught two for 12 yards. Duke struggled to run the ball and was held to 28 yards on the ground. Thaddeus Lewis was sacked five times for 37 yards with the yards being counted against the running game.

This was a big win for the Duke football team. With five games remaining the Blue Devils need at least two more wins and possibly three wins in order to secure a bid to a post season bowl game. If Duke is going to win those two or three more games this season, they must continue to improve week-to-week. The red zone offense is one area where Duke struggled today and Coach Cutcliffe will certainly address that issue in practice this week.

Next up for the Blue Devils is a trip to Winston-Salem to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3). Duke has not won a conference game on the road since beating North Carolina 30 -22 on November 22, 2003. Duke has already broken a couple of streaks this season and they will be looking to end the road conference game losing streak against Wake Forest next Saturday.[/private]

Duke runs past Virginia Union 114-50

[private]The Duke Blue Devils took to the hardwood for the first time this season by taking on Virginia Union in an exhibition game.  The result was a lopsided 114-50 victory where six players scored in double figures.  Elliot Williams and Kyle Singler had 15 points apiece while Henderson and Plumlee tossed in 14 apiece.  Scheyer and Thomas round the six out with 12 and 11 points.

Duke held Virginia Union to 27.3% for the field for the game - 17.1% in the first half.  Duke played 13 players and 12 of them scored.  Check back in for more coverage later today.  If you are a premium subscriber, check the message board for an update on hot prospect Harrison Barnes and other visitors.

The numbers - (points, rebounds, assists)

Singler - 15, 5, 4

Henderson 14, 3, 2

Plumlee 14, 7, 0

Smith 8, 4, 6

Scheyer 12, 2, 0

Paulus 8, 1, 5

Pocius  4, 0, 0

Czyz 4, 2, 0

McClure 0, 3, 1

Williams 15, 2, 2

Thomas 11, 6, 1

Johnson 4, 2, 0

Zoubek 5, 6, 1

Duke had ten blocked shots[/private]

Q & A with Duke co-captain Jon Scheyer

[private]How will this year's team have a deeper tournament run?

Last year we questioned ourselves a little bit and had an up and down season.  This year we realize how good we can be.

What happened last season?

We did have a great year last season until we lost our confidence in the tournament.  As a team some of us believed we were good in the press ... we are not missing any pieces this year.

What do you and the other captains bring to this season's team?

We can all work off each other.  Gerald does so much on the court and he's a great guy.  He's somebody we can look up to because he's so good.  He's a competitor and we play off that.  Greg being a captain before - his experience is so valuable.  Myself?  I'm just going to use my instincts.  These last few years I feel I've learned a lot and just being able to share that with the team.

What's the process one goes through to be a captain?

The team voted on it and the coaches made the ultimate decision.  Your teammates have your back and support you, so that's good.

How is this season's team different from last year?

I think the biggest thing for us is that we are a different team this year.  We're going into it fresh, with a lot of confidence.  You have to be confident and believe in yourself as an individual and as a team.  This summer, just looking around in the locker room we realize how good we are.  The freshman add some athleticism - we just feel confident.[/private]

A more confident Nolan Smith is ready to roll in 08-09

[private]I caught up to  Nolan Smith on Media Day while he was goofing around with Lance Thomas.  Lance was filming Nolan as he walked about the media interviews for the team website Blue Planet. They were there to have a good time and lighten the mood.

How was your summer?

It was great.  I really worked hard to improve my game and get better.

So, what's going on here?  You have Lance filming every move you make in the background.

Lance?  (smiling) This is um, the Nolan Smith Report.  I am kind of playing player, slash reporter going around and interviewing the guys.  I'm just seeing if they are ready to head into practice today and start the season.

So, what have you learned since walking around and filming these guys?

I learned that this team is ready to kick some butt!  Everybody is ready to go and excited.  It should be a lot of fun.  I'm having fun with the camera - players are smiling when I slip in over the media's shoulders.

What did you do in the off season?

In the off season, I went to Philadelphia and stayed there all summer.  I worked out with Michael Beasley and DeAndre Jordon who is with the Clippers.  We did four or five workouts a day getting stronger and quicker and just getting the ego.  Coach K really speaks about ego a lot with our team and I gained my ego back and I'm just ready to come here and lead this team and do what I can.

So you're going to play with a little bit of an edge this season?

I will play with a nice edge.

A little bit of intensity ...

Yes, yes a whole lot of that and now that DeMarcus is gone I feel that's my spot - picking it up on defense and guarding the best player on the floor on the other team.

Do you feel like you have to step up and show a little leadership this season after having a year under your belt?

Oh definitely.  As you get older, you've got to get more wisdom and leadership.  I'm definitely looking to do that - talk more, last year I was definitely quiet, and that's all freshman.  Now, with a year under my belt, I know what to tell these guys. I know how to save coaches voice.

Can you tell me a little bit about the freshman?

Elliot is just athletic and he can play.  He can jump, score and defensively he can really get after it.  He's long and he's really going to help us a lot.

Miles Plumlee is going to give us some size.  He has great hands and he really knows the game.  We need a big 6-11 guy inside to help Kyle, Zoubs and Lance with the rebounds.

And then Olek, he can jump out of the gym.

How do you pronounce his last name?  Is it Chiz?"  I know  when you were playing over at NC Central during the NC Pro Am it was pronounced different on occasion.  It sounded different each time he said it as well ...

(laughing) Yeah!  Olek ...  He might pronounce it different each day, but I'm going to stick with "Chiz."

Okay, I think we'll adopt that.  They called him OC over there ...

Yeah, Olek Chizzzz.  He'll be an exciting player to watch.

You guys are really deep this year.  In your opinion will that allow you to play more people?

It's definitely going to allow us to save our bodies, play more people at every position - stay fresh and wear people down.

Is there a team motto or a key word going into the season?

Well, one would be don't be soft.  We've been working hard all summer to get strong and we don't want teams to push us around at all.  That's one of our (team) main focuses.  The other would be to have fun and win.  Everybody o n this team knows how to win.  We don't want to win by one or two.  We want to whip teams this year and have fun doing it.

You mentioned that edge ... will you take that into the Blue and White game?

Of course, of course.  You have to have that edge at all times.  Everybody on this team loves each other but when we practice, we've got to have that edge.[/private]

Brian Zoubek talks about the freshmen, his healing process and the coming season

[private]Brian Zoubek shares his thoughts on the freshmen and more importantly the status of his health after off season surgery.

How much have you been playing since the injury?

I haven't played in terms of organized basketball in a long time because I had surgery after the season.  We've been going at it as a team in pick ups since mid summer.

Can you give me a synopsis on how the healing process has or is going?

I feel great right now, I got an x-ray the other day and it's perfectly healed and I'm ready to go.  I feel strong and I hope I don't have any problems this year, it doesn't look like I'm going to.  So, if I'm smart about it all will work out. 

Being smart - can you elaborate a bit more on that?

I have some customized plans for workouts - agility and all that kind of stuff.  It's a little different when you are 7-1.  You can't always do what the guards do, especially with that injury.

You have been having a lot of fun in the Quad before football games with Jon.  You guys battle a bit in the various events -

Me and Jon are great friends and we just have to have fun.  That's what the whole attitude is with the team, we just try to have fun.

So, you are going at it pretty hard?

Yeah!  I've been doing everything.   My leg strength and conditioning isn't 100% back yet, but it's coming.

Might Coach play you with, say a Miles Plumlee?

It's possible.  We'll have to see what works.  I feel like I can work with anybody on the team.  We'll see what we see in the first couple of games.

What are your thoughts on Plumlee and Czyz thus far?

I think Miles is doing a great job.  He's really going to be able to come in and give us a lot of strength and a lot of size.  He knows how to play.  I think Olek is doing well and we  will have a lot more depth.

Can you tell me the differences in Miles and Olek?

What is Miles is obviously a little bit more of a five.  He protects the basket and plays off people really well.  Olek plays more outside, but he's really explosive and can get to the rim and rebound.  So, they both do very different things.

Is having a guy close to your height in Plumlee a good thing?

Yeah!  It's a great thing.  We can sub for each other in the game and help each other out.  Playing against each other in practice every day is huge.

Any personal goals for the coming season?

Most of it's team, but we all have some personal things we'd like to do, so I will have to see where I am.

Thanks for your time and good luck!

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