Frustrating loss is an understatement

BDN Photo

The Duke Blue Devils trotted out their All American field goal kicker Will Snyderwine with five seconds on the clock down 23-21 to Richmond.  As a 60 yard attempt fell short, you could feel the collective wind leave Wallace Wade Stadium for the final time.  Most fans felt Duke would pull out a win on an evening when one never seemed certain and escape a third consecutive upset to the Richmond Spiders, ranked 19th in the FCS top 25.  But just four minutes earlier Snyderwine pushed the ball right on a 28 yard chip shot and that was but one of four major miscues one could point to as the culprit for a frustrating if not depressing loss to open the 2011 season.

A Crushing and frustrating loss for fans

Duke fans did not expect to lose to Richmond, an FCS school for a third straight time on their own home field.  Duke started the season slow last year and they are now facing a 0-3 start with powerful Stanford coming in and  a road game at Boston College on the horizon.  Even if Duke rights the ship and gains some wins, this game will haunt the season if they approach five wins.  Every ACC school but Duke handled their FCS opponent with ease and some of those teams were much better than Richmond.  There is always renewed hope when a new season kicks off as well as anticipation and excitement for the fan base.  Last evenings loss hit Duke fans hard and put the Blue Devils in an 0-1 hole right out of the gate.  The mere mention of "Richmond," will make Duke Football fans cringe for a long time to come.

Duke pretty much gave the game away

Another point of frustration is the kicking game and more specifically the leg of Will Snyderwine who missed a mere 28 yard FG that would have saved the day wide right.  Then there was the curious last play of the first half when Duke had the ball at the 19 yard line closing out the half.  With ten ticks on the clock and no timeouts (one wasted earlier), Duke decided to take one more shot.  The problem is that the pass went to Brandon Braxton who was far short of being near the goal line and worse, he clearly had a DB draped over him.  Time ran out and Duke missed a golden opportunity for a score.  The call was likely designed to be aggressive in nature, but Renfree should have been aware of the clock and where Braxton was as well and threw the ball to the ground to save an opportunity for a field goal attempt.  And those fumbles!  Both Duke drops led to incredibly short fields for Richmond who scored on both.  And let's not forget another aggressive call to go for it on their own 35 yard line  in the first quarter.   The Duke defense saved the day on that one as Duke failed to gain the yard they needed.  Richmond flat out lucked out and dodged a bullet in that they made just enough plays to allow the Blue Devils mistakes to let them win.

There are some positives ...

Duke ran the ball well going for 178 yard on 35 carries.  Juwan Thompson led Duke with 86 yards and Desmond Scott added 82 yards and a 29 yard touchdown scamper.  Renfree went 22 of 33 for 201 yards and no interceptions which translated into better decision making.  Kelby Brown also led Duke in tackles and he seems to be back to normal and a true leader on the defense as a young, true sophomore.  Matt Daniels tied a Duke record breaking up several passes and making some solid hits to knock the ball loose from wideouts hands on what looked to be sure catches.  The two Duke backup quarterbacks, Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone both scored on rushing touchdowns.  Duke has 5 seniors on there two deep roster, so they truly are once again, young which hopefully bodes well for the future.  Sadly, the afforementioned Desmond Scott was injured and could not return to the game and by games end, Juwan Thomson was in the same boat forcing Duke to go way into their depth chart with Jay Hollingsworth.

More yards does not mean a win

In 2009 Richmond rolled into Wallace Wade Stadium and defeated Duke 24-16 but the Blue Devils outgained the Spiders 369-282 yards.  Last evening, Duke was once again upset by the Spiders yet outgained them 379-288 yards.  You might notice that there is but 16 yards difference between the two games.  So what does this stat say?  I'll admit that I am stumpped considering the results.

The Black Uniforms

There are a superstitious bunch of fans out there that actually pointed to wearing the black uniforms  as being a bad omen.  It's hard to measure the psychological effect of breaking  out in outlaw black but there is little doubt that it has some effect.    When Coach K and Duke first broke out their black duds years ago, he made his early teams earn the right to wear them knowing it could well pump up the other team in that it is a brazen statement of confidence.  It's sometimes fun to listen to those who've had a bit to drink after a game as they leave the stadium.  One fan snarled, "It all started with those "expletive" black uniforms."  One thing is certain, as good as the uniforms looked, Duke fans have probably had their feel of them for they left them feeling "blue."  Oh, the irony.

Great support

Duke promotions gave a valiant effort and filled Wallace Wade for the opener.  And the students turned out as well before many scurried away just after a nice fireworks display.  Many fans stay until the bitter end to suport their Blue Devils and it's ashamed that Duke couldn't get it done on the field to have made it a memorable evening.  It was an opportunity squandered.

Some might think I've been a bit harsh in this recap, but there comes a time when you have to be objective in order to keep credibility.  The bottom line is that Duke fans in no way should be okay with losing to Richmond.  As they say in the south, "You can talk improvements until the cows come in, but in the end, only wins cure ills."  Duke was a better football team than Richmond, yet they found a way to lose.  Duke is an ACC school and Richmond is an FCS power, but it's time to beat the Spiders if the team is truly beggining to go in the right direction.  Now, what do you do for bad spider bites?

In closing, I still think David Cutcliffe is the best man to get the job at Duke, but it is time to take a look at why they can't win games they are supposed to.  The sun always rises the day after but had the Blue Devils pulled out the win, it would seem a whole lot brighter.

BDN goes one on one with Duke prospect Mitch McGary

Mitch McGary, Mark Watson BDN Photo

Over the last few months no one has blown up more than Brewster Academy big man Mitch McGary. McGary, who was sporting quite the tan from his recent trip to Florida, has jumped up in many rankings as a top 5 player in the country. Unfortunately for Mitch an injured ankle hampered him for much of the week here in L.A, but he still managed to be a part of two of the more memorable moments this week. On Friday night McGary gave every Derrick Williams fan a new poster as the #2 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft threw down a dunk of epic proportions on . Fast forward to Saturday’s warm up before the Elite 24 game at Venice Beach, McGary went up for a routine dunk, hung on the rim slightly and eventually shattered the backboard glass resulting in cuts on his neck, hands and left shoulder. He was all smiles about it though. There did not seem to be any intention to break the glass on Mitch’s end, it just happened to be one of those rare freak moments in basketball, but hey, everyone loves seeing the glass shatter. Mitch gave up a few minutes of his time to chat with BDN on his time at the Elite 24. (Note - BDN Premium is running a membership special this week where you will get the best discount of the year.  Go to the join page and take advantage of 15% off a yearly membership.)

BDN: Is this your first trip out to L.A?

MM: Pretty much. I was here when I was about 9 or 10.

BDN: How was the [private] Midnight Run on Friday night?

MM: Well I got dunked. (laughs)

BDN: No big deal, anyone who tries to play defense has it happen.

MM: True true.

BDN: You seem like you’re hobbling a bit, what happened there?

MM: I got a bummed ankle, I sprained it about three weeks ago. It’s still not the same. I can’t really move that well on it yet. I think it’s just a high ankle sprain, it’ll be alright in a month or so.

BDN: You think you’ll give it a go on Saturday?

MM: Oh definitely. You have to. That’s what I came out here to do!

BDN: How was it playing with the pro’s?

MM: It was pretty cool. It was exhilarating because you don’t usually get to do that so I was excited to play against them. And of course I got dunked on by Derrick Williams (laughs). Pretty bad but I’m being a good sport about it and accept it. I get dunked on all the time.

BDN: What was the most difficult aspect of playing with the pro’s?

MM: Probably going up against their athleticism. I mean they are a lot more developed than us. Just going up against them is another level, the intensity too.

BDN: What was the trip to Florida like?

MM: It was good. The coaches there are pretty chill I liked them a lot. The campus is beautiful and some of the facilities and stuff like that. I’ll probably go down there for an official just to get more of a feel of the school and stuff. The girls are pretty hot.

BDN: You seem to have gotten a pretty good tan.

MM: (laughs) Yea I went down to the Keyes for about 4-5 days.

BDN: You’ll be visiting UNC and Duke basically back to back. Will one be an official and the other unofficial? Or will both be official?

MM: Both will be official visits.

BDN: What does Duke have planned for you when you get there?

MM: Well the 9th, I think that’s a Friday, I guess I’m going to Coach K’s house for dinner with the team and stuff like that and hang out with the guys. I know some of them like the Plumlees and I know of some of the guys. I know Austin Rivers is there.

BDN: How are you approached by Coach K? Has he said things you want to hear? 

MM: I mean every coach tells you what you want to hear. I prefer coaches that actually say the stuff that is the truth and..

BDN: More beneficial to you?

MM: Yea. I like to know what I have to do to play. I know whatever school I choose I’m not gonna go there and be a 30 minute+ player a game unless I work at it. I don’t deserve that just going in there.

BDN: Do you feel you’ll make a decision in the early or late period?

MM: Probably this winter before the season starts, or maybe I’ll wait until the normal signing period I’m not sure.

BDN: There’s been a lot of NBA chatter lately about you. Have you given this any thought?

MM: Not really, it’s in the back of my head. I didn’t know it was even possible until I..

BDN: Someone had brought it up the other day and it just blew up.

MM: Yea it blows out of proportion. People start talking and saying I said certain things. I haven’t talked to anybody about it, you’re the first person I’ve talked to about it. My coaches have talked about it. I’m just going to play it by ear and continue to get better..

BDN: Something sort of just in the back of your mind? Not a major focus?
MM: Yea not at all. I mean I want to go to college and get a four year degree, that’s one of my major goals.

BDN: Do you have a favorite class?
MM: Math is one of my favorite classes, I want to get a finance degree.

BDN: Have you been working on anything this summer with regards to offense or defense?
MM: I really haven’t been doing much this summer I’ve just been playing a lot..

BDN: Not much time to actually refine your skills..

MM: Yea pretty much.

BDN: What do you feel is the next step in advancing your game?

MM: Once my ankle heals up probably defense and some lateral stuff but that’s just for my body and stuff like that. I gotta work on my body a lot more. But more or less my mid-range jumper. My forms a little funky right now, I’m just trying to figure it out and go back to how I use to shoot.

BDN: Much appreciated, Mitch.
MM: Thanks a lot. [/private]

BDN previews Duke’s season opener vs. Richmond

2nd and 10 from the Duke 35 yard line

Renfree drops back, completes a pass to senior Austin Kelly across the middle. Kelly tries to elude a tackle but is brought down by Quan Sturdivant at the Duke 41 yard line. The clock hits zero. The Tar Heels celebrate and reclaim the Victory Bell. Duke’s 2010 season is over.

That was the last we saw of Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils, all the way back on November 27, 2010. Over the past nine months, Duke’s coaches and players have shed blood, sweat, and tears in preparation for the 2011 season. The 3-win 2010 season is gone, but not forgotten. It’s week one of the 2011 college football season, and time for Blue Devil fans to recite their familiar credo, “this year has to be better, right?”

Sean Renfree is ready to lead the Blue Devil offense in his second year as a starter


Second-year starter Sean Renfree and the Blue Devil offense have the potential to be one of the ACC’s top units in 2011. In order for that potential to be realized, the Blue Devils must accomplish two things: take care of the football and establish a consistent, effective running game. After struggling with turnovers early in 2010, the Blue Devils showed dramatic improvement in their final five games. Turnovers have continued to be a point of emphasis all offseason. Junior Desmond Scott and sophomore Juwan Thompson will pace the ground game and have had an excellent training camp running behind a big, experienced offensive line. Dave Harding has stepped in flawlessly for the injured Brian Moore at center, and he will have to play at a high level in his first college game action snapping the football. With several question marks on defense, the margin for error for the Duke offense is slim.

Defensively, Duke needs to see big games from their returning stars in senior Matt Daniels, sophomore Kelby Brown, and senior Charlie Hatcher. These three players will be supported by a group of talented but mostly inexperienced Blue Devil defenders, a typical recipe for inconsistency. Similar to the offense, there are two primary goals for the Duke defense in 2011: limit explosive offensive plays and improve their play at the line of scrimmage. Duke has a deep group of high-level athletes in their secondary, and the new 4-2-5 defensive scheme will rely on their ability to make plays all over the field in an effort to slow opposing offenses. In his second year as a starter, Ross Cockrell will have to develop into a shutdown cornerback for the Blue Devils. Seven redshirt-freshmen will enter the rotation on the defensive line for Duke in 2011, and the maturation of these young athletes will be key to the defense’s success. Expect to see flashes of ability from players like Jordan DeWalt-Ondigo, Jamal Wallace, and Dezmond Johnson. If the Blue Devils are able to successfully execute their new defensive gameplan, this group’s results should be greater than the sum of its parts.

If Duke is going to make a bowl game in 2011, their special teams unit will have to be special. The Blue Devils have the talent in the kicking game to dominate special teams at times this season. Will Snyderwine has established himself as one of the top kickers in the country. Alex King is a proven veteran with experience and versatility. Freshman Jamison Crowder is a playmaker at kick and punt return. Improved depth across the roster should lead to better kick and punt return units. The pieces are in place for a solid special teams effort; the players simply have to execute.



To put it lightly, Duke was plagued by turnovers in 2010. Duke’s 28 turnovers, however, are eclipsed by Richmond’s 32 turnovers a season ago. Needless to say, the team that takes care of the football stands to have the best chance of winning this matchup. Late in the season, Sean Renfree appeared to turn a corner, throwing just three interceptions in the final five games. Limiting turnovers has been a point of emphasis for the Duke offense all spring and summer, while the Duke defense is hoping to create more turnovers than they did a year ago. If the Blue Devils can build a first half lead, expect the Duke secondary to make some plays when the Spiders are forced to pass. Duke should win the turnover battle.

Duke's young defensive linemen will need to pressure Richmond's Aaron Corp


Richmond plays a physical game of football, and in the last two meetings between these schools, dominated the line of scrimmage. The Duke defense has struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks. With youth along the defensive line and a pass-happy offense, Duke will rarely win the sack battle. The key will be to limit the loss of yards on offense and to make some timely tackles for loss against the Spiders. The Spiders did graduate their top 3 tacklers from 2010, but still have the players to apply some pressure. Richmond will win the sack battle.

3rd Down Production

Richmond converted just 34% of their 3rd downs in 2010, while the Blue Devils were able to convert 40% of 3rd down opportunities. With a veteran offense returning, Duke should again have success on 3rd downs, utilizing their deep receiving corps to pick up 1st down yardage. The Duke defense has struggled on 3rd down in recent years, but with an improved secondary and a better scheme, they should do a better job of limiting big conversions. Duke will win the 3rd down battle.

Ross Cockrell will have a tough matchup with All-CAA WR Tre Grey, BDN Photo

Explosive Plays

The game features a trio of All-Conference wide receivers, all capable of opening the game up with an explosive play. Tre Gray will be a challenge for the Duke secondary, and his matchup with Duke’s Ross Cockrell will be one to watch. The “Killer V’s” will be up to their usual tricks, but Richmond will have to pick their poison as senior Cooper Helfet and sophomore Brandon Braxton also have big-play ability. On the ground, the Spiders will utilize a committee approach, while Duke will feature a heavy dose of Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson, two players who have dominated training camp with big plays. Duke has too many weapons on offense; they will win the explosive play battle.

Rushing TDs

Richmond will look to establish their running game early, and if they are able to control the line of scrimmage, it could be another long season opener for the Blue Devils. Duke will be able to counter with a veteran offensive line and three talented runners of their own in Desmond Scott, Juwan Thompson, and Brandon Connette. With a deep offensive line, Duke should be able to run the ball into the end zone when needed. The Duke defense will have their hands full with trying to keep Richmond’s Kendall Gaskins out of the end zone, but Duke has a deeper stable of proven runners. Duke will punch a few in on the ground.

Field Goals

Both teams feature outstanding All-Conference kickers. Duke’s Will Snyderwine has connected on 86.4% of his career field goal opportunities. Richmond’s Will Kamin has hit 90.9% of his career field goal opportunities. This matchup is a push.


Since the arrival of David Cutcliffe in Durham, the Blue Devils have been one of the most disciplined teams in the ACC. In 2010, Duke committed just 55 penalties for an average of 40.6 yards per game. The Spiders were even better, committing just 50 penalties for an average of 35.5 yards per game. That trend should continue under new Head Coach Wayne Lineburg. This matchup is a push.

Let's get this season started!


Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us three times, not going to happen. Duke is ready for Richmond. There are sure to be some first-game jitters, but Duke won't get tangled in the Spiders' web. Sean Renfree has emerged as a leader on this Blue Devil team, and he will guide the Duke offense to a big night. The game will be won (or lost) along the line of scrimmage, and Duke’s linemen are bigger and stronger than they were two years ago. Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson will have big days on the ground. Playing from behind, Richmond will be unable to establish a consistent power running game, forcing Corp to make plays through the air against the deep Duke secondary.  The Blue Devils should come away from this game with a lot of positives to build on and a lot to learn from, while Duke fans will leave Wallace Wade Stadium thinking, “this year will be better!”

Duke 34

Richmond 17

Bob Harris joins BDN Staff for Week One College Football Predictions

Welcome to week one of the college football season!  The BDN Staff and a weekly guest prognosticator will pick the nations toughest games each week of the season.  There will be no gimme games on our weekly list and you will not see us pad records with easy picks.  This week we are joined by the Voice of the Blue Devils Bob Harris.  I couldn't think of a better guest to kick off the season than Harris, the long time play by play man for the Duke Radio Network.  Be sure to check out his site where you can purchase his latest book by going here - The Voice of the Blue Devils.  Each week we'll have a Duke celebrity as a guest picker and with that said, on to week one -

Mark Watson Bob Green Patrick Cacchio Andrew Slater Bob Harris
UCLA at Houston UCLA UCLA UCLA Houston Houston
BYU at Ole Miss Ole Miss BYU Ole Miss BYU BYU
Wake Forest at Syracuse Syracuse Syracuse Syracuse Syracuse Syracuse
Northwestern at Boston College Northwestern Northwestern BC BC BC
South Fla at Notre Dame ND ND ND ND ND
Boise St. at Georgia Georgia Boise St. Boise St. Boise St. Georgia
Oregon vs LSU (N) LSU Oregon LSU Oregon Oregon
William & Mary at Virginia UVA UVA UVA UVA UVA
Richmond at Duke Duke Duke Duke Duke Duke

Richmond at Duke Game Predictions -

Mark Watson - The Blue Devils face a must win situation right out of the gate when they face the 19th rated team in the FCS on Saturday when Richmond comes to Wallace Wade Stadium.  The Spiders will try and spin their web around the Blue Devils for a second consecutive time but they'll find wrapping up Duke will not be an easy task. Duke 34 Richmond 16

Bob Green - Duke will dominate the time of possession by executing a balanced offensive attack resulting in numerous sustained drives.  Look for Duke to run the ball for over 200 yards against the Spiders.  With the defense well rested into the 4th quarter, the Blue Devils will pressure Richmond's offense and create turnovers.  The special teams will pull off a big play in the season opener.  Duke 41 Richmond 7.

Patrick Cacchio -Duke will win, but it may not be comfortable. Seventeen Blue Devils will play their first college game on Saturday, so there are sure to be some butterflies and growing pains. Renfree and the offense should give the young Duke defense a lead to work with, which will help them slow Aaron Corp and the Spiders. Juwan Thompson will pace the ground game and Jamison Crowder will have a breakout Blue Devil debut. Duke 34, Richmond 17

Andrew Slater - In the thirteenth meeting of this series, Duke should end its two-game losing streak to Richmond on Saturday. With a full year of starting in the Cutcliffe system under his belt, Sean Renfree and his talented receiving corps should take advantage of a Spiders defense that lost six starters, including its top three tacklers as well as DB/KR Justin Rogers, a seventh round selection of the Buffalo Bills.  Defensively, the Blue Devils will need to contain the USC transfer, senior QB Aaron Corp, who sustained a season-ending knee injury for the Spiders in the fifth game of last year's season. Duke 34-Richmond 20

Bob Harris - The Blue Devils will get 2011 off on the right foot with a 41-14 victory.  Duke OL dominates Spiders up front, allowing Renfree to complete 4 TD throws.  Matt Daniels will have 2 ints to lead the defense. Duke 41 Richmond 14

BDN Game Week Q&A Exchange with Spider Bandwagon

The Blue Devils will open the 2011 football season at home against Richmond Saturday

It’s game week, Blue Devil Nation! After months of anticipation, the Blue Devils are ready to take the field and kick off the 2011 season against the Richmond Spiders. Richmond will travel down I-85 led by USC QB transfer Aaron Corp with a lot of confidence, having won their last two trips to Durham decisively. Meanwhile, Sean Renfree and the high-flying Blue Devil offense will look to get off to a hot start, and revenge for the 2009 season opening loss will certainly be in the back of their minds. With a new Head Coach and a young team, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Spiders on Saturday. Fortunately, we caught up with Spider Bandwagon to get their thoughts on the opening night match-up in Durham. Be sure to check out their site to read the BDN take on the game as well.

BDN: After the untimely resignation of Head Coach Latrell Scott during training camp, Offensive Coordinator Wayne Lineburg was named interim Head Coach. Given these events, what is the general mood around the Richmond program? What changes, if any, has Coach Lineburg made? How much of a distraction has this been for the players, as they prepare for Duke?

Everyone even remotely associated with the program is saying all the right things: next man up; stay the line; come together; [insert other clichés here]. For the most part, I’m buying the party line. Lineburg (pronounced Lynn-uh-burg) was brought in by Latrell Scott last summer as offensive coordinator. He’s from a coaching family and already was looked at by many as an eventual head coaching candidate. By all accounts he’s changed little in the day to day since taking over. He’s familiar with the players and vice versa. I really don’t think much will be lost in the transition. What’s more, this is Lineburg’s second stint at UR; he was on the offensive staff from 2004-06 and helped lay the foundation of the national championship team. Generally, I think most Spider players and fans would admit they’d rather go through this coaching switch than repeat last year’s four different starting quarterbacks fiasco.

USC transfer Aaron Corp will start at QB for the Spiders after missing most of 2010 with an ACL injury. Photo Credit-The Collegian

BDN: QB Aaron Corp had his first year at Richmond cut short by injury after transferring in from USC. How have his health and performance been heading into the season opener? What does he need to do to realize his potential, which had made him such a highly-touted high school prospect?

Simply put Corp needs to stay on the field and stay healthy. The knee should be 100% at this point. Despite only five games last season, I think he’ll benefit from a second year studying and learning Lineburg’s offense. As long as the offensive line can gel (three returning starters) to give Corp time and keep him on his feet, he should put up big numbers.

BDN: All-Conference WR Tre Gray is back and figures to be a favorite target for Corp this fall. What other weapons will the Spiders' offense have? How do you expect Richmond to attack the Duke defense on Saturday night?

I actually expect a pretty vanilla offense on Saturday. The order of the day will be establishing the line of scrimmage. Look for a healthy dose of hand offs especially early to a committee following FB Kendall Gaskins. When the Spiders do throw, keep an eye on sophomore WR Ben Edwards getting space opposite Grey.

BDN: With the loss of CAA POY Eric McBride along with All-CAA defensive lineman Martin Parker, the Spiders' defense will have big shoes to fill this fall. How will Richmond try to slow Duke's prolific passing game? Which players will have to play well for the Spiders to keep the Blue Devils out of the end zone?

Luckily the Spider secondary figures to be the strength of this defense in the early going. Tremayne Graham and Daryl Hamilton return on the corners, and Cooper Taylor, a transfer from Georgia Tech, is expected to make a huge impact in taking over the safety spot. Up front, the focus figures to shift from the linebackers to the defensive ends. Kerry Wynn and Brandon Scott, 6’5” and 6’4” respectively, need to cause havoc in the backfield and give the young linebacking corp space to make tackles. If Wynn and Scott can’t get upfield, UR will be in for a very long evening.

We'll see you under the lights in Wallace Wade on Saturday!

BDN: Richmond has two straight wins against Duke in Durham, though the Blue Devils lead the all-time series 9-3. Vegas has the Spiders starting out as 8.5-point underdogs. How do you expect Saturday's season opener to play out under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium?

I think the Spiders will play well, keep things close for awhile, but come up short. This team is still very young. Finally getting away from camp will do this team some good, and Corp will have good numbers by the final whistle, but they’re not ready to knock off an FBS team. 27-14 Blue Devils.

BDN: Thanks for your insight. Good luck on Saturday!