And the Drury Panthers reward is to face Duke

duke-wf rick c 071The Duke Blue Devils will play their second and last exhibition game on Saturday against Drury, the defending Division II Champion. The Blue Devils seek out the defending lower division champions each season for their exhibition match ups per Mike Krzyzewski who was recently on record as saying the schools look forward to playing in Cameron and have actually initiated contact for their reward.

Well, a sort of reward for the Panthers who take on the nations fourth ranked team in their house where rabid fans await. Duke rebounded last week after a sluggish first half defensive effort to roll past Bowie State 103-67.

Drury will fly into Durham tomorrow evening and practice on Friday before facing the Blue Devils in a game which tips off on Saturday at 1:00 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Panthers will be the sixth D-II champion in seven years to face Duke and many may remember some of the teams past, such as Bellarmine and Western Washington who actually scored 87 points on the Blue Devils.

Drury has been picked by the media to win the Western Division of the GLVC in the pre season and they ride 23-game winning streak, which included a 71-65 victory over Southern Indiana in the GLVC Championship game.

The Panthers return five of their top eight scorers from a team which won it’s first-ever NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship where the Panthers defeated Metro State 74-73 to close out a 31-4 season.

The Blue Devils officially open the 2013-14 season on November 8th with a home game against the Davidson Wildcats before taking on Kansas November 12th in the State Farm Champions Classic in what will billed as one of the top matchups of the season.

A Signature Win For Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils

SONY DSCThe bus that pulled up on the Duke campus at 11:45 last evening carried a team that for the first time in its long history will be going to back-to-back bowl games. Duke football gained its biggest victory of the season, and one of its biggest in decades, disposing of the 14th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies 13-10 in Blacksburg, VA.

As the game wound down, you could see the joy in the face of sixth-year coach David Cutcliffe, the man who came to Durham and turned around the fortunes of a team at the bottom of the BCS barrel.

No longer can the local radio stations or other media make fun of the gridiron Blue Devils, for they are 6-2 and riding a four game winning streak, including owning the state of Virginia with two consecutive ACC road wins over UVA and now Virginia Tech.

Nobody can begrudge Coach Cutcliffe the broad smile on his face when he realized Duke had the game in hand, and the program had the signature win of his tenure.

It wasn’t that long ago that Duke was the joke of the ACC, and indeed the country. It has taken time to get the program to where it garners respect from its opponents and from the media. Now, the labor of Coach Cutcliffe, the staff, and of course the players, is bearing fruit. Their hard, hard work is clearly and emphatically paying off.

Coach holds his call-in show on Sunday afternoon and you can bet that some of us regulars will have to make way for more national media as folks address the big win and recognize the resurgence in a once-dormant program. In fact, before he could even get settled in upon his return last night, Cutcliffe did one show for satellite radio, and those requests will assuredly continue to come his way.

Cutcliffe has yearned to compete at this level, and to get his team to round the corner and establish real confidence that they should win games against quality opponents.

In the past, he would often say that the program was going in the right direction, and many would scoff at the notion as the team headed for a 3-9 season. And to be fair, it had been a long time since Duke Football was relevant, so taking the “show me” approach was not unreasonable.

Now, Cutcliffe and company have shown everyone not with words but with results on the field. There will be reverberations from yesterday’s gutty win in many different areas.

With two home games left, with crosstown rival N.C. State and top-10 opponent Miami, expect Duke fans to come out of the woodwork and be a force in Wallace Wade Stadium. Historically, it takes Duke fans awhile to warm up to the football team, but when they do, it’s a sight to see. With this bowl-bound team at this time, the stands at Wade should absolutely be awash in royal blue.

And then there is the recruiting trail. You can bet that the assistant coaches’ phones have been constantly in need of re-charging as they try to take advantage of the program being at a high water mark. Duke now has a big-time win to point to, proof that the program is on solid footing. There is no doubt that prospects will take notice and be more open to a call from Duke.

With four games to go this season, the Blue Devils have done something rare. They have positioned themselves to create their own destiny. This team has turned a major corner. Coming into the season, I had several discussions on the state of the program with media members whom I respect. The one thing everyone agreed on was that Duke needed a win over a nationally-ranked team. The Blue Devils not only got that win, but they found a way to do it on the road in one of the ACC’s most hostile environments.

Imagine for a second, a dark Yoh Center where Coach Cutcliffe’s office resides. Imagine too for a moment, that the team has just gotten off the bus and found their way to campus parties.

Imagine his family waiting on him outside as Cutliffe takes the elevator and turns on the light in a dark hallway that leads to his office.

Imagine the joyous coach taking a moment alone to reflect as he reaches towards a shelf in his office.

You do not have to imagine the next thing that happens, for it will happen.

You see, in his office, Coach Cut has footballs commemorating key Duke football victories. One was his first win at Duke, over James Madison. Another was his first road win over an ACC team (N.C. State), which was also the program’s first ACC road win in a long time. Most recently, the ball from the UNC game was added after Cutcliffe helped Duke break a long losing streak against the Tar Heels, and reclaim the Victory Bell.

So it may have already happened last night, or maybe it will happen today, but he will now add another football to the mantle, with the words “Duke 13, Virginia Tech 10 October 26, 2013″ on it, and deservedly so. And that game ball for the win over Virginia Tech will be the most special addition yet.

And if it seems like I’m saying that the season and its accomplishments are complete, they’re obviously not.

With four games left, the team has plenty of opportunity to expand on what is fast becoming a special season for Duke Football, and make more Duke football history.

And now when people hear David Cutcliffe saying the Duke football program is moving in the right direction, nobody will be snickering and nobody will be raising their eyebrows, because there can be no doubt that it is true.

Coach Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to their 2nd straight bowl-eligible season on Saturday in Blacksburg.

Duke upsets Virginia Tech, 13-10

Coach Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to their 2nd straight bowl-eligible season on Saturday in Blacksburg.
Coach Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to their 2nd straight bowl-eligible season on Saturday in Blacksburg.

Duke Football history was made on Saturday afternoon in Blacksburg, Virginia. The unranked Blue Devils pulled off an improbable upset against the #14 Virginia Tech Hokies, prevailing 13-10. The win marked Duke’s first against a ranked opponent since 1994, and their first on the road since 1971. Coach David Cutcliffe was hugged by his players and coaches as time expired on one of the grittiest wins of the Cutcliffe era.

Duke pulled off the upset despite watching their offense finish 0 for 11 on 3rd down and throw 4 interceptions. DC Jim Knowles and his defense kept Logan Thomas and the Hokies at bay all afternoon, coming up with key stops in the red zone on multiple drives. David Helton led the way for the Duke defense with 19 tackles, alongside Kelby Brown who finished with 14 and an interception.

Both offenses struggled mightily in the first half, as Thomas and Boone combined for 5 interceptions and just 15 completions. Thanks to two long field goals (51 and 53 yards) by Ross Martin, the Blue Devils took a 6-0 lead into halftime. The Blue Devils squandered several opportunities early in the game, as the Virginia Tech defense pressured Boone into a number of poor throws.

Both offenses found some momentum in the 3rd quarter, and Duke reached the end zone first, as Anthony Boone scampered into the end zone to put the Blue Devils up 13-0 in the third quarter. The run capped a 6-play, 63 yard drive that was helped by two Virginia Tech penalties in the secondary.

Thomas and the Hokies responded, however. After a Will Monday punt was downed at the Virginia Tech 1-yard line, Thomas found Demitri Knowles down the sideline in single coverage for a 56-yard gain. The Hokies finished the drive with a Thomas TD run to climb within 6.

The Blue Devils held a 13-7 lead as the game entered the 4th, but on the first play of the final quarter, Boone was sacked at the 3-yard line and left the game briefly. After a Cody Journell 42-yard field goal, the Blue Devils still were clinging to a 13-10 lead before the game took a number of critical turns. DeVon Edwards fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was fortunate to be recovered by Duke’s David Reeves. After a botched snap led to a sack at their own 8 yard line, Boone threw his 4th interception of the day. The Hokies took over at the Duke 43 yard line and drove 20 yards, but it wasn’t enough, as Journell’s 40-yard attempt was wide left. Duke again went 3 and out, leaving the game again in the hands of their defense.

Thomas and the Hokies began the game’s critical drive at their own 44 yard line with 5:09 remaining. After a 1st down run, Kelby Brown fell on a tipped pass for the defense’s 3rd interception of the day. The Duke offense took over near midfield. Facing a critical 3rd and 7, Boone scampered for what was ruled as a 1st down on the field, but overturned by video review. The short-yardage specialist, Brandon Connette, spun for the first down on the ensuing 4th down play, essentially sealing bowl eligibility for the 2013 Blue Devils. After the Hokies’ spent their final timeout, Boone lined up in victory formation to run out the clock.

Boone finished the day just 7/25 for 107 yards, but added 44 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Duke heads into the bye week at 6-2, and will host NC State on November 9th in their next ACC matchup.

Kenny Anunike and the Duke defense will look to build upon a dominant 2nd half performance against UVA this week in Blacksburg. BDN Photo

Duke at Virginia Tech Game Preview

Kenny Anunike and the Duke defense will look to build upon a dominant 2nd half performance against UVA this week in Blacksburg. BDN Photo
Kenny Anunike and the Duke defense will look to build upon a dominant 2nd half performance against UVA this week in Blacksburg. BDN Photo

Duke at Virginia Tech
3:30 PM ET
Saturday, October 26
Lane Stadium
Blacksburg, VA
TV: ESPNU
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2013: 5-2 (Defeated UVA 35-22 last week)
VT in 2013: 6-1 (Off last week, defeated Pitt 19-9 in last game)

 

DUKE INJURIES

PROBABLE – WR Johnell Barnes, LB Kyler Brown, CB Bryon Fields
OUT – CB Jared Boyd, S Dwayne Norman, QB Thomas Sirk
OUT FOR SEASON – OT Tanner Stone, DT Jamal Wallace

VIRGINIA TECH INJURIES

QUESTIONABLE – CB Kyle Fuller
DOUBTFUL – CB Brandon Facyson, LS Joe St. Germain
OUT – DE Matt Roth

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

Make no mistake, a Blue Devil victory on Saturday in Blacksburg would be the program’s biggest win in the David Cutcliffe era. Not only would it be the program’s 6th win, clinching bowl eligibility, but it would also be a road victory against a ranked opponent. The Blue Devils have dropped nine in a row to the Hokies, another streak that Cutcliffe hopes to end. A tremendous opportunity is at hand, but it will take a near perfect effort in all three phases.

Offensively, Duke will have to win the battle in the trenches. The Blue Devils’ veteran offensive line will have to control the line of scrimmage, allowing Duke to continue its success on the ground against a very tough Hokie defense, which allows just 15 points and 256 yards per game.  An effective running game will open things up down field against a talented, but wounded, Virginia Tech secondary. Ball security is a must against a defense that has 13 interceptions through their first 7 games. Look for the Blue Devils to try and consistently move the chains utilizing a variety of receivers on short, effective routes.

Defensively, Duke has to replicate its performance from the second half in Charlottesville. The Hokies have struggled to score points all season, and the running game has been particularly difficult. After holding UVA to just 7 total rushing yards in the second half, the Blue Devils front 6 will need to again control the line of scrimmage, and contain QB Logan Thomas, who may be the Hokies’ best runner this season. Through the air, Thomas likes to spread the ball around, with senior WR D.J. Coles the primary deep threat, already with 5 touchdowns on the year with an average of over 15 yards per catch.

In a hostile environment on the road, the Blue Devils have to execute in the kicking game. Winning the field position battle against a physical defense will ease the pressure on Anthony Boone and the Blue Devil offense. Ross Martin will need to be at his best, as points are likely to come at a premium on Saturday. A big return from DeVon Edwards or Jamison Crowder could swing things in Duke’s favor.

HOW VIRGINIA TECH CAN WIN

Bud Foster and the Hokies’ defense have had two weeks to prepare for Anthony Boone and the Blue Devils. They will be bolstered by the return of All-ACC CB Antone Exum this week, who will look to make a splash in his season debut. If the Hokies’ execute and control the line of scrimmage as they expect to, they will dominate this game. Expect an aggressive gameplan against the Duke screen pass, as they will look to force the Blue Devils into 3rd and long situations. Similarly, expect Virginia Tech to be content to play for field position, forcing Duke to face a long field and try to maintain long drives.

Offensively, look for the Hokies to take chances against a still young and inconsistent Duke secondary. An explosive play or two through the air could be all Bud Foster’s defense needs to put the game away. On key third down situations, Logan Thomas can be as big of a weapon with his feet as with his arm. Trey Edmunds leads the way for a struggling Virginia Tech rushing game, but with the week off, J.C. Coleman may finally be healthy enough to break off a big run.

WHY VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN

Duke has the horses to pull of the improbable upset, but the Hokies will benefit from the extra week to prepare for the Blue Devils. As they look to make a push for another ACC Coastal Division championship, expect to see a dominant performance from the Virginia Tech defense on Saturday. The Hokies will find a way to force a crucial turnover to steal the momentum from the Blue Devils. Duke’s defense will play well enough to keep it close, but points will be too hard to come by for Anthony Boone and the Blue Devils.

Virginia Tech 23, Duke 16

Peach 12 more pics 011

I like the Blue Devils’ chances with the Big 3

Every Duke Basketball fan in America knows that some of the nation’s finest prospects will visit campus this weekend. The nation’s top point guard Tyus Jones, the nation’s top center Jahlil Okafor, and a well-rounded wing in Justise Winslow will make their official visits, including taking in Saturday’s exhibition game with Bowie State.

All three recruits have visited Duke before, but this is it:  it is the last visit on their schedules, and that means a lot.  I mean, how often do we save the best for last in life?  Of course, having them on campus means the Blue Devils will have an additional chance to show off their facilities and their dedication to basketball.

There has been plenty of worry amongst the fan base.  Just last week people were trying to say that Jones wearing Kansas gear while on his visit there must be a sign. Oh no! Let the panic begin!

Semi others PEach 12 008But the reality is that he wore their gear out of respect, just as Harrison Barnes did in one of our more famous pictures, which has now been turned into a constant meme on the World Wide Web.

Just recently, some have said, Jones would not like playing second fiddle to current point guard Quinn Cook, but didn’t Jay Williams and Chris Duhon fare quite well together?  And have you seen how many wins an undermanned Howard Pulley AAU team pulled off under his leadership?

You can find a rumor or unwanted speculation on any message board, but having been through many of these recruiting decisions before, the fan in me is pretty relaxed.  Why?  First off, as I said, the last visit means more than some think. In my opinion it makes the prospects more the Blue Devils’ to lose.

Peach 12 more pics 011Second, as good as Kansas is and as much respect as I have for their program and what Bill Self has done, the ACC compared to the Big Twelve these days, well, there is no comparison.

Would you rather play UNC, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville and go down Tobacco Road, or would you want your primary rival to be Kansas State or whichever team happens to pop up next year to have a good season in a conference where Oklahome and Texas could bolt for the Pacific coast at any time?

My contention here is that the ACC is prime time in every way, and you will play on what will be an amazing stage. The education and campus are top notch in Durham, as is the location. You’re right in the midst of the Triangle area, which is one of the top places to live in America, and you have the beach and mountains on either side. Semi others PEach 12 012

Then there is the court time Duke offers. Tyus Jones will sit for nobody, and he’s a consummate winner on the court. Jahlil Okafor has a wide open spot to walk right into and he’s sure to talk with fellow Chicago native Jabari Parker while on campus, and Jabari will surely mention the freedom the Duke system is allowing him.

As for Justise Winslow, a solid baller in every aspect of the game, Duke offers elite basketball and a top-notch education.

In my opinion, it is down to Kansas and Duke for Jones and Okafor, and Arizona and Duke for Winslow.  I for one like the odds of Duke getting the stellar class they are seeking.

If you had a child presented with the opportunities Duke offers, to play for the Olympic coach and a living legend, what would you do?  When the Cameron Crazies cheer their names and the team plays together as an excited crowd urges them on tomorrow, odds are good that I will not be the only one realizing the opportunity at hand.

Duke travels to Blacksburg this weekend in search of their 6th win.

Know the opponent: Virginia Tech Hokies

Duke travels to Blacksburg this weekend in search of their 6th win.
Duke travels to Blacksburg this weekend in search of their 6th win.

The Blue Devils are seeking bowl eligibility as they look for their 6th win in Blacksburg this weekend. After a slow start, the Hokies find themselves at 6-1 and tied atop the ACC Coastal Division. To give us an inside look at the Hokies this week, we welcome in Norm Wood of the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia. Norm has been an ACC media veteran, covering the Virginia Tech and Virginia sports beat since 2000 for the Daily Press. His work can be found online at the ACC All Access blog, and be sure to follow him on Twitter as well.

Bud Foster has long been considered one of the top defensive coordinators in the college game, and he has the Hokies back at the top again in 2013, where they rank 2nd in total defense and 5th in scoring defense, holding opponents to just over 250 yards and 15 points per game. What has been the source of the Hokies’ defensive success? What does the expected return of CB Antone Exum mean to this unit?
Though Foster’s group hasn’t had Exum’s services all season until now, Foster has still been able to work with one of the most experienced units he’s ever had in his 18 seasons as Tech’s defensive coordinator. Tech’s graybeards on the defensive line and in the secondary have been most effective, helping the Hokies amass 27 sacks and 13 interceptions, which puts them first and second in the nation, respectively, in those categories. Perhaps most impressive is how Tech has achieved those marks. Foster, who always preaches a stop-the-run-first mentality, has primarily employed a nickel package that has featured true freshman Kendall Fuller at starting outside linebacker and operating as the nickel back in the scheme. Fuller was recruited to be a cornerback, a position he has also played with success. True freshman Brandon Facyson has also played a significant role while stepping into Exum’s starting spot, logging four interceptions (third in the nation) and nine passes defended (third in the ACC). Of course, Tech has gotten efforts worthy of at least All-ACC consideration from cornerback Kyle Fuller (ACC-best 12 passes defended), who is Kendall’s big brother, middle linebacker Jack Tyler (team-best 57 tackles, which is also fifth in the ACC), defensive ends J.R. Collins (team-bests with 8 1/2 tackles for loss and five sacks) and James Gayle (6 1/2 tackles for loss and three sacks), defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins (6 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks) and strong safety Kyshoen Jarrett (40 tackles and two interceptions). Though Exum is set to step back into his starting role this weekend, Duke might actually be catching Tech’s defense at the right time. Kyle Fuller is questionable with a groin injury, while Facyson is doubtful due to a concussion. If those guys can’t play, Tech will be left with just four available scholarship cornerbacks – an odd spot for the Hokies to be in, considering they started the week with cornerback representing an overwhelming area of strength. Kendall Fuller may slide back to starting cornerback if Kyle can’t play.
Much has been made about the inconsistent play of QB Logan Thomas, even though he has the Hokies at 6-1 and atop the ACC Coastal Division. How would you assess the play of Thomas and the offense thus far this season?
The importance of Tech’s defensive success can’t be stressed enough when looking at the struggles the offense has had to find balance. While the passing game continues to make strides under quarterback Logan Thomas, the rushing attack is still woefully deficient. After an exceptionally slow start, which was aided by a corps of wide receivers with far too many drops in the first two games, Thomas has been sharp in Tech’s three ACC games, completing 57 of 87 passes (65.5 completion percentage) for 753 yards, four touchdown and no interceptions. Receivers Demitri Knowles (29 catches for 346 yards and two touchdowns) and Willie Byrn (25 catches for 349 yards and a touchdown) have emerged as dependable targets. Though Thomas has still completed just 55 percent of his passes on the season for 1,451 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions, he’s gone 109 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception. He’s not getting much support from the running game. Running back Trey Edmunds leads the team with 393 yards rushing, but he’s run the ball 29 times in ACC competition for just 41 yards. Running back J.C. Coleman was limited and missed most of the first month of the season due to a high left ankle sprain, but he’s finally gotten back to full strength in the last couple weeks and could provide a big boost on the ground. The coaching staff spent much of the early part of the off week on the schedule last week breaking down every offensive play to analyze breakdowns in the ground game from running and blocking perspectives. They also took a close look at protections in the passing game. It’ll be interesting this week to see if Tech simplifies things in the running game – offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler insists there hasn’t been much taken out of the playbook in his pro-style scheme – or if it emphasizes the passing game.
With 2 weeks to prepare for the Blue Devils, the Hokies are nearly a 2 touchdown favorite at home in Blacksburg. Duke has given the Hokies a scare in recent meetings, but have still dropped 9 in a row to Virginia Tech. What do you expect to be the key match up in this year’s meeting?
Early this week, the key matchup would’ve been how Tech’s offensive line responded to a week of rest against Duke’s defensive front after the Hokies were banged up and soldiered through seven consecutive games without a break. Tech’s offensive line, which uses a zone-blocking scheme, needs to have a breakout performance in terms of run-blocking – an area it hasn’t excelled in to this point. Now, with the potential absences in the secondary and Exum’s increasingly prominent role upon his return, it’s become apparent the most critical matchup becomes Exum and whoever starts at the other cornerback spot (Kyle Fuller if healthy, and likely Kendall Fuller if Kyle is out) against Duke receivers Jamison Crowder, Brandon Braxton and Max McCaffrey. Don’t be surprised to see Tech use defensive end Dadi Nicolas at outside linebacker while employing safety help over the top to provide backup for the cornerbacks. Nicolas is perhaps Tech’s most skilled athlete on the defensive side. He has the speed (sub-4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash) to hang with tight end Braxton Deaver, running backs out of the backfield or even receivers in one-on-one coverage on short routes. He played the outside linebacker role for the first time two weeks ago in Tech’s 19-9 win against Pittsburgh, but his duties were specific in that game. He was only asked to rush the quarterback, and he responded with three sacks. Still, how Tech’s depleted group of cornerbacks responds to the challenge of facing an offense that isn’t bashful about slinging the ball around will be crucial.
Entering the second half of the 2013 season, the Blue Devils are trying to build a winning football program in Durham as they look for their 6th win and first-ever second consecutive postseason apperance. Looking around the modern college football landscape, it’s hard to find a more stable program than the one built by Frank Beamer in Blacksburg. The Hokies’ boast college football’s winningest active coach and a streak of 20 consecutive bowl appearances. As you look back, what do you think have been the key to Beamer’s longevity and success in Blacksburg?
Obviously, several factors feed into Beamer’s successful run in Blacksburg, not the least of which is the fact he’s been able to retain Foster so long on his staff. Foster has been with Beamer for all 27 seasons at Tech – a working relationship that defines the program. Foster has been picky about job prospects, only taking serious looks at head coaching interview opportunities from programs in automatic-qualifying Bowl Championship Series conferences, which has clearly limited his options. For the first 20 years of Beamer’s tenure, he had one of the most stable staffs in all of college football. His staff has experienced quite a bit of turnover in recent years, but Foster has been the constant. Support from the athletic department and administration has also been important. During the lean years, when the Hokies endured three seasons of 3-8 records or worse in Beamer’s first six seasons, Tech stuck with Beamer. That’s not something that would probably happen in today’s win and win-now era. Tech has also invested heavily in the football program in the last 11 years or so, adding over $100 million in renovations to Lane Stadium, constructing state-of-the-art locker rooms, player lounges, tutoring facilities and training facilities and devising plans to build a $25 million indoor practice facility that is targeted for use beginning in Aug. 2015. Getting that kind of support isn’t possible if Tech doesn’t have the kind of success (not to mention accompanying national television exposure) it’s had over the last two decades –  77 NFL draft picks (six first rounders), 20 consecutive bowl appearances (current third-longest such streak in the nation), eight appearances in BCS-equivalent matchups (though just two wins in those games), four conference titles since joining the ACC in 2004 and one national championship game appearance (in 2000).