Category Archives: Duke Football

Duke Hopes to Upset Northwestern

The Duke Blue Devils got back to their winning ways downing North Carolina A & T a week ago. David Cutcliffe called the dogs off in the fourth quarter after a mostly forgettable first quarter where the Duke defense could not get off the field.

This week Duke faces another program that deals with getting kids in under high academic standards and one which is also somewhat rebuilding. Something must give for this game is very important to both squads in dire need of a positive direction.

This is not an especially intimidating Northwestern squad. They opened with a thud losing to Michigan State at home but recovered a week ago and has an identical 1-1 record as the Blue Devils.

The Blue Devils have not looked especially consistent either. They struggled running the ball versus a team that supposedly had less talent but came out with the win as their depth showed up late in their win over the Aggies.

I will save you the great details on what to expect from each team and simply say that while this is a winnable game for Duke; I still think they're the clear underdog.

The reason for that assessment is the play of the defense or lack thereof. You cannot find consistent playmakers or leaders on this side of the ball after two contests. They do not pressure the quarterback and sack him nor do they create turnovers. The only way Duke wins is if they improve quickly with both issues.

While the kicking game has been a strength there are just too many question marks for the Blue Devils for me to pick them to win. And it is not like Northwestern does not have a ton of their on for they do. Still, I just think the Wildcats will find a way to be more physical and take the victory.

The pick and I hope I am wrong is - Northwestern 31 Duke 20

(Season record 1-1)

A & T at Duke Chatter & Preview

Let's face it. Last week's start to the football season was a disaster for Duke which went to Charlotte for an expected win and came home with a sobering loss. It is not the start that a cash-strapped program with seven home games on the upcoming schedule could afford. Coming off a disturbing upset loss Duke is looking to rebound against another suddenly dangerous opponent in North Carolina A & T.

In other seasons the Aggies would be considered a win and are scheduled to be such. But this year the Duke football team looks especially fragile early on and if they cannot find a victory this weekend, they may not find one at all against an increasingly difficult schedule.

Taking the pulse of the fanbase it is clear that many feel this could be the last season David Cutcliffe hawks the sidelines in Durham. That is not something in which I take pleasure in saying for he brought bowl games to Duke and turned the program around.

I stated late last year that there had been a slow leak in the program of late and the start of this season reaffirms that there has been a drop-off in recruiting, player development, and finding the right coaches who fit each position.

Before I go further, Cutcliffe and Duke can flip the script with what many consider winnable games against the Aggies, Kansas, and Northwestern all at home. In fact, the future of Duke football rides on these three contests in my humble opinion.

Should the Blue Devils look awful in these games and win one or less of the contests, I think the writing is on the wall for an impending change. And Duke would be better served getting a search going.

New Duke Athletic Director Nina King will almost assuredly be making a move unless the team shows immediate life and some form of stability.

As of yet, the program seems ill-prepared for the coming NIL or new era of football. There has quite simply been noticeable regression. In fact, the only reason Duke did not hit the infamous ESPN Bottom 10 this week is that they ranked the ACC on the whole at number four.

You will not find too many people in the media that does not respect and like Coach David Cutcliffe. He has earned his respect but he is losing what he built of late and that quite simply means the much-dreaded sentence. Duke is once again rebuilding.

The Blue Devils cannot allow another chance of a rare victory in a season when the roster is young and depleted to slip by. One must keep in mind Duke lost star staters to other schools in the offseason from a 2-9 team, so expectations were low, to begin with.

Duke has been labeled a 21 point favorite over the Aggies who are coming off a loss to Furman. But beware, A & T has immense pride and they have a storied history. It was not long ago they shocked East Carolina on the road and yes, if the cards fall right, they can beat Duke.

The Blue Devils should win this game. They must win this game if Cutcliffe is to right the ship. And yes, this is an absolute must-win.

I have not studied the Aggies as I did the 49ers a week ago. I hinted in that preview Duke could lose that game and it surely happened in a shocking, disappointing style that left many embarrassed.

The reason for that is that the program is a bit fragile at this time where they are getting little separation from starters to subs in some cases. They need an influx of talent or to develop some kids better going forward.

If by the end of this evening we do not have some new names to talk about making plays at Duke, the pressure only increases.

It is hard to pick against a 21 point favorite in Duke at home. They are or should be desperate. They should go all out in this game. And they should be able to win against their level of competition if they are to play like an ACC school. But Duke is now at the bottom of a down ACC in football.

The question nobody asked David Cutcliffe this week is how the program got to this point. What are the reasons and can they be corrected? Right now, most people are starting to think this might be the end of an era simply from the inability to maintain a modicum of success in the much-important wins department.

I personally hope Cutcliffe can find the answers needed. But I do not see the foundation for that at this time. And I am not sure if the answer to the future is within the program. He is the man in charge and he makes good money to do so in an acceptable way. So, it is on Cutliffe how this all turns out.

So, yeah, the next three contests in my opinion will be the final tell-tale. I would like to think the players and staff will respond but only time will tell.

The pick this week is Duke 38 A & T 22

I am 0-1 on the season and 0-1 ATS. A season ago, I went 9-2 and 10-1 ATS. The season prior 9-3 straight up and 10-2 ATS, so I am off to a bad start too.

**There are plenty of good seats available to tonight's 8:00 game which unveils new concessions, alcohol, and other changes. Masks are required in Wallace Wade Stadium.

Duke in the NFL Schedule

DURHAM – Eleven former Blue Devils were named to 53-man rosters in the National Football League (NFL) in advance of the first week of the regular season which kicks off Thursday.

The list of Duke's professional players includes NFL veterans Breon Borders (Tennessee Titans), Ross Cockrell (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Jamison Crowder (New York Jets), Thomas Hennessy (New York Jets), Daniel Jones (New York Giants), Lucas Patrick (Green Bay Packers) and Laken Tomlinson (San Francisco 49ers).

In addition, rookies Michael Carter II (New York Jets), Victor Dimukeje (Arizona Cardinals), Noah Gray (Kansas City Chiefs) and Chris Rumph II (Los Angeles Chargers) also were named to 53-man rosters for their respective squads.

After competing in the preseason, rookies Mark Gilbert (Pittsburgh Steelers), Devery Hamilton (Las Vegas Raiders) and Deon Jackson (Indianapolis Colts) as well as veterans Joe Giles-Harris (Buffalo Bills) and Matt Skura (New York Giants) were signed to their respective organizations' practice squads.

#DukeInTheNFL Week 1 Schedule
Ross Cockrell
Thursday, Sept. 9
Dallas at Tampa Bay, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Chris Rumph II
Sunday, Sept. 12
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Michael Carter II, Jamison Crowder and Thomas Hennessy
Sunday, Sept. 12
New York Jets at Carolina, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Breon Borders and Victor Dimukeje
Sunday, Sept. 12
Arizona at Tennessee, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Laken Tomlinson
Sunday, Sept. 12
San Francisco at Detroit, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Noah Gray
Sunday, Sept. 12
Cleveland at Kansas City, 4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Daniel Jones
Sunday, Sept. 12
Denver at New York Giants, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Lucas Patrick
Sunday, Sept. 12
Green Bay at New Orleans, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)

A Problematic Start for Duke Football

Those who cover Duke Football closely knew this season could be problematic. But many of them did not envision a loss in-state school Charlotte.

Duke football has been the brunt of many a joke over the years but David Cutcliffe halted that for a good long while taking Duke to bowl games.

Somehow, someway Duke has come full circle under Cutcliffe. They have returned oh-too close to the fragile program they once were in the ways of producing wins.

It is never a good sign when players who were slated to be stars this season elected to finish their college football careers elsewhere.

Losses like the one to Charlotte hinder recruiting as well, especially within the state. Duke is mired in a recruiting cycle which only brings in three-star or less talent with no occasional four stars of late.

That is fine if you develop the talent but that has not been happening. For instance, the last standout wideout Duke produced was Jamison Crowder and Duke is on its fourth starting quarterback in as many years which does not help.

It seems like when for example the defensive line gets shored up, a leak springs elsewhere. One leak is fixed and two more pop up. Rinse and repeat with other position groups. Coaches have been moved from position to position each season of late showing a lack of continuity and finding working solutions.

Nobody expected a winning season this year in Durham. Duke was picked dead last in the ACC's Coastal Division by everyone. But what some hoped to see was signs a rebuild could take place again and solidify the foundation of the program.

Last night's loss to Charlotte was anything but what one wanted to see. Somewhere along the line, the program got fat and happy with some success and now they are showing no immediate signs of maintaining progress or getting back to winning ways.

Conventional wisdom tells us that this was just one game. Some will say, teams, improve from week one to week two. Duke may well improve but the pace at which it is happening of late is depressing to the fanbase.

Duke committed a lot to upgrade football facilities and many had visions of Duke Football continuing to ascend at the time it happened. But what we have seen is the program go from south to north to south again under Cutcliffe.

A look around social media shows dismayed fans, people cracking jokes and the like. Duke just doesn't look like a team from the ACC right now and if they were not entrenched in a league this would be bad news in an ever-changing college athletics landscape.

Duke committed a single error in the loss but that is all it took to send this group to 0-1. But the maddening thing is has any player ever set a school rushing record only for his team to lose?

Watching the Duke defense not being able to disrupt any facet of the game was tough. Seeing Duke get outplayed badly to start the first and third quarters is a sign of a team not being ready to pounce. And watching the 49ers roll down the field like Alabama is haunting.

But for all the Blue Devils troubles on the field, there are areas of strength. The program graduates its players and there is a good character within the staff.

In some years, doing things right as this staff does would be enough. But in today's NIL world of changes, the Blue Devils suddenly seem rudderless or unprepared to step into the future.

The schedule in the coming weeks will allow Duke to compete and maybe garner some wins, but down the stretch, this team is not built to have success with the meat of the ACC schedule or maybe even compete.

Many were curious to see what Duke would look like last evening. What we got was a disjointed effort which points to a lack of continuity. This has been and likely will continue to be a problem for the ills are plentiful.

Duke at Charlotte – Preview

Duke walloped Charlotte a season ago on Halloween eve and that was the last time the program won a game. The Blue Devils ran out to a 24-0 lead with their ground game leading the way. After being thumped in that contest many think the 49ers have their hearts set on revenge in the season opener.

The 49ers have a revamped secondary and defense where they have several new starters. This will be the first time Charlotte has hosted a Division I team at home so you can expect a standing-room-only crowd to see if they can pull off the upset.

Charlotte is led by veteran quarterback Chris Reynalds who has a go-to receiver in Victor Tucker and both are pre-season all-conference selections.

All eyes on Gunnar Holmberg

The last time Gunnar Holmberg started a football game was in a high school not too far down the road from Durham in Wake Forest, N.C. That was 2017. He has yet to throw a touchdown pass or tested himself at the collegiate level. Should he struggle Duke could too. Having been named a team captain Holmberg has earned the staff's trust but can he manage an entire game behind center in his first outing?

A big part of the gameplan

Expect Duke to try and establish their run game early and they will stick with it if the 49ers cannot stack the front which will likely be their intent.

If this happens Gunnar Holmberg who will be the fourth opening-day starting quarterback for Duke in as many seasons will need success through the air.

There are a lot of things to watch for on Friday including the play-calling responsibilities where Requan Boyette and Jeff Farris take over the duties for Duke as Cutcliffe returns to managing the team on the whole.

If the Duke signal caller struggles and Duke cannot run the ball effectively there could be an upset where the 49ers are a mere 6.5 point underdog. And this is where the Duke defense has to help. Of course, said defense hopes the offense does not turn the ball over the record-setting pace of a year ago.

The Blue Devils need to discover some playmakers on the offensive end this season to have sustained success. Especially since the defense is thin in the front.

The good news for Duke is the special teams look solid with Porter Wilson and Charlie Ham are seasoned veterans. That is one area of the game where it was clear David Cutcliffe felt most confident in his Monday talk with the media.

Duke is going to get a good effort from Charlotte and they'll need to be on top of things and remain aggressive through adversity. A lot of intangibles can come into play if Duke does not execute out of the gate. If the 49ers hang around early, this game could be closer than some might think.

Should Duke come away from the opener with anything other than a win; it'll be a long season. But the real pressure will be seeing if they can clean things up from a season ago by not turning the ball over. The Blue Devils will also look to get back to winning habits and solidify the program's foundation in what looks to be a rebuilding season.

The pick - Duke 34 Charlotte 24

Duke Names Football Captains

DURHAM – Duke head coach David Cutcliffe announced Sunday the naming of Jake BoboDeWayne Carter and Gunnar Holmberg as team captains for the 2021 season. 

The three returning lettermen were elected by their teammates.

In 32 career games, including 13 starts, Bobo has recorded 52 receptions for 647 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to his offensive duties, the senior wide receiver has seven punt returns for 41 yards and one kickoff return for 19 yards. A native of North Andover, Mass., the 6-5 target boasts 13 games with 20-plus receiving yards, including a career-high 70 yards at Syracuse in 2020. Bobo also hauled in a career-high six receptions at N.C. State that season. 

Carter, a sophomore from Pickerington, Ohio, is competing for a starting defensive tackle position. In 14 career games, including one start, he has recorded 12 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and one sack. Carter posted a career-high four tackles at Virginia in 2020 and got into the backfield for assisted sacks against Georgia Tech and Florida State. In addition, Carter holds one career reception for 11 yards on a fake punt at Georgia Tech. 

Holmberg has completed 18-of-25 pass attempts for 161 yards (.720) with two interceptions and has rushed 24 times for 28 yards (1.17) with one touchdown in seven career games. The graduate student and Wake Forest, N.C., native recorded a career-high seven pass completions for 71 yards against North Carolina in 2020.

Duke begins its season on Friday, Sept. 3 at Charlotte. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Jerry Richardson Stadium.

Season tickets are available online at www.GoDuke.com/FootballTix or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at 919-681-2583.