Category Archives: Duke Football

It’s All About the Victory Bell!

When Duke and North Carolina take to the field this Saturday at 4:00 in Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill it's all about the Victory Bell.

The Blue Devils have won three consecutive games in the series but each of those contests has been close. This season, a rejuvenated North Carolina team comes into the game as a 3 point favorite and for good reason.

The Tar Heels are the best 3-4 team in the nation. Does that comment sound strange to you? Well, if one takes a closer look at the situation it shouldn't.

North Carolina has been within 6 points of their opponent's win or lose in every game this season. And that is a fact against a solid schedule. The Tar Heels opened the season with a bang with wins over South Carolina (which beat Georgia) and Miami.

The Tar Heels played #2 Clemson even until losing at the end 21-20. Losses have come by 3 points to nationally ranked Appalachian State by 3, 2 points versus Virginia Tech last week in 6 overtimes in Blacksburg and a 6 point loss on the road to a solid Wake Forest team. Their four losses have been by a combined 12 points.

As for similar foes, Duke played its best game of the season against Virginia Tech winning large and they defeated Georgia Tech 41-23 at home while the Tar Heels defeated the Jackets on the road 38-22.

Unlike Duke which was dismantled by Virginia a week ago and Alabama in their opener, the Tar Heels have been competitive in every game.

The intangibles in my opinion point to a Tar Heels win. They are playing at home. They have the confidence they can play with anyone, they have a quarterback who has thrown for 20 touchdowns with a mere 3 interceptions as well in freshman Sam Howell.

But the one thing which has boosted North Carolina this year was the addition of head coach Mack Brown who has made the season fun for their players again. And you know the calendar has been circled from day one for the October 26th game with Duke.

The intangibles on the Duke side of the ball are in play as well. Can the Blue Devils put a horrid loss to Virginia behind them? Can they match the Tar Heels hunger to reclaim the bell circling the wagons for a win?

The Duke offense has been hit or miss of late and slow starts have caused the Blue Devils to lose to Pitt, and aforementioned Virginia as well.

Two of the Blue Devils wins are over North Carolina A & T and Middle Tennesee, making the win over Virginia Tech their best of the season to date.

The cold-hard fact is if the remaining games the schedule were all played tomorrow, Duke would be the underdog in all but one of them.

That should tell you how important this game is for Duke in that they need two wins to get to bowl eligibility with a tough schedule ahead.

The Duke defense has played well overall but they have been put into hopeless positions of late. Be it turnovers or failed fourth-down conversions, the defense has been on the field with their backs against the wall far too often.

What that points to is a sputtering offense. Few playmakers have stepped up of late for Duke. There have been too few downfield passes, breakaway runs, etc.

While I may have made all this sound like doom and gloom, a win for Duke would flip the season back to a favorable position. They would be one game shy of their sixth bowl game in seven seasons and retain the Victory Bell.

Let's face it, winning the bell makes for a good season in the rivalry. And that means the hungriest team will end Saturday on a high note.

But the danger in this game is that Duke seems to ride the momentum and there has not been enough of that of late. And if momentum is going their opponent's way it seems to come in waves.

Duke cannot afford to give the Tar Heels any momentum they do not earn. A turnover could start the wave of confidence for an opponent which is hungry to flip the switch on close losses to good teams against their rival. If they get on a roll, they will not hold back.

It is just hard to have a lot of confidence in Duke coming off a loss similar to the Wake Forest debacle a season ago. Meanwhile, their rival has played inspired football and been in every game against stiff competition.

While this may not be a popular statement, losing to Duke three consecutive times is a nightmare scenario for the guys down the road. On the other hand, a loss for Duke points to better luck next season.

If Duke can pull this win off, the sunshine will be bright again on the program going into their off week. This is the Blue Devils third crossroads game this year. They lost the first two to Pitt and Virginia which makes the Coastal Divison a pipe dream.

A win in this game would mean wonderful things for the program and cure a lot of ills. A loss would drop the team to 4-4 and answering questions during a long off week before playing Notre Dame at home.

My picks are 6-1 straight up for the season and 6-1 against the spread. I would like to be wrong this week, but the pick here is North Carolina 31 Duke 24

Duke at UVA – Something Has to Give

The Duke Blue Devils travel to Charlottesville this Saturday to take on the Virginia Cavaliers. Make no mistake about the fact that this is a huge game for both schools in the highly competitive ACC Coastal Division.

In fact, it is fair to say that both the Blue Devils and Cavaliers are at a season crossroads. The winner will very much be in the thick of the race, while the loser will need plenty of help to get back into contention.

Both teams come into the contest at 2-1 in the league and 4-2 overall. Duke wasted a golden opportunity to be in control of the division with a recent home loss to Pitt before bouncing back against Georgia Tech, a team that is at the bottom of the standings.

Virginia (4-2) has lost two games in a row to Norte Dame and Miami, but the Cavaliers have been ranked for much of the season. They also hold a convincing win over Pitt on the road and defeated Florida State at home.

Duke has lost three consecutive games to Virginia under Bronco Mildenhall; each in frustrating fashion. The Cavaliers made Daniel Jones look like a player you would never guess left school early and starts for the New York Giants. They feasted off his passes for record turnovers, so, hopefully, the memory of the struggles is enough to get Duke better prepared.

Making a case for Virginia to win

Bronco Mildenhall has had the Blue Devils number since he took over the Virginia program after leaving BYU. The Cavaliers have played with confidence in the series where their defense has stymied Duke in their previous matchups. They will seek to carry that over in this game.

While the Cavaliers have most recently lost their best defensive player in Bryce Hall, the defense should still be quite stingy. If they set the tone early in this game, they could allow their offense which has struggled at times with their offensive front to flourish against what many consider a lesser opponent than their last two opponents.

If Virginia establishes a running game, an area where they have struggled, it could be a long day for Duke. What you can count on is a staunch passing attack where playmaker Bryce Perkins throws to receivers with both size and speed. Wideouts Joe Reed and Hasise Dubois have the potential to thrive against a Duke secondary that has a single interception this season.

Another area where Virginia may flourish on the defensive side of the ball is the play of solid linebackers Zane Zandier, Charles Snowden and Jordan Mack. All three of these players are in the top four for team tackles.

Making a case for Duke to win

The law of averages is on the Blue Devils side. After dropping four straight to the Cavaliers, Duke hopes to get back to its winning ways where David Cutcliffe owns a winning record in the series.

Duke has distributed the ball to many players on offense and that will be a key in this contest. If Duke can establish some sort of running game versus the 13th rated defense against the rush in the land it should allow for Quentin Harris to make some plays downfield.

The Blue Devils have been solid on defense at times. If they get after Bryce Perkins and then neutralize his running ability, it will bode well for the team. They are capable of stacking the box and shutting down the run game.

Duke has been solid in the kicking game this season as well where AJ Reed has not missed a field goal. While Reed has tried just eight attempts, he is perfect thus far.

The Prediction

This game could go either way. That is obvious on paper where Virginia opened as a 5.5 point favorite which has dropped to 3 as of today. Whichever team can execute for four quarters will likely win for a slow start in this game may spell doom.

In a close game, turnovers will loom large, so whoever wins that battle may come out victorious as well. In my mind, the team that scores four touchdowns will win. FWIW, UVA is undefeated at home and 4-0 when they score 28 or more. A missed or even a made field goal may play a big role in a game that will come down to defense.

It makes sense to pick UVA to win if for no other reason than their recent success in the series where the two teams have played every year since 1963. They are also playing at home and they were the preseason pick to win the division by the media as well.

On the other hand, Duke once again has an opportunity to remain in or tied for first place. And that is something to play for. It will require a terrific effort to win this game and hunger for accomplishing that will come into play.

I stand at 5-1 straight up and 5-1 against the spread for the season. I will be the first to admit I would not suggest wagering on this game nor do we promote that with our picks. The against the spread picks are for entertainment purposes only.

That said, I must make a pick in a game where intangibles will rule. Here it goes ...Virginia 28 Duke 23 I think the Blue Devils may lose a heartbreaker in the 4th quarter.

The homer pick in me says the Duke defense will stand tall and the Blue Devils win 24-21. It could happen.

Duke Gets Win over Georgia Tech

The Duke Blue Devils moved to 2-1 in the ACC and 4-2 overall with a 41-23 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

The game was far from pretty but the Blue Devils did what it takes to hold off the Yellow Jackets.

Duke reeled off 38 straight points in the 1st half after Georgia Tech took the opening drive for a score.

The scoring started off with a 33 yards AJ Reed field goal which was the first of two for the game.

True freshman wideout Eli Pancol would later score on a 3 yard run for his third score of the season.

Duke running back Deon Jackson would add two short running scores of 1 and 7 yards. Duke QB Quentin Harris added a one-yard plunge after a career-high rush from Manteo Durant.

Georgia Tech would rebound for a quick score before the half on a James Graham 8 yard run to make the half time score 38-14.

Duke came out flat as a pancake in the 2nd half. Georgia Tech quickly added a field goal to cut the lead to 38-17. Duke added an AJ Reed FG, he has yet to miss for the season.

The Yellow Jackets then scored 8 play 41 yard drive a blocked punt to make it Duke 41-23.

The Blue Devils have struggled of late to put forth a consistent effort and they now must travel to Virginia. The Cavaliers have had the Blue Devils number and Duke will be the underdog in Charlottesville.

Duke, UNC, and Virginia all 2-1 in the league are currently all tied atop the contention crowded Coastal Division.

Can Duke Swat the Yellow Jackets?

The Duke Blue Devils return to the Brooks field this Saturday to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Wallace Wade Stadium.

About Georgia Tech

Well, those Paul Johnson-David Cutcliffe matchups are over. It may be odd for some Duke fans to not see the full-fledged option attack of the past when Duke faces the Yellow Jackets this weekend.

The Jackets are now led by first-year coach Geoff Collins and they will run a more traditional offensive system. Collins team has some capable defenders but on the offensive side of the ball, they have struggled not having scored over 24 points this season. In fact, at 1-4, they are fresh off a 38-22 loss to North Carolina a week ago.

The key for Georgia Tech will be to try and get off to a quick start against Duke. Teams that have done so, have given the Blue Devils headaches. The Yellow Jackets will seek to control the ball via their run game while hoping their defense can slow down Quentin Harris and the offense.

About Duke

The Blue Devils must put the Pitt loss behind them and that is easier said than done. A week ago, a horrid start doomed Duke as their comeback fell short in a highly frustrating loss to Pitt where they did not protect their home field.

Duke is a heavy favorite in this game where the line is Duke by 17.5. If the Blue Devils play up to their capabilities, this should be their fourth win on the season. In fact, this is a must-win for bowl hopes in that Duke will be the underdog in most of their remaining games where things currently stand,

The Blue Devils are a pretty good football team, but the aforementioned schedule leaves no room for losing close games as happened a week ago. Duke should be able to slow down Georgia Tech with its defense which had to deal with the offense's mistakes a week ago.

What will happen

Duke may get out of the gate a little slow but they should shake off the funk of a week ago for the win. The Blue Devils may rest some borderline injured players in this one as well, but they will look to bounce back with a good overall performance. The key will be to not look ahead to a game at Virginia and take care of the business at hand.

I dropped to 4-1 on my straight-up picks and stand at 4-1 vs the spread. I hope to bounce back this week as well. The pick here is Duke 37 Georgia Tech 11

Can Duke Finally Defeat Pitt? Preview

The Duke Blue Devils host the Pitt Panthers on Durham Day this Saturday evening at 8:00 on Brooks Field in Wallace Wade Stadium.  Make no mistake, this is a critical game for both teams, so we can expect a physical and spirited match up.

About Pitt

The Pitt Panthers are the defending Coastal Division champions and they have plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball.  The Panthers have defeated Duke in four consecutive outings and even the last Duke win came in overtime.

The Panthers opened their season with a loss to Virginia and played highly ranked Penn State to a one-score game on the road.  They rebounded well to win three games, including a win over Central Florida, a team which has been a power the last few years..

Last week, they held out a bunch of starters in a win over Delaware.  Pitt was without starting quarterback Kenny Picket last week.  Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi confirmed on Thursday that he would play.  In short, Pitt took advantage of a lesser opponent to rest their key players for this week's game.

Pitt has big receivers which will test Duke more than any team since Alabama.  They also have some veterans on the defensive side of the ball.  They are a solid football team, right down to their special teams which really comes after opposing punters.

A Panther strength is their pass rush where they have a whopping 24 sacks this season.  That is the 2nd most in the entire nation and a reason they are 3-2 against a tough early-season schedule.

Narduzzi has a way of imparting his confidence in his team.  A defensive guy, he harped all week on how many yards they gave up against Delaware.  But make no mistake, he is confident.  While he talks respect of Duke there seem to be an underlying sarcasm in some of his statements

The Pitt head man all but gave Duke some bulletin board material yesterday during a media session.  He basically said his team played a bad game against Virginia and they wanted another shot after saying his team would be well prepared for Duke watching the film all week.  The kicker was when he said I wish we played Virginia at 8:00 and Duke at noon.  I guess he thinks they could survive Duke and still have enough left over for Virginia.

Anyhow, Pitt is cocky, talented, always physical and confident.

About Duke

The Blue Devils must put a big program win over Virginia Tech behind them.  The performance was stellar, but Pitt is an upgrade in competition.

Duke comes into the game 1-0 in league lay and 3-1 overall and they hope to protect their home field.   The hope is to have some local residents in the stand for Durham Day, but a negative intangible is that the students are on Fall break.

Quintin Harris has had a great season to date, but he will face a vicious rush.  It is encouraging that Duke has allowed a single sack on the season.

The Duke secondary came up with their first interception of the season against the Hokies.  They will be tested in this game, so perhaps the Blue Devils rush can get to the Pitt quarterback.  The lack of finishing plays when in position has bugged Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.

Duke lost Brittain Brown for the season this past week, but overall they are pretty healthy.  With a tough slate this season, each game is critical for Duke bowl aspirations.

What will happen

My prediction last week was not as close as previous games but I am 4-0 straight up on the season and 4-0 against the spread.  Duke is currently a slight 3.5 favorite in this game which seems to infuriate the Panthers who have quite simply had Duke's number.

We know we will get some football weather and both teams will have to deal with a late 8:00 kickoff.  Pitt does not want to drop to 0-2 in the league and Duke wants to make a run at the Coastal, so they need a win.

Which team can play four full quarters of football?  Duke has fallen short in the area against Pitt, but this is a new opportunity.  I expect a very competitive and physical game.  With these two, points can come in droves as witnessed by past scores, but on paper, both defenses look pretty good.

At some point, Duke has to get out from under the Pitt shadow, right?  Well, it will not be easy but I am counting on Duke rising to the occasion.  To do so, they need a quicker start than a week ago and remain aggressive without too many gambles.

The pick here is Duke 31 Pitt 24

A Program Win for Duke Football

The end of the first quarter came to a close in Blacksburg last evening and Duke trailed Virginia Tech 3-0.  The Blue Devils could not even manage ten yards of offense and there was not a single first down on the ledger.

What happened next has people talking about Duke Football and David Cutcliffe for the Blue Devils went on to outscore the favored Hokies by a score of 45-7.

When the dust cleared, Duke had dominated Virginia Tech in Blacksburg 45-10 in a game that served notice to the nation.  The Blue Devils won their ACC opener in grand style before a nationally televised audience on ESPN.

The Blue Devils were so dominant that they sent Virginia Tech fans to the exits with their first score in the third quarter. Duke also spoiled the Hokies white-out party where former head coach Frank Beamer and player Michael Vick were on the sidelines.

This was one of David Cutcliffe's finest moments, but it was also one for the program on the whole.  Duke not only won by their largest margin on the road ever under their long-time coach, but they handed a traditionally strong program their worst defeat since 1950.

It is hard to know where to start when talking about the positives from the win.  Quintin Harris was once again solid accounting for three touchdowns as the new leader of the team.  He gained a team-leading 100 yards in rushing including an explosive back-breaking 42-yard jaunt to go with two passing touchdowns.

Tight end, Noah Gray caught two touchdown passes.  The first came on a one-play drive after a turnover.  Turnover was a sweet word on the evening.  Duke recovered a fumble which led to a score and a momentum swing and the secondary got their first interception on the season from Leon Johnson.

True freshman wideout, Jalon Calhoun connected on a double-pass trick play to Deon Jackson for a score.  And this is where I mention Duke offensive coordinator Zac Roper called a near-perfect game for three-quarters.

And on defense, the Blue Devils held the Hokies offensive attack to 259 yards.  But a closer look shows that if you take away two plays, a 45-yard run and a 72-yard touchdown pass the Hokies gained a mere 142 yards.

Duke limited explosive plays while making some of their own.  And when their strategy failed them in the first quarter, they made adjustments that drove their opponent mad.  The change of pace on offense and the personnel packages was quite simply masterful coaching.

And then there was the special teams play.  Josh Blackwell almost broke a return save a slip.  AJ Reed stayed perfect on the season with a 31-yard field goal.  And punter Austin Parker rolled for 28 yards on a fake punt, which interestingly gives him bragging rights for the highest yards per carry of any player on the team this season.

Back to the defensive side of the ball, Duke senior linebacker Koby Quansah was stellar.  He recovered that key fumble and was a part of 13 tackles and a half of a sack.  On a night when Duke managed a single sack, their secondary played well shutting down Hokies quarterback Ryan Willis for all but a handful of plays.

Another highlight for Duke was getting backup quarterback Chris Katrenick some snaps.  And he wanted in on the fun as well as witnessed by his 9-yard run for a score to mark the final margin of victory.

While Duke got off to a miserable start, they showed off some maturity that has not always been there in the past.  The players were clearly tougher, more physical and quicker than their opponent and they let it show.

I cannot help but wonder if David Cutcliffe wanted to show the nation more about Duke football on a Friday night to remember.  Duke dressed in their black uniforms played the tough guy role on this occasion and did so with authority.

It is no secret Daniel Jones has had a great NFL debut, but some in the media felt the need to take shots at Duke Football when speaking of him.  Nevermind the team has been to 6 bowls in the last 7 seasons.  So, perhaps last nights performance will make some of them come around as they did with the aforementioned Jones.

Wins like the one over Virginia Tech cannot help but gain some attention and Duke likely helped itself with any possible recruits watching or seeing the result.

So, this was a program win.  Duke Gang should be proud as should the fans who ought to turn out in appreciation next Saturday when the team takes on Pitt.

While this is an ultimate feel-good moment for Duke alumni, family, friends and fans, the Blue Devils will soon need to go back to work to continue to build on their most recent accomplishment.  That is, of course,  after some well deserved weekend celebration.

Duke has a two-game homestand coming up in Wallace Wade Stadium on Brooks Field and fans will hopefully turn out to support the team.  The next step in the journey is to solve one of the most physical teams in football -- the Pitt Panthers.

As David Cutcliffe likes to say, "Are you ready for some football?"