Category Archives: Duke Football

Northwestern downs Duke 24-20 in a frustrating loss

[private]It was a frustrating evening for Duke in that they played well enough to win minus two mistakes. The biggest one was when the ball was centered over the punters head. The other snafu was a fumble in Duke territory. Both mistakes led to scores by an opportunistic Northwestern team which clipped the Devils 24-20.

Another reason Duke may have lost was the fact that the Wildcats had no turnovers. Perhaps this was ball protection on their part, but you must consider the possibility that Duke failed to create takeaways.

On a night where the Duke offense out gained the visitor, the lack of big plays when it counted spelled doom. While the home team couldn't make the plays to find the end zone. Northwestern quarterback hit a couple of key third down passes which proved to be deadly.

Duke was unable to get it done on two opportunities in Northwestern territory late in the game. Still, the Dukies were the better team in the second half, and Cutcliffe once again made good adjustments in the locker room.

A huge bright spot was an 11 catch effort by freshman Johnny Williams. With Eron Riley going out in the second quarter and playing sparingly again in the fourth quarter, WIlliams made his case for ACC Rookie of the Week. Readers of BDN know we tipped you off early on concerning the speedy wideout and he'll be fun to watch as the season progresses.

About the only thing you can do in Dukes case is pick up the pieces and put the game behind you. The taste of losing a winnable game should motivate them to get better as they prepare for Navy. There's a lot of football left in the season and Duke looks improved and the games are once again fun.

Fans likely had that pit in their stomachs after the loss on the ride home. They probably discussed the what if's. If it didn't hurt, then you wouldn't care and I can tell you firsthand that more fans truly care this season. More importantly, fans are talking about Duke after a loss and that was not the case for eight years.

I didn't want to do a game write up this morning. Instead, I simply wanted to share a few thoughts. As Jimmy V once said, "Don't give up. Never give up!" That should be this mornings motto of fans and team alike. Let's reach down and pick it up and get ready to rock the house and beat the Naval Academy. A victory cures all ills and this team will prepare better than ever in the coming week.

Notes- Coach Cutcliffe challenged his seniors and team to more or less get after it after the game.

Gripe-We need better uniformity with concerns to new cheers and scoreboard operation. Folks, you do not play music designed to pump it up when Northwestern enters the field each half. You wait until they are lined up for kickoff. Try using what I thought was a good "stand up" cheer during critical moments instead of a NW field goal attempt as time is expriring in the first half. Try to time the music better for there were too many times when it was inappropriate or during the start of a play. Get the graphics right. Don't pump up the Navy game yet have Duke vs. Northwestern at noon next week on the promo. Try this one .... when Duke gets a first down, try saying with enthusiasm, "and it's another Duke Blue Devil first down." The crowd will eventually join in on the "first down." Play the "noise meter or get loud" on all opponents third down attempts. Please, try and tighten up a bit. As fans we like the additions, but make them flow properly.[/private]

Duke looks to go 2-0 versus the favored Northwestern Wildcats

[private]Northwestern invades Wallace Wade Stadium to face the Blue Devils in a matchup between two 1-0 teams. The Wildcats seek to avenge at narrow loss which gave Duke it's only victory last season. Duke hopes to go to 2-0 for the first time since 1998.

Northwestern features a balanced offensive attack spearheaded by quarterback C.J. Batcher and tailback Tyrell Sutton. The Wildcats played without the services of Sutton last season in the teams matchup. They also gain their top defensive lineman back after a one game suspension. For those who expect to see the same team with 17 starters back, keep in mind that Northwestern brought in four new coaches including a new DC.

So, in a sense, this will be two teams that despite returning their core starters, will likely see a new wrinkle or two on both sidelines. That said, which team will be the most prepared? New Coach David Cutcliffe had all summer to prepare for James Madison and he obviously did a masterful job. He's had much less time to prepare for the Wildcats who come in a 6.5 favorite despite being on the road.

Cutcliffe knows that Northwestern runs a spread offense and a similar defensive scheme that his Devils run. Duke will try to keep a potent offense out of the end zone and hope to control the ball to keep the defense fresh. Look for Duke to try and get into the secondary depth of the Cats where four freshman are backups.

Weather could play a factor if it rains or there is a wet field. This would seem to favor Northwestern in that it would slow down the Devils speed. If the Dukies can find a way to win, Cutcliffe and crew will be the talk of the town and the resurgence will be in full swing.

Cutcliffe and his team have encouraged students and fans to turn out in force again and they need the support. So, don't mind the possible rain. That's what they make ponchos and umbrellas for. This will be another entertaining game and I'd like to see you in Wallace Wade so you can tell everybody on Sunday you saw Duke win it's second game of the season. Be loud, be proud and cheer hard and wear your Duke Blue![/private]

Quick hitter #7 – QB, Thaddeus Lewis talks of TD’s to Riley, and fan support

[private]What do you think of your performance against JMU?

I think it was okay.  There's always room for improvement after the first game.  The mistakes we made in the James Madison game will need to be corrected.

Do you feel like last weeks performance helped further develop the fan base?

Definitely!  The fans stayed out there in the rain during an hour delay to see what Duke had to offer.  We came out there and performed to the best of our ability and tried to give them what they came to see.

You had two hook ups with Eron Riley for touchdowns.  Is it safe to say he is your main man?

Definitely!  There is something about Eron that you know if it is thrown his way, he's going to come up with it.  On the two touchdowns ... the first one I was kind of surprised to see him get in my vision and he never hit that route, but he kind of got there ... you know, it's just what the defense gave us.  He was open in that situation.   I have a feeling Coach wants to get him in position to get more catches than he actually had.  You'll see a lot more of that this year.

It seemed that play was designed to go another way ...

Yes.  It was a smash combination.  They covered Eron pretty well, but he got to the backside.  In that situation you have to use your eyes to work the cornerback either way.  As it so happens I was trying to look back this way to see if I could move him a little bit and Eron came in my vision.

What did you think about the Blue Devil Walk and the pre game festivities?

I thought that was great.  You know, just to see the fans, students, faculty and everybody cheering you on ... you don't always have that where you are use to getting off the bus and you are gone.  Just having that walk and getting a connection with the fans before you get out there on the football field and you feel as one.  The fans don't always get to see you up close and give you a handshake on a one on one basis like they did during the walk.

Is it safe to say that kind of thing made a difference in the teams play?

I can definitely say that the fan support makes a difference.  It's like the twelfth man on the field.  We need that extra boost on third and long offense or defense.  Just to get a win - that's going to make them come back and cheer you on again.

What are your thoughts going into the Northwestern game?

It's going to be a good game, it was last year.  They're a different football team, so we will definitely have to go out there and prepare well.  I'm pretty sure they are working hard.[/private]

Quick hitter #6 – RB, Cliff Harris speaks of fan support and winning

[private]Cliff Harris ran for 95 yards on 17 carries in Duke's 31-7 win over Northwestern. He stated that some of his play was dedicated to injured teammate Re'quan Boyette before talking about conditioning and the fan support.

What was the first thing you did after the win over James Madison?

The first thing I did was ... I ran to the fans and I thanked them for their support because it's been awhile since we've had that kind of fan base at the game. I really enjoyed playing in front of that

Pictured - Cliff Harris, left and Re'Quan Boyette, right
Pictured - Cliff Harris, left and Re'Quan Boyette, right
many people, this being my first game as a senior. And I really hope they come out and support us against against Northwestern. I will always thank the fans after every game because I really do appreciate the support.

Can you describe the feeling you had after last seasons victory over Northwestern and then the one over JMU?

Basically, iI was just as happy then as I am now. It's the same feeling. This (JMU) is a fresh start for us, but the win is behind us and focus on Northwestern. They remember what happened last year too, so they will bring their best game.

It seemed as if the team was fresher than normal in the second half ...

Our conditioning level is the best it's been in the four years I've been here. I mean, the whole team felt fresher during the third and fourth quarter. In the locker room (halftime) you could tell because nobody started cramping or anything like that.

Now that the team has tasted an opening victory, is there an anxiousness to get to the next game?

Yeah, I mean, once you win the first game you realize just how good it feels and you want to work harder and enjoy that feeling again on Saturday.

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Quick Hitter #5 – OG, Rob Schirmann talks fundamentals and appreciation for the Wade Crazies

[private]The Duke offensive line played very well in the opening day win over James Madison last Saturday. They will test themselves against the Northwestern defense this weekend in a battle of two 1-0 teams. Rob Schirmann is an offensive guard and leader who is part of a senior core for Duke. Schirmann's 25 career starts is tops among the interior lineman.

It took Duke its first four games last season to gain as many yards on the ground as you all did this past Saturday. What do you attribute the improvement to?

We’ve been working pretty hard on our run game. We’ve been working on all of our skills. We’ve practicing pad level, our steps and all the fundamentals. We’ve just been working hard on that and you can see it in a game.

Are you part of the Cutcliffe weight loss plan? What did you weigh last year?

I was about 285 and I’m about 275 now. I lost more in the off season, but tried to gain a little bit more. It’s increased my strength and I’ve lost a couple of percentages of body fat and I’ve gotten a little quicker in the off season. It’s all been very positive.

It’s been awhile since you’ve won a game, how do you think you will react to that this week?

We will not focus on that this week. There’s no big heads around here and there’s no big ego’s. Nothing from last week will effect how we focus and prepare this week, how we go into this game. We’re strictly focused on Northwestern.

What is your reaction on the crowd this past Saturday and the Blue Devil Walk?

Personally, I thought that was great. And the Blue Devil Walk pretty much amazed me. I was extremely excited and pumped up to see all the students out there on that and in the stadium, seeing them all out there through the rain delay … I’m real happy we had that kind of support.

What did you do after the victory?

The first thing I did was smile. Then I looked over at the student section and not a single person had left. It was unlike anything I had seen in the past during the four years I had been here. It was a good feeling and was pretty exciting.[/private]

Athletic prospect, Dontae Aycock looking to trim his list

[private]If you go to Central Florida and mention the name Dontae Aycock, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't heard of him. Aycock plays for quarterback Chamberlain H.S. in Tampa, Florida and is often reffered to as a human highlight reel. He is rated the 65th best athlete in the class of 2009 by ESPN and projects by most scouts as a running back at the college level.

"Georgia Tech is the only team that's recruiting me to play quarterback in that they run the option and that's what I run in high school," said Aycock during last evenings interview with BDN. Aycock recently visited the Georgia Tech campus and was rumored by some to be a heavy lean towards the Jackets. "I like the visit a lot, but as far as almost committing, I never said that."

According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Tech Coach Paul Johnson had little contact with Aycock of late and they are rumored to have their eyes on another prospect. Another recent AJC article feels that Duke and Tech are running even for the talented young mans services.

Aycock was first offered by Kansas, but 22 schools have now offered. Among those are Duke, Rutgers, UCF, Illinois, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville and the aforementioned Georgia Tech. Aycock said that Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Louisville and Duke were the most active schools regarding his services.

He then mentioned that Coach Johnson of West Virginia was the lead recruiter for the Mountaineers and different coaches from Tech and Louisville had called.

When asked of Duke, Aycock replied, "I know they're a great academic school and they're a team coming up." He continued, "I actually just heard from Duke. It was the first day they (teams) could call and I just got off the phone with them," said Aycock.

Aycock seemingly had high regard for the Blue Devils saying, "I've talked to all their coaching staff and I think all the coaches are nice ... I like them." He also mentioned that Coach Jim Collins was the lead recruiter for Duke.

BDN asked one of our staple question in that we asked Aycock to describe himself in three words as a person. "Fun, outgoing and determined," he answered, while never hesitating. When asked to describe his game in one word for those who haven't seen him play, he said, "I would say exciting."

His Chamberlain HS team won their recent Jamboree (exhibition) game and will kickoff the season this week. He gained 1155 yards on 155 carries. He passed for 941 yards last season connecting on 65 of 162 passes.

Aycock looks to narrow his long list to five schools he'd like to visit by the midway point of his high school season. When asked of the most important factors that would go into his upcoming collegiate decision, Aycock replied, "The school environment, the academics and the coaching staff."

Scouting Report - Aycock is a very shifty runner capable of breaking one any time he touches the ball. Aycock will likely be a running back in college but has the tools to be a top notch safety as well. Has the frame to carry about 210 pounds at the college level. Has been clocked last season at 4.5. His height will likely keep him from playing quarterback at the college level. He was not very consistent with his passing last season and needs work on his mechanics. Aycock is a solid student. In short, he is an athlete who will make his way onto the field with his talent.

If he ultimately chooses Duke - Should Dontae choose the Blue Devils, he will be attending one of the best academic institutions in America. Aycock would be in a position to compete for immediate playing time on team that is clearly an up and coming program under first year Coach David Cutcliffe.

Visits scheduled - None at this time. He is expected to narrow his final list of schools in October.

Notes - His brother is is NFL veteran Dwight Smith, who is currently playing safety for the Detroit Lions. Smith was the MVP in Super Bowl XXXVII. His family was originally from Illinois before moving to Florida. Aycock was also born in Atlanta where his Dad still resides, but moved to Detroit at a very early age.[/private]