Category Archives: Duke Football

The word is out! Duke freshman Johnny Williams can play!

[private]True Duke freshman Johnny Williams had a coming out party on Saturday where he pulled in eleven catches for 135 yards in a loss to Northwestern.  The performance earned him Rookie of the Week in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

No Blue Devil freshman has posted those kind of numbers since Walter Jones in 1988 who tallied 139 yards versus the Citadel.  "Johnny Williams is a great player.  The kid came in and worked hard in the weight room.  He was actually the only freshman here and we put him in the fire early in seven on sevens and he came along nicely," said Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis during this weeks press conference.

Williams was the first freshman on campus and learned his way around during the hot summer months.  He was a three year letter winner at St. Stephens HS in Alabama where he helped his team to a 39-4 record during his career.  He missed five games due to injury in his senior season, yet still managed 25 catches in limited action.  As a junior, Williams had 893 yards on receptions and 312 rushing.

Anyone who watched the Northwestern game would agree that Duke has landed a special player which will help build the program during his career in Durham.  Williams played with a confidence ahead of his years. 

"He's a competitor and he was telling me during the game, they can't check me, they can't stop me and if you throw it I'm going to make a play.  And he was out there making plays.  The thing is when he catches the ball he's making moves and making people miss and that's a good addition to this offense," said Lewis

Coach Cutcliffe was just as impressed with Williams play stating, "Johnny had a tremendous game.  He's a really fierce competitor.  What we are looking for more from him is consistency.  If Williams pulls in anywhere close to as many passes as he did this past weekend, it will benefit players like Eron Riley who might not draw as many double teams.

Cutcliffe went on to say that he challenged Williams and all the freshman to be all they could be during a morning practice.  "In my opinion, Johnny could have had 14 or 15 catches in that game.  He could have been a little sharper down the stretch and maybe have been national player of the week," said Cutcliffe.

Only time will tell if Williams can achieve lofty goals such as national player of the week, but if he shows the consistency the staff is looking for, there is no reason to think it can't happen.[/private]

Quick Hitter #7 WR Austin Kelly talks moving ahead to Navy

[private]You had some key catches on Saturday ...

Eron went down and Coach stressed to us he needed somebody to step up.  I was able to get open, got the ball in my hands and I made the play. 

After a tough loss, how do you rebound?  What is your overall feeling going into the Navy game?

Going into the Navy game, it's really just getting back to the basics.  We felt like we dominated the last game, but we just couldn't finish.  Our defense did a great job of keeping there offense off the field and letting us stay on the field.  We just have to get back to the basics and work hard this week.

Is it easy to move on after a tough loss or do you think about twenty or so plays where if two had been different you would have won the game?

It still lingers, but we've got another game - an important game coming up this week with Navy.  They got us last year in a close win, we're still think about that ... I mean it's just going out hard in practice this week and if we finish those practices off right we'll feel good about our chances against Navy.

Is it safe to say that you guys are itching to get back out on the field?

Oh definitely!  I think I can speak for the whole team saying we are ready, but we have to dedicate ourselves this week.  Saturday will come, but we have to take care of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday first.[/private]

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.