Category Archives: Duke Football


Duke Secures a Winning Season

16-672x372It was only appropriate that Senior Tight End Braxton Deaver recovered and on side kick to help Duke hang on to defeat Wake Forest.  It must have been a sweet play for the player whose recruiting battle came down to the Blue Devils and Deacons years ago.

The win  moved Duke to 7-5 on the season and clinched 4th place in the ACC' Coastal Division.  More importantly the win guaranteed another winning season under David Cutcliffe while helping halt a four game late season skid. That winning season means the Blue Devils will play in their fourth consecutive bowl game

While the bowl bids have yet to go out, speculation has already begun and we'll share our take.  Look for Duke to be selected to play in the Military, Independence or Pin Stripe Bowl.  What Duke will now seek to do is end their season with a bowl trophy in hand.

Duke won by ironing out their passing game where Thomas Sirk was 26 of 39 for 275 yards.  Two of his touchdown passes went to senior Max McCaffrey on plays of 18 and 28 yards,

The Blue Devils were also aided by two Ross Martin field goals and 151 rushing yards, mot of which came in the second half.  Also big for Duke on offense were seven catches each from Anthony Nash and T.J, Rahming for a combined  121 yards.

Duke did have to hang on as they had trouble stopping a rally from Wake Forest where they scored 14 points in the 4th quarter.  In the end Duke got what it needed most and that was simply a win.

The Blue Devils will now wait for their bowl bid to come in as their seniors can still attain the goal of hoisting a bowl trophy.  Meanwhile, Duke will gain extra practice time that will also help for next year.


Game Preview: Duke at Virginia

Saturday, November 21
Scott Stadium
Charlottesville, VA
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2015: 6-4 (3-3 ACC)
Virginia in 2015: 3-7 (2-4 ACC)


PROBABLE - Thomas Sirk (QB)
QUESTIONABLE - Shaun Wilson (RB)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Bryon Fields (CB), Zach Morris (DT), Taariq Shabazz (DE), Cody Robinson (OG)


QUESTIONABLE - Richard Burney (TE), Ben Hogg (WR), LaChaston Smith (TB)
OUT - Zach Bradshaw (OLB), Mark Hall (OLB), Cory Jones (OLB), Divante Walker (CB), Connor Wingo-Reeves (FB)

One of the oldest rivalries in college football is continued Saturday, as Duke travels to Charlottesville to take on Virginia. The two teams first faced off in 1890, and have faced each other in every season since 1963; remarkably, the all-time series is tied at 33-33.


The Blue Devils will have to make some significant improvements to end their current three game losing skid.

It all starts on the defensive side of the ball, where Jeremy Cash and company have lost their mojo after an impressive start to the season. Duke has yielded 170 points in their past four games, with opponents converting nearly 54% on third down. Fortunately, the Cavaliers find themselves near the bottom of the ACC offensively, averaging less than 25 points and 366 yards of total offense per game. For a Duke defense that has struggled to force turnovers, they will need to find a way to add to Matt Johns' 14 interceptions on the season.

Offensively, there are yards to be had against a typically physical Virginia defense. The Cavaliers have been prone to giving up yards in bunches, and have struggled equally against the run (171 yards per game) and pass (243 yards per game). With even more question marks at wide receiver, expect to see the Blue Devils establish their running game early and often, hoping to open up plays for Max McCaffrey, Anthony Nash, and T.J. Rahming downfield.

While Ross Martin and Will Monday have been steady for much of this season, Coach Cutcliffe continues to challenge the special teams units to put together a more complete effort. Winning the field position battle would be a big boost Duke's struggling offense and defense.


One could easily argue that these two teams would have quite similar records if they swapped schedules. Few teams have been challenged such as the Cavaliers this season, and when looking at results against common opponents, it's not surprising to see why Virginia is a slight favorite on Saturday. Both of these teams have found various ways to lose close games this season, and a hard-fought contest should be expected again this week. A critical penalty, turnover, or explosive play in the fourth quarter could easily be the difference between two Coastal Division rivals.

Virginia has quietly played some of their best football in recent weeks, losing some close contests within the ACC. TB Smoke Mizzell is the critical player for Virginia, as he averages over 100 yards of total offense per game, and is just as explosive in the passing game as on the ground. If Duke fails to contain Mizzell, the Wahoos will be rolling. QB Matt Johns is coming off one of his strongest games as a Cavalier, throwing for 4 touchdowns without an interception at Louisville.

Both teams find themselves near the bottom of the ACC in turnover margin - a trend they would both like to reverse. If the Blue Devils manage to lose both the turnover battle and third down, it will be another long Saturday for the Duke faithful.


Thomas Sirk is expected to play, and should have a favorable matchup against this Virginia defense. While the loss of Johnell Barnes and Terrence Alls will hurt, the Blue Devils will be more focused than ever to put together a balanced attack featuring their veteran playmakers - namely Sirk, Shaquille Powell, Jela Duncan, and Max McCaffrey. A strong effort from the Duke offensive line will pave the way for a number of second half scoring drives. Defensively, Jeremy Cash will again be the critical factor, finding ways to disrupt Johns and Mizzell, while bringing some swagger back to a wounded secondary.


When it comes down to it, Coach Cutcliffe just seems to have Virginia's number, and he'll improve to 7-1 against the Wahoos.

Duke 35, Virginia 23

Game Preview: Duke at Virginia


Duke Can’t Stop Their Slide vs Pitt

DSC_0200-001The Duke Blue Devils continued their free fall after the controversial loss to Miami by losing to Pitt 31-13 on Senior Day.  The third consecutive loss for the Blue Devils drops their season record to 3-3 in the ACC and 6-4 overall.

Duke was without the services of quarterback Thomas Sirk and he was replaced by Parker Boehme.  While Boehme had a spectacular run, he failed lead his team into the end zone during critical situations.

Multiple errors hampered the  Blue Devils who continue to struggle to put any kind of passing game together in a consistent manner.  On defense, big plays once again hurt Duke as did multiple turnovers on the offensive side of the ball.

While Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman threw for just 180 yards, three of his passes went for touchdowns.  The Blue Devils have now let up seven scores through the air in their past two games.

Quite frankly, the Blue Devils look tired and flat at times.  Perhaps it was the four overtime game with Virginia Tech or the gut wrenching loss to Miami on a controversial call.

"It's not time to run, it's time to step forward.  There is no sugar coating it.  In the second half we got out blocked, out tackled and out hit." said a frustrated David Cutcliffe after the game.

The Blue Devils have been flat coming out of the locker room in the last two games.  Cutcliffe mentioned this as well  by saying his team played well enough to compete  in the first half but not the second.

After getting dismantled by their arch rival North Carolina last week, Duke needed to rebound against Pitt at home.  But that just wasn't to be.

"Are we fragile?  Quite possibly," stated Cutcliffe who wondered aloud whether his team gets knocked back on big plays.

The Blue Devils close out their season with two road games with Virginia and Wake Forest.  Duke probably needs to win one of those games to secure a place in a lower tier bowl game.  On a positive note, that would make four consecutive bowls the program has been to in successive years.


Game Preview: Duke vs. Pittsburgh

DSC_0186Duke vs. Pittsburgh
12:00 PM ET
Saturday, October 3
Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium
Durham, NC
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2015: 6-3
Pittsburgh in 2015: 6-3


PROBABLE - Deondre Singleton (S)
OUT – Shaun Wilson (RB)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Bryon Fields (CB), Zach Morris (DT), Taariq Shabazz (DE), Cody Robinson (OG)


Duke and Pittsburgh last faced each other on November 1, 2014 in a game Duke won 51 - 48 in Pittsburgh. Both teams are coming off losses in their last game out, Duke being blown out 66 - 31 by North Carolina, while Pittsburgh lost at home to Notre Dame 42 - 30.

The last two meetings between these two teams were extremely high scoring affairs with each team scoring a combined 106 points in the two games. This week's game will once again feature two potent offenses but this year's game does not shape up to be a shootout rather a game between teams with defenses as strong as their offenses.


Alignment and assignment. Coach Cutcliffe stated this past week it all starts with all 11 players lining up correctly and knowing their assignment so for Duke to beat Pitt and future NFL wide receiver Tyler Boyd all 11 defensive players must line up and carry out their assignment. Duke can win by the defense playing together as a cohesive unit for the full 60 minutes.

Offensively, Duke must eliminate turnovers. Turnovers hurt Duke last week against Carolina and earlier in the year against Northwestern. With an uncertain situation at quarterback, Duke will need to rely on the run game to move the chains, sustain drives and score touchdowns. Duke can win by the offense setting the tempo of the game.

Finally, Duke can win by special teams winning the field position battle.


The number one way Duke can lose is by allowing Tyler Boyd to have a career performance. The number two way Duke can lose is by focusing so much attention on Tyler Boyd multiple other Pitt offensive players have career days. Running back Qadree Ollison (5.3 yards per carry) and quarterback Nathan Peterman (11 touchdown passes) are quality players who can punish the opponent. Balance on defense is key, keeping plays in front of you and executing good tackling.

On offense, Duke cannot afford empty possessions due to turnovers. If Duke does not value the football and convert on 3rd down to sustain drives, the Blue Devils can lose.

If Duke does not play solid fundamental football, the Blue Devils can lose.


This is Senior Day for a group of Blue Devils who have been winners throughout their career so they will be motivated to go out and win the final game they will ever play in Wallace Wade Stadium. Moreover, a win over Pitt is necessary to right the ship after two straight losses. Duke has not lost three straight games since the 2012 season when this year's seniors were freshmen.


If starting quarterback Thomas Sirk does not play or is limited to minimal action, it makes winning much harder for the Blue Devils and places the onus squarely on the defense to limit Pitt's scoring. Parker Boehme has not played meaningful minutes in a competitive game so he is an unknown quantity. Duke will turn to the running game in an attempt to place Boehme in manageable situations.

Duke 20, Pittsburgh 14

Game Preview: Duke vs. Pittsburgh


Five Keys to Victory

DSC_0098-002Duke makes the long road trip to Chapel Hill today looking to return home with the Victory Bell in tow, setting up a showdown with the Pitt Panthers next Saturday in Durham. North Carolina is a talented football team so the Blue Devils will need to play their very best in all three phases of the game to achieve the objective.

Skipping over the standard intangibles such as turnovers, in game injuries and bad calls by the officials (yes, I did just go there), how does Thomas Sirk, Jeremy Cash and company come away with the victory?

Here are the five keys to beating the North Carolina Tar Heels today on the road in Chapel Hill:

1. Win the Special Teams Battle
2. Stop Carolina's Run Game
3. Contain Quarterback Marquise Williams
4. Achieve Balance on Offense
5. Success on 3rd Down

Now that they've been listed, let's take a deeper look at the importance of each to the overall results which will unfold on the field this afternoon.

Win the Special Teams Battle

Let's not beat around the bush, Duke has been shaky at best on special teams at critical times this season. Northwestern running the 2nd half kick-off back for a touchdown, Will Monday shanking a punt that led to a Miami touchdown and 14-0 advantage last week, Ryan Smith fumbling a punt which denied Duke a final offensive possession in the loss to Northwestern and Ross Martin missing very makeable field goals the past two games being prime examples of miscues.

North Carolina has an excellent punt returner in Ryan Switzer so Duke's punt game will be especially important today. Duke's DeVon Edwards is one of the best kick return men in the country so Duke will need a strong game from him to provide good starting field position.

Achieving excellence on special teams is a precursor to winning the field position battle to set the team up for success.

Stop Carolina's Run Game

Elijah Hood is an elite running back who is averaging 6.2 yards per carry with eight rushing touchdowns. North Carolina will look to utilize Hood to execute a power running game to set up their passing attack. The Tar Heels have multiple excellent receivers who will exploit one-on-one coverage once the opponent commits an extra man, or two, to stopping Hood.

Duke must stop the Carolina run game without compromising pass defense. The Blue Devils defensive line has been very strong this season so in today's game they will need to bring their best effort and shutdown Hood and the Carolina run game.

Contain Quarterback Marquise Williams

Williams is extremely dangerous when allowed to extend plays. Duke must pressure him and keep him in the pocket forcing him to quickly pass the ball. When Williams scrambles he has the skill sets to hurt the opponent by running for 1st downs or finding receivers who have slipped open due to the extra seconds provided by Williams successfully eluding the pass rush.

Achieve Balance on Offense

Duke is at their best offensively when successfully running and passing the ball. Therefore it is important not to fall behind being forced to play catch-up. A primary objective for the North Carolina defense will be to turn Duke into a one dimensional offense.

Playing with a lead provides the offense with flexibility to mix up the play calling and keep the defense guessing. Duke will look to run and pass the ball to move the chains, while taking the occasional deep shot when down and distance is advantageous.

Quarterback Thomas Sirk has had limited success throwing deep so far this season due to overthrowing open receivers so today would be a great time for his timing to click. Carolina is yielding over 200 yards rushing per game so the opportunity to throw deep off of play action will certainly present itself.

Success on 3rd Down

This must take place on both sides of the ball! On defense, Duke must end possessions and get off the field. On offense, Duke must convert 1st downs to extend possessions and keep Carolina's offense on the sidelines. It sounds simple, but Carolina has the same two objectives. Whichever team is successful gains a significant advantage.

There it is folks, the five keys to Duke winning today's Rivalry Game and bringing the Victory Bell back to Durham.

Five Keys to Victory


Duke in Refocus Mode for UNC Game

DSC_0125-001There will be no more talk of the officiating debacle which cost Duke a victory over Miami moving forward for the Blue Devils football team.  On Tuesday's media gathering it was clear that the Duke players and David Cutcliffe were in forward thinking mode focusing on the upcoming game with North Carolina.

Cutcliffe was already thinking ahead as any good coach does after the game with Miami.  He hinted less than an hour after the loss that his team would move on by Tuesday and that he hoped the media would respect that.  Cutcliffe knew then that there would be plenty of fall out from the game that ended in embarrassment for the ACC.  And he was already mapping out if not worrying that his players would lose two games instead of one from the result.

A season ago North Carolina had more than their way with the Blue Devils dominating the contest.  Adding insult to injury, some of the Tar Heels players left the Duke locker room with painted evidence.  Damage costs were sent to Chapel Hill where some over zealous celebration types painted the Victory Bell which the teams play for each season.

The rivalry returned as Cutcliffe and staff righted the ship where he has done something the Tar Heels have yet to experience.  That being, he has led Duke to a Coastal Division title.   But as has been said, that momentum was thwarted a season ago when Duke looked flat in the lop sided loss.

Should Duke come out flat this week in Chapel Hill, Cutliffe knows the game could again turn ugly.  North Carolina has the most potent offense that Duke will have faced to date.  Like Duke, they have circled this game on their calendar.  In fact, some of their players took to twitter stating that they were pulling for a Duke win.

What we should have are two ranked teams, each 7-1 going at it for the Coastal Division lead.  What we still have is a game of equal importance.  Duke has to win this game to realize their pre season goal of playing in the ACC Championship game.  And a loss would actually hurl them back into a crowded pack.

So yes, David Cutcliffe knows his team has to move on.  "I'm not looking for any rah-rah stuff, but focus," stated Cutcliffe on Sunday.  In a game where Duke has been tabbed an 8.5 point underdog it will take said focus and a solid effort for dreams to be realized.

Face it, the one way to put the Miami game truly behind them is to win and take care of the business at hand.  Should Duke reclaim the Victory Bell on Saturday, their goals are still in tact.  Quite simply Duke has to put in the work to get anything done.

The interest in the game will provide a standing room crowd only not only for the fans but for media.  Just this morning a warning of overflow media was sent out by the UNC SID Department, meaning that some will be relegated to the photo area.

What this all means is this is a big game.  A really big game.  Both Duke and North Carolina need the win and both programs want the win.   By 4:00 or so on Saturday another team will be feeling the blues.  The only way Duke can prevent that from happening again is let the past be just that.  There is an opportunity at hand and that and that alone should be the focus.