Category Archives: Duke Football

Duke Football Faces Their Biggest Test

Duke football will face their biggest test of the season when they take on Virginia Tech at 7:00 Saturday on Brooks Field in Wallace Wade Stadium.

The Hokies are sure to have their ears pinned back after being upset by Old Dominion a week ago.  While fans may disregard how dangerous a wounded Virginia Tech team can be, the same cannot be said for Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils.

During both of his press conferences Cutcliffe pointed to the fact that the upset loss was an anomaly, going as far as to say that if the two teams played tens times, the Hokies would lose one of them.

A week ago, Virginia Tech was rated 13th in the country while Duke broke into the top 25 this week.  The game which will be nationally televised by ESPN2 still features two ranked team in the coaches poll.

But the Blue Devils are now the slight favorite over a team they have not beaten since 2015.  And the bottom line is with a win they remain ranked going into the bye week, yet a loss would certainly take them out of the poll for a while.

The importance of this game cannot be underestimated and the fact both teams need a win should make for a spirited affair.  One of these teams will be 1-0 in the oh-so important Coastal Division standings, while the other will enter the cellar at 0-1.

The Hokies lost their starting quarterback a week ago, but the Blue Devils have been playing theirs of late in Quentin Harris who replaced Daniel Jones.

Both quarterbacks will face a good defensive effort.  The Blue Devils despite injuries have been solid on defense and Virginia Tech is coached by perhaps the best assistant in the country in Bud Foster.

Duke will have to be careful of the Hokies special teams efforts where they are notorious for picking up scores.  They must also be aware of big plays downfield for Virginia Tech will take their shots.

Another important factor will be the battle of turnovers.  In a game which is projected to be close, the team which capitalizes in that area will hold an edge.

As for Duke, they just need to execute for four quarters and be resilient.  The Blue Devils need to protect their home turf remaining aggressive the entire game.

If those things happen, I will have some good things to say for the only thing standing in the way of a joyous bye week are the Hokies, a team that has for the most part had the Blue Devils number.

Today’s Q & A With David Cutcliffe

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Obviously this is our biggest test to date and the best team we've played, a team we're very familiar with, a program we're very familiar with. I don't think there's anybody that you can respect more than the way they do things, have done things. I think Justin Fuente has just been tremendous there. Bud Foster is an icon in the business.

This is the thing -- the benchmark. This is where you find out what kind of program you've got. Our guys have practiced hard. We'd better, because we're going to be in for a big challenge, obviously, this Saturday night.

I'll take questions.

Q. Bud Foster and obviously the stability that he's brought to the defensive coordinator's role, you had some stability there with Coach Knowles. How would you evaluate how you guys have transitioned with Ben and Matt in those roles this season?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, it's a unique circumstance, and I realized that as I did an evaluation -- Jim Knowles and I talked a lot about this when Jim -- when he was offered the job at Oklahoma State, he and I were on the road together recruiting. You know, I did a lot of thinking.

But the reason that we went co-defensive coordinators is the quality of the people that we have in Ben and Matt and the quality of the rest of the staff, Derek Jones and Lanier Goethie. So we're at a point where we're still growing in that regard, but we clearly defined their roles. It is a transition, but our players were very familiar with both coaches. We have had a lot of stability in this program, so that helps a great deal.

We certainly wouldn't be the same without Jim Knowles. There's no question about that. But we have continued to try every year to grow and build on what we're doing, and I think Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri have done a great job of doing that.

Q. Is one of the biggest challenges they and you have faced is the injury situation in the secondary, just having to plug different guys in and switch roles and such?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, it was the most unique thing. It started, obviously, at Northwestern, and then it escalated at Baylor. It's been unique. It's a great tribute to our assistant coaches. They've recruited well. We do have some really good young players in the secondary, and they're performing at a high level. They hopefully have -- when you come in here, you develop great practice habits, and so if it does happen, that makes it a little easier to adjust.

But very proud of our -- not only our staff in that regard but proud of our players, you know, just managing adversity. And there will be more to come, not only here playing football but in life. I am proud of them. We've just got to continue along that path.

Q. I'm writing a story about the nomadic lifestyle of assistant coaches, and wondering if there isn't a little bit of a trend toward giving a little more security to assistants by longer contracts, and a second part of the question, do you think there's -- have you ever seen anything really unusual happen within the style of jumping from one program to another?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think it's been a long-standing trend for certain people. When I was a younger assistant, a young assistant at the University of Tennessee, we were working without contracts, period, not one year. Just no contract. We had a pretty revolving door. I was there for 17 years, and the number of different assistant coaches that I worked with was in the upper 30s.

I never -- I think that's sometimes personal preference. I think there are a lot of people -- I think it's problematic to people because I do think, and I tell young coaches this all the time, be where your feet are. I've known a lot of people in the industry that were always trying to get the next job, spending more time trying to get the next job than doing a great job with the one they've got.

I do believe that if you have assistant coaches that are committed to your program, they're doing what they should be doing, I think they should earn longer term contracts. Two- and three-year contracts are becoming more commonplace. Buyouts are now more commonplace for assistant coaches because with that security goes a price with it, and if the university is going to commit to that, most universities now are going to require some form of buyout where people don't just jump.

So it's an interesting era in football. It's changed quite a bit since I got into it.

Q. Anything really unusual that stands out to you that happened along the way, like owning three houses at one time or --
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I mean, I can tell you this: It was interesting, guys I worked with that came from California that sold houses were shocked what they could buy out east. They were in mansions in my mind. That certainly happened. But I know Derek Jones on our staff, between being a graduate assistant for us at Ole Miss and then kind of jumping around, he had a couple of homes and was -- you're trying to lease homes and you're not there, and it certainly can end up being a nightmare.

I've always -- I guess maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I've always liked being in a place, particularly when our children were young, trying to raise our children in some form of normalcy. So it's an interesting study. I think that's a great idea to write an article about.

Q. If you look at the way they struggled defensively in the secondary against Old Dominion, when you're looking at that, are you seeing schematic breakdowns, guys just getting beat, or what did you make of that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I would say for the biggest part, it's an outlier, and that's taking nothing away from ODU. Good gracious, they made great plays and they were ready and well-coached. But everything just kind of fell right. I mean, literally just fell right. You hate to call anything luck, but it was like, okay, you play zone, they scrambled and then just found a way to make a gain to keep a drive alive. You play man, the ball just dropped down right in the exact right spot. I mean, it literally was like that.

I've watched Virginia Tech defense for a long time now. It is storied, as we all know, its excellence in athletes, its excellence in coaching strategy and scheme. So it's just one game. Really, honestly, that's the honest answer I can give you.

Q. As you watch them, No. 94, their defensive end, who they dismissed from the team, are there moments that you're prepping for a game and you see him and think, man, I'm glad he's not going to be somebody I have to deal with?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I've got too many -- there's 10 others, 11 others that you're worried about. I think he was a really fine player. I don't know the young man at all. But there's no question he was an outstanding football player.

Q. I'm just wondering if there's maybe a right word or description to kind of nail down the energy or vibe amongst your guys just going into a national TV game? I'm sure they obviously know what's at stake, but if there's one thing you've taken away from their energy this week.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think that's a really good point because I have watched it. I think our program has grown from different points where we had big games that you worried about getting too hyper, too into the moment as opposed to preparing for a ballgame. I think right now what I would say is focused. These kind of games should create focus, but that's what I've seen, and hopefully that carries over into Saturday night.

Duke Rolls Past NCCU 55-13

The Duke Blue Devils move to 4-0 on the season with a victory over the North Carolina Central Eagles.

Duke started the game with a 20-0 lead and it seemed like they would run away with the game, but the Eagles battled back to make it 20-13.

The Eagles would score on a fumble recovery and a 55-yard return by Jordan McCrae.  Prior to that Central got on the board with a 20 yard run from Isiah Totten who tallied 88 yards in the first half.

The Eagles had two goal-line stands against the Blue Devils in the 1st half, but Duke righted the ship when Quentin Harris hit Johnathan Lloyd on a 16-yard touchdown pass to take a 27-13 lead into the half.

Earlier in the first half, Harris hit Davis Koppenhaver for a 17-yard touchdown pass to give Duke a 7-0 lead.  Harris would then scamper 15 yards for another score before hitting Brittain Brown with a 44-yard toss which put the Blue Devils up 20-0.

Duke came out fired up after the halftime break and held Central to three consecutive three and outs.  Brittain Brown blasted off left tack for a 43-yard touchdown run to give the Blue Devils a 34-13 lead.

The Blue Devils defense would hold the Eagles to a mere 8 yards of offense in the entire second half.

On their next drive, Duke would score on a Chris Katrenick touchdown pass to Davis Koppenhaver.  That was the first career scoring pass for Katrenick and his second pass on the drive where he replaced a shaken up Quentin Harris.

The Blue Devils would have another scoring drive of nine plays for 42 yards where Deon Jackson took it into the end zone on a 2-yard run.   That score pushed the Duke lead to 48-13 as the third quarter winded down.

Nico Pierre would later add his first career touchdown rush which pushed the Blue Devils lead to 55-13.  Duke gained 372 yards on the ground and 628 for the game.

Duke will take on Virginia Tech at 7:00 next week in Wallace Wade Stadium in a game televised on ESPNU.

Notes -

  • Brittain Brown rushed for 118 yards but did not return to the game after an injury.
  • Marvin Hubbard ran for a career-high 96 yards.
  • Deon Jackson added 63 yards and a score on the ground.
  • Duke used five running backs in the game.
  • Quentin Harris is 2-0 as a starter and added 3 more touchdown passes to his career total.
  • Duke Coach David Cutcliffe said Harris got overly aggressive at times instead of making the easier play.
  • Cutcliffe also said that Duke decided not to go for FG's saying when ACC play comes up, you will need some TD scores.
  • No contact work in practice for Daniel Jones per Cutcliffe.
  • Duke is 4-0 and the last time they accomplished that was 2014.
  • Duke held NCCU to 8 second-half yards.
  • Cutcliffe said he would see how Jeremy McDuffie responds tomorrow.  He played vs NCCU for the first time.
  • Cutcliffe said they are not going to get big headed and they were capable of winning if they play well.  He thinks this is a good football team.
  • RB Brittain Brown could have returned to the game but rested.

Duke Football Notebook – Week Four

The Duke Blue Devils are off to a 3-0 start this season with cross-town rival North Carolina Central next on their schedule.  Duke will take on the Eagles on Brooks Field in Wallace Wade Stadium in a game which kicks off at 3:30.  The contest can be seen on the ACC Network.

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced today that the kickoff time for the Virginia Tech at Duke game on September 29th will get a prime time 7:00 start.  That game will be on either ESPN 2 or ESPNU.  Both teams could come into the game undefeated if they get by this week's opponents.

Dylan Singleton and Jack Wolabaugh earned ACC Player of the Week honors this week.

Making his first career start in Saturday’s 40-27 win at Baylor, Wohlabaugh posted a team-best offensive line grade, along with four knockdown blocks. He spearheaded a Duke offense that yielded zero sacks, committed zero penalties and suffered zero turnovers.  Wohlabaugh provided protection for quarterback Quentin Harris, who in his first career start threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions.

Singleton carded seven tackles, caused one fumble, recovered another and broke up a pass in the Blue Devils’ win at Baylor.  His fumble recovery midway through the first quarter set up Duke’s first touchdown.  Singleton led the Duke defense, which shut out Baylor in the first half en route to building a 23-0 lead at intermission.

The Blue Devils may rest a lot of players in this weeks game.  Starting quarterback Daniel Jones is sure to be out.  Center Zach Harmon was available this past Saturday but did not play.   Defensive End, Terrell Lucas will likely miss another game.   Mark Gilbert is of course, out for the season and Jeremy McDuffie and Aaron Young are day to day.  Christian Harris and Rak Chambers also missed some game time at Baylor on the offensive front and their injuries are unknown at this time.

The Blue Devils win got them some vote in the new Top 25 polls.  Duke is 28th in the A.P. and 27th in the Coaches Poll.

Closing thoughts -  Duke is riding high after a 3-0 start and they should be.  However, injuries are stacking up.  Thankfully, we are seeing that Duke has more depth than in the past which has offset that to date.

Some old demons reared their ugly head when Duke had a punt blocked which gave up some momentum and a touchdown in the win over Baylor.  Duke also had a botched XP.  It is something to keep an eye on in the weeks to come.

The one good thing about Jones being out is seeing Quentin Harris gain some needed experience.  He missed on some easy passes early but overall he played a phenomenal game against Baylor.  He should be more comfortable in the pocket this week and David Cutcliffe has some film where he can work with him better on his play,

The stat of the wee was no penalties.  That does not happen very often and it can mean the difference in games.  It made up for the blocked punt.

It has to feel good for the Duke staff to have two power five conference road wins in their first three games.  After all, only Duke Football can claim that feat.  The Blue Devils have started the last two season 3-0.

 

Quentin Harris Leads Duke to 3-0 Start

The Duke Blue Devils pushed their season record to 3-0 with a 40-27 victory over Baylor which falls to 2-1.  The Blue Devils won their second consecutive road win against two power-five conference teams, something few teams have done in the early season.

Despite being down six starters, the Blue Devils found a way to win via the play of some backups.  Quentin Harris is now 1-0 as a starter at Duke where he settled into the game nicely after a sluggish start.  Harris was 12-30 for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns in the air and added 83 yards on the ground.

Duke will certainly reap the rewards from Harris gaining valuable experience in Daniel Jones absence.  Harris will also start next week for Duke who will take on N.C. Central in their homecoming game. Harris connected on passes of 7 and 28 yards to T.J. Rahming and added a 66-yard toss to Jeremy Lloyd in his teams win.

The Blue Devils offense produced 225 yards on the ground where Deon Jackson led the way with 83 yards.  Brittain Brown added 53 yards for Duke.

Jackon put Duke on the board with a 33-yard scamper to the end zone and the Blue Devils would jump out to a 23-0 lead.  That lead seemed to run a lot of Baylor students from behind the Duke bench once the second half started.

The Duke defense had some big plays of their own.  Leonard Johnson intercepted the ball and took it back 53 yards for a score.  That gave Duke a 40-20 lead.  Duke was also aided by a forced fumble from freshman Josh Blackwell where Dylan Singleton picked it up.

Duke held the Baylor team in check for most of the game but their potent passing attack would ultimately lead to 270 passing yards, much of that coming late.  Considering the Blue Devils were down three key defensive starters in the secondary, the number of yards should be no surprise.

The defense also bottled-up the Baylor running backs all day long but allowed some yard to the quarterbacks.  The Bears keep you off balance with their two-quarterback attack.

This was an impressive win for the Blue Devils where they were considered the underdog on the road for the second consecutive week.  Duke did not commit a penalty in the game and they fended off difficulty with travel logistics due to Tropical Storm Florence.

Duke Defense Stymies Northwestern

Jim Young, A.P.

The Duke Blue Devils moved to 2-0 on the season with a 21-7 road win at Northwestern on Saturday afternoon.  The Blue Devils gained their fifth consecutive win dating to the Georgia Tech game a season ago.  The Blue Devils also snapped the nations longest winning streak where Northwestern had won nine consecutive games.

Northwestern jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a Jeremy Larkin run but the Blue Devils would then reel off 21 consecutive points all in the 2nd quarter.  Duke scored on three Daniel Jones touchdown passes, the first one going to T.J. Rahming, the second a 51-yard bomb to Jonathan Lloyd and the third a 7-yard toss to a wide-open Davis Koppenhaver. Duke went into the locker room with a 21-7 edge and that is all the scoring that would take place in the game.

The Duke defense stopped two Northwestern drives with interceptions by Marquis Waters and Micheal Carter.  Their play was key in that Jeremy McDuffie not making the trip and Mark Gilbert going out of the game with an injury earlier int he contest.

If that was not enough bad luck on the injury front, Daniel Jones was sacked where his no throwing side was driven into the turf early in the second half.  He went to the locker room and would not return.  His stat line for the shortened day was 16-22 for 192 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 turnovers.

The Duke offense stalled time and time again due to bad field position but the Blue Devils defense was up to the challenge.  Northwestern had the ball in Duke territory on numerous occasions to start the 2nd half but was turned back every time they threatened.

Duke was aided by several quarterback pressures and four sacks on the day.  Ben Humphreys led an inspired Duke defense with 5 solo tackles to go with 10 assisted takedowns.  The Blue Devils had 22 players play with the stop troops on the day.

The Blue Devils did not turn the ball over and their special teams were solid where Austin Parker punted nine times for 42.4-yard average.  Duke will head to Baylor for a 3:30 kickoff next week.

There is no news on the injury front to report and the NCAA allows team not to share news in that are this season.  But judging by the injuries, it is likely that some Duke players will miss some significant time.  That means much of the week will be spent on game planning and breaking in new players.