Category Archives: Duke Football

Cutlciffe Talks Duke Football

David Cutcliffe

The Duke Blue Devils are coming off a solid 41-17 win over Northwestern.  With the win, the team now stands 2-0 on the young season as they prepare for Baylor.  Here is a general recap of what we heard from David Cutcliffe today.

Stay Aggressive and Consistent

If there is one message Cutcliffe and staff are trying to hammer home to the team it is to remain aggressive and consistent.  Earlier in the day center Austin Davis said that a season ago the team was not as strong up front and that the goal in the off-season was to be better in that area from the start.  So far, this season, the teams offense has been much better by being more aggressive.  The same goes for the defensive front which is getting better pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Cutcliffe is Expecting Temple

With so little film to go on from Baylor, Cutcliffe said he had watched what Temple did a season ago.  He is also well aware that the Bears are changing quarterbacks in Zach Smith.  Their starter Anu Solomon is on concussion protocol but a change seemed to be in the works despite that.   Smith had success starting the last four games a season ago which included a 31-12 win over Boise State in the Cactus Bowl.  Cutcliffe also said that defensive backs look forward to the challenge when they face a good passer and Smith is a pro style back.    It is clear though, that the Duke coach has respect for Baylor despite their rocky start even going as far as to say their athletes have track like speed.

1's vs 1's

The Duke coach also state that the team was practicing with the 1st team units going against each other.  This is being done in an effort to protect the ball,  Cutcliffe said his ball handlers were getting hit quickly after getting the ball in practice in an effort to teach them what to expect.  Duke has flirted with turnovers in both of their early season wins.

Special Teams Work

Duke also worked on individual player assignments in the punting game and on special teams.  They broke down the process on film and expect Austin Parker to have a better effort his week after a sub par experience in the win over Northwestern.

The Focus is on Duke

Duke is also focusing on what they can control, meaning their play.  Cutcliffe and his players say the team is always striving for consistency and building on that aspect each week.  "We still see some things we can do better," said Cutcliffe.

Duke Rocks Northwestern 41-17

Lance King, Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils came away with an impressive 41-17 win over Northwestern to go 2-0 on the season.  Daniel Jones was the first player in history to throw for over 300 yards and rush for over 100 to gain a victory.

Jones ended the game with 305 yards and two touchdowns through the air to go with 108 yards and 2 scores on the ground.  His main target on the day was junior wideout T.J. Rahming who pulled in 12 catches for 127 yards.

Duke out gained the favored Wildcats by a wide margin of 538-191 yards.  Many of the yards for Northwestern came on the last series in which they had the ball.

The Duke defense also held all american candidate Justin Jackson to 18 yards rushing and the Wildcats team to 22 net yards.  Duke was clearly the more dominant team on both sides of the ball in the trenches.

Big plays also helped Duke to victory.  Four timely sacks thwarted Wildcat drives.  Alonzo Saxton has one of those as well as a forced and recovered fumble.  He also led the team with 7 solo tackles.

Sophomore cornerback Mark Gilbert also contributed to a stellar defensive effort by pulling down two interceptions.  That helped keep veteran quarterback Clayton Thorson in check where he managed just 120 yards through the air.

With the win, Duke Coach David Cutcliffe notched his 98th win.  He remains the third winningest coach in program history..

"We were working on all cylinders.  Going into the game, we knew what we wanted to do," stated Alonzo Saxton.  With the win Duke snapped a three game losing streak to Northwestern.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said, "We got outcoached, out executed and out played and that starts and ends with me."   He went on the credit the Blue Devils for their win.

Duke will next take on the Baylor Bears in Wallace Wade Stadium next Saturday.  Kickoff is at 12:30 for the contest and tickets are available at the Duke Ticket Office.

THE LAST WORD - Duke played with a lot of swag today and the difference in their early play is night and day from a season ago.  The team continues to play fast and physical and better special teams play has been a plus.  Make no mistake, this was a good win over a Big 10 team picked 2nd in their division for Cut and company. Duke is averaging 50.5 ppg after two contests and that is a good thing, for next week they face one of the best offenses on their schedule in Baylor.


Preview — Northwestern at Duke

NORTHWESTERN (1-0) at DUKE  (1-0)


KICKOFF - 12:00 noon, Wallace Wade Stadium, Brooks Field

What we learned in week one

Duke will play a lot of true freshman this season.  Several newcomers on the defensive front and in the back got significant snap counts.  The Blue Devils ran all over the NCCU defense as they walloped their cross town foe 60-7.  The only truly concerning thing in the game was a missed extra point.

About Northwestern

The Wildcats are picked 2nd only to Wisconsin in their Big Ten West division.  They return 16 starters off a bowl team and could be the most experienced team Duke will face this season.

Northwestern is really strong on the defensive front with physical veterans at every position and they are solid on the back side of the defense as well.  Their top three recruits are even defensive lineman, so running the ball against them will be a challenge.  Phil Steele rates their DB's as 2nd best in the Big Ten and touts their QB and RB situation as 3rd and 2nd respectively.

The Wildcats feature a veteran duo of QB Clayton Thompson and RB Justin Jackson on offense.  Both of these players are among the nations best at their positions.   Thompson racked up 352 yards passing in their opening win over Nevada.  The Wildcats at over 500 yards in total offense.

How Duke can win

The Blue Devils are tabbed a 3.5 underdog at home against Northwestern.  The Wildcats will test the young Duke secondary in a big way, so limiting big plays is a key.  This weeks opponent is very balanced in all phases of the game but their special teams are suspect.

Duke will need to establish enough of a run against a tough front to help the passing game.  With Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown this is possible.   The Blue Devils will also need some big plays of their own while not turning the ball over.

The main key could be special teams play.  Duke cannot afford a missed chip shot against a good team.  Nor can they allow for a big momentum swinging returns to the end zone as happened recently in this series.

If you want to beat Northwestern, you cannot play from behind. Duke needs early success on the scoring front or it could prove to be a long day of playing catch up against a veteran team.  Northwestern has perhaps their best team in a decade on paper and David Cutcliffe is 0-3 against them.  As fate would have it, they go off the schedule next season when they will be rebuilding.  That said, now is the time for some sweet revenge.

The Pick

Duke is young for sure, but they are also talented and fast. Northwestern knows how to win, but this Saturday they face a fired up group of Blue Devils who gut out a close win.


Duke Football vs NCCU Gameday Preview

Duke Football

The 2017 Duke Blue Devils football teams opens their season this Saturday against North Carolina Central in Wallace Wade Stadium. Kickoff is at 6:00 and a few tickets remain for the contest at

What to look for -- new names

Duke is coming off a 4-8 season and if David Cutcliffe has his way, the team will rebound this season and go to their fifth bowl game in six seasons.

The Blue Devils will be breaking in some new players against the Eagles, where they have eight true freshman on their depth chart. Among those are Victor Dimukeje, Drew Jordan and Derrick Tangelo up front on the defensive line.  These young men will all play a significant role this season.

Duke will also feature Michael Carter II and Marquis Waters as true freshman in the two deep in the secondary.  Redshirt freshman Xander Gagnon and Myles Hudzick will also be high on the depth chart and get some snaps on the defensive side of the ball.

On offense true freshman Deon Jackson is currently fourth on the depth chart at running back but will see some action.  Duke will also play offensive Rakavious Chambers (Fr 6-3, 325) on the offensive front for some snaps.  Duke is strong at the TE spot this season which makes it more impressive that true freshman Noah Gray moved to third on the depth chat.  Cutcliffe said he would be seeing special teams action as well.

What to look for -- Veterans to be more consistent on offense

Duke plays the 22nd toughest schedule in the country per Phil Steele.

Daniel Jones is entering his second season as a starter and should be much more familiar with the offense.  Jones is no longer a secret so teams will come after him but Duke should be able to block effectively with some veteran players up front.  Cutcliffe also said that he would play his young depth a lot in the trenches as well.

Duke has a veteran leader in Shaun Willson in a better offensive backfield than most realize.  Still, the key to success will be establishing the run and a good deep passing game.

While Duke loves to stretch the field with their short passing game, veteran wideouts and competition at the position should allow them to improve as a unit.  The top target is T.J. Rahming and there are players with both speed and experience who play with him.  Daniel Helm will also see plenty of targets from his TE position.

What to look for -- Defense

Well, I have already mentioned the youth in the trenches above, but veterans Mike Ramsay and Edgar Cerenord will have to have a big season.  Cutcliffe  said both DT's  had s great spring and pre season camp.

The Blue Devils will have one of the ACC's best linebacking corps where they are deep at the position.  Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles Harris are the main strength for the defense and will keep the Eagles honest in game one.

There is more concern in the secondary where many new players are breaking into the rotation.  Jeremy McDuffie made major strides in the off season but will be playing with a cast vs the Eagles.

Duke is no longer afraid to kick a FG

Games can be won or lost via the kicking game.  A season ago Duke likely lost a game or two due to momentum sapping missed opportunities.  This season, they seem more confident in trotting out the kicker to earn them three points.  Austin Parker has currently edged out William Holmquist (RS Senior, transfer) but both could see action and will at some point this season.


During yesterdays press conference, Cutcliffe said the team is taking last years record personal.  He also seemed confident that this years team is one of his most talented group of players.  According to the long time Blue Devil coach, there is lots of competition in practices and that some spots would be further earned in game action.  So, expect the depth chart to shake up a bit as Duke faces a brutal September schedule.

Additional notes

David Cutcliffe coached teams are 7-2 in home openers.  Duke is 5-0 all time versus NCCU.  Duke won a season ago 49-6.  Duke hosts Northwestern the following week.  Bring three items on a list at and you can get into the game for five dollars.

Duke vs NCCU

The Eagles have built a good program down the road in Durham and the game has been beneficial to both them and the local community. The Eagles have some talent and are coming off a close bowl game loss.

Duke is the deeper team here and one who could contend in the ACC.  The Blue Devils will likely try to establish the run game while taking some shots down the field.  But don't expect Duke to show but part of their playbook in that they have Northwestern, Baylor, North Carolina and Miami to finish out September.

Duke wins this one.  Blue Devils 51 NCCU 9

Duke Football Faces Brutal Early Schedule

Duke plays the 22nd toughest schedule in the country per Phil Steele.

With kickoff a mere twelve days away, Duke football is hard at work on the practice field making final preparations.  The Blue Devils open the season against cross town rival North Carolina Central where they will be heavily favored.

While David Cutcliffe is not one to look too far ahead of that match up, he has aware of the most challenging opening schedule in his tenure lies ahead.  In the weeks following the game with the Eagles, Duke will face Northwestern, Baylor, arch rival North Carolina on the road and then Miami.

Here is a look at how this staunch early challenge could play out.

September 2nd - NCCU at home

Firstly, one must respect the Eagles who went to a bowl game last year.  There are a lot of questions here in how Duke will let this game play out.  Do they get their starters lots of snaps or develop talent should they be fortunate enough to gain a comfortable lead?  On one hand you need to develop depth but you also need to make sure the offense is clicking.  Make no mistake, for Duke to go back to a bowl game this season it will be in part because the offense improves.  The team needs to average no less than another touchdown per game in 2017 for that to happen.

September 9th - Northwestern at home

A David Cutcliffe coached Duke football team has yet to beat Northwestern and this may be a tough year to end that streak.  The Wildcats chart in at 31st in the opening A.P. poll.  They are picked 2nd in their division in the Big Ten pre season poll and they return 16 starters which includes a terrific and veteran offensive team.  This is the kind of team you do not want to allow to score first, for when this happens they tend to win.  This game will be a big jump in competition for Duke from week one and we'll have the first measuring stick on where the Blue Devils stand early in the season.

September 16th - Baylor at home

So Baylor has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late, but they are still quite good.  The Bears will be hard to prepare for in that they have a new coach and system.  They have a physical and big defensive front and a stable of running backs listed as the 2nd best in the Big 12.  As always, they can score in bunches.  While they lost some recruits due to sanctions, the program was on solid footing before that meaning they are talented enough to be considered a possible Top 25 team.  Duke will be coming off a physical game with Northwestern as they kick this game off around noon.  The bottom line is anything less than a split with Northwestern and Baylor will create a losing record going into the game with...

September 23rd North Carolina in Chapel Hill

How is this for an ACC opener?  The Tar Heels will want to get the victory bell back in this rare early season series draw.  Duke is likely to be banged up a bit after facing very good Northwestern and Baylor teams.  Nobody really knows what to expect from the UNC offense which will be a bit different, but there are a lot of returning starters on defense and a bolstered offensive front via the transfer route.  You just don't want to lose your ACC opener to a division rival, so expect some early season haymakers to be thrown by both sides.

September 30th Miami in Durham

Okay.  So Duke is now coming off their emotional match up with UNC only to face the team picked to win the Coastal Division in nationally ranked Miami.  The fans and team will be challenged to catch their collective breath during this brutal September stretch. The Hurricanes are loaded with talent and is a team that has their swag back.  Oh, and did I mention this game will be played on a Friday evening giving Duke a day less to heal and prepare?

We will sure know what Duke football is about after this incredible stretch of early season games.  It will be a challenge to keep players healthy and fresh.  It will be a challenge to put one week behind you in big time games and move on to the next.

It is not like the schedule gets that much easier past these games. Duke will travel to Virginia, play Florida State coming of their bye week, an always physical Pitt team and then Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before they get their bye week.

They will close the season out with Army on the road, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in Winston Salem.  The hope is that they can somehow survive the brutal early schedule to be in position to make a bowl game by finishing strong.

Oddly, the only game Duke plays this year less than five hours from campus is at Army.  So that may be a small advantage in a schedule filled with oddities.

So early season success is a must in some ways in order to take the pressure off in later games.  Duke is a better football team this season, but they are young in many areas as well.  With a lot of the players on the roster returning for the 2018 season it would be nice to see the program get back to a bowl game in the 2017 season while building a bright future.

Duke football had been to four consecutive bowl games before a season ago.  The talent is there to start another streak but the schedule is an obvious challenge.  But that is why they play the games and it is time to kick it off.

Season and individual tickets and various other plans are available at the Duke ticket office or by visiting  Duke football plays some big time opponents on Brooks Field in Wallace Wade Stadium this season and the team needs local support.  See you at the games!

Media Picks Duke Football Sixth in Coastal

265The Duke Blue Devils have been picked 6th in the Coastal Division by the ACC Media.  They received 4 first place votes.  This years  team was called one of his deepest by David Cutcliffe in Charlotte, but it is young at many key positions.  Duke hopes to return to a bowl game this season behind QB Daniel Jones where the program had been to four straight until last season.
ACC Championship
1. Florida State - 118
2. Clemson - 35
3. Louisville - 7
4-t. Virginia Tech – 3
4-t. Miami – 3
6. Duke – 1
Atlantic Division  
(First place votes in parenthesis)                  
1. Florida State (121) – 1,108
2. Clemson (37) – 1,007
3. Louisville (9) - 843
4. NC State - 658
5. Wake Forest – 415
6. Syracuse  - 362
7. Boston College - 283
Coastal Division
(First place votes in parenthesis)                  
1. Miami (103) – 1,065
2. Virginia Tech (40) – 932
3. Georgia Tech (9) – 708
4. Pitt (7) – 673
5. North Carolina (4) - 606
6. Duke (4) -473
7. Virginia -219
ACC Player of the Year
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville - 113
2. Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State - 23
3. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson - 11
4. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College - 8
5. Jaylen Samuels, AP, NC State - 7
6. Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse - 2
7-t. Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami - 1
7-t. Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami - 1
7-t. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke - 1