Tag Archives: David Cutcliffe

Stanford's Andrew Luck was finally able to smile in the 2nd half against Duke

Missed opportunities haunt Blue Devils against Stanford

Stanford's Andrew Luck was finally able to smile in the 2nd half against Duke-BDN Photo

BDN Rapid Reaction

The Blue Devils fell to Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal, 44-14 in Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday. The game played out much like we expected, with Duke competing with the Cardinal early, but unable to sustain their intensity for four quarters. Here’s our rapid reaction, along with our postgame interviews:

Missed opportunities

Duke scored just 1 of 3 trips to the red zone, missed three FGs, and recovered an onside kick but did nothing with the possession. In contrast, Stanford scored on all 4 of their trips to the red zone. That was essentially the difference in the game, as the Blue Devils failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. The Duke offense was able to move the football well, racking up 335 total yards of offense, but couldn’t find the end zone until late in the 4th quarter on Anthony Boone’s 2-yard TD run. The turning point in the game was on the opening drive of the 2nd half, when Duke drove the ball into the red zone, but again came up empty. Stanford would score on the next possession to go up 24-7 and essentially put the game away. Too many missed opportunities to knock off the #6 team in the country; Duke will have to sort out their red zone struggles next week against a tough BC defense.

Defense challenges the Heisman favorite

It’s been a long time since the Blue Devil defense made a Heisman candidate look uncomfortable under center. In fact, the Duke defense has historically made average college QBs look like Heisman contenders. Today was a different story, as the Blue Devils were able to pressure Andrew Luck, knocking him down on several plays, including 2 sacks, and forcing a rare interception. In the 1st half, the Duke defense played well enough to keep the Blue Devils in the game, but without any help from the offense, they were unable to sustain their momentum. Senior safety Matt Daniels had another outstanding game with 13 tackles and likely caught the eye of several of the NFL scouts in attendance.

Great crowd at Wallace Wade Stadium

It takes more than a dismal opening week loss to Richmond to dim the spirits of the Duke Football faithful. While there were certainly several sections of empty seats, particularly in the hot sun, but the nearly 25,000 fans who were there were loud and intense. In particular, the much maligned Duke student section in Wallace Wade Stadium was as good as it has been in years. Well done! This Duke team has shown flashes of putting the pieces together, and their best football is still ahead of them this season. An excellent road test awaits in Chestnut Hill next Saturday, followed by a very winnable Homecoming matchup against Tulane. Let’s Go Duke!

 

Matt Daniels Interview

 

Kelby Brown Interview

Juwan Thompson Interview

 

Coach Cutcliffe Press Conference

 

Duke and Stanford last met in 1972

BDN previews Duke’s match up with #6 Stanford

Duke and Stanford last met in 1972

For the second straight season, the Blue Devils will host a top 10 nonconference opponent in Durham in September. A year ago, Duke took on top-ranked Alabama in front of a crowd of 39,042 fans, but the game was over by the end of the 1st quarter, when the Crimson Tide had gone up 28-0. To add insult to injury, the shock from that blowout led to a hangover against Army the following week. Duke and Stanford last met in 1972 in Durham, and Saturday’s game represents the front half of a home-and-home series between the two academic powers. While David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils work tirelessly to rebuild the Duke program into an ACC contender, the Cardinal are already there. Even after the departure of Head Coach Jim Harbaugh for the NFL, Stanford entered the season with a top 10 national ranking and will be defending their PAC 12 title. By all accounts, new Head Coach David Shaw has been able to sustain the momentum built by Harbaugh, and the Cardinal have  quickly become a top national program.

When previewing Stanford, all eyes are on Heisman favorite Andrew Luck, the redshirt-junior QB who turned down the NFL’s millions to get his degree. As a QB, Luck does many things well; in 2010, he broke John Elway’s school record for TD passes in a season, while also eclipsing the school’s QB rushing record. Overall, he finished with an impressive 3,338 passing yards for 32 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. He loses his top 2 receivers from 2010, but picked up right where he left off in week 1, spreading the ball around to a deep group of receivers and tight ends, leading the Cardinal to a 57-3 blowout of former Duke DC Mike MacIntyre’s San Jose State team.

Stanford returns their top 3 rushers from a year ago, led by junior Stepfan Taylor. The running game got off to a slow start in week 1 against the Spartans, finishing with just 3.5 yards per carry, but did add 4 touchdowns on the ground. Conversely, the Stanford defense has been one of the top rushing defenses in the country, giving up just 121 yards per game on the ground in 2010, and allowing a paltry 0.8 yards per carry in week 1.

Overall, the Cardinal play a physical style of football, and they will challenge the young Blue Devils in every facet of the game. Duke, after a disappointing performance against Richmond in their opener, will have to put together four solid quarters of football to avoid a repeat of last year’s laugher against Alabama. Here are a few ideas to get them started:

Juwan Thompson will have to carry the load with Desmond Scott sidelined. BDN Photo

KEYS FOR DUKE

1. Spread the field, move the chains

When you face an offense as potent as Stanford’s (#9 scoring offense in the country in 2010), the best defense is usually a good offense. The less Andrew Luck is on the field, the better. Unfortunately, Duke will be without two of its top three running backs on Saturday, leaving sophomore Juwan Thompson and senior Jay Hollingsworth will be left to carry the load. While many Duke fans were frustrated with some of the play-calling in the week 1 loss, the Blue Devils did control the clock, winning the time of possession battle. Of course, the flip side of that is that the offense frequently left the Spiders with a short field, so while Duke may have controlled the clock, they did not control the field. This week, Duke will have to do a better job of spreading the field, moving the chains, and winning the field position battle. They can’t afford to make life easy on Luck and the Cardinal.

2. Take some shots

All that being said, Duke has playmakers at wide receiver, and they need to do a better job of using them. This is a game where the Blue Devils have nothing to lose. If they are not aggressive out of the gate, they will be buried quickly by Stanford. During the offseason, there was a lot of talk about Sean Renfree’s growth and many tabbed him as the top returning QB in the ACC – let’s prove it on a national stage against the #6 team in the country. It’s not just about play-calling, either. Last year, Duke linebacker Kelby Brown made his Blue Devil debut in the 2nd half against Alabama. In week one, the Blue Devils played two of their true freshmen in Jamison Crowder and Blair Holliday. For those that have earned the opportunity, let’s see what they can do. There are several positions where Duke could use contributions from their younger players, and a physical Stanford team will be a great litmus test to see if they’re ready to play. The Blue Devils made a terrible statement in week 1, but they have a prime opportunity to make an important one in week 2, and they don’t have to pull off a miraculous upset to do it. Show the rest of college football that the Blue Devils, even without two of their top running backs, have an offense that will keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.

Keeping this guy off the field and without the football should be Duke's top priority.

3. Ground the Cardinal

With an offense like Stanford’s, it’s really pick your poison. Andrew Luck is an All-American and Heisman favorite, and Stepfan Taylor is certainly no slouch, but the defense has to try and take the ball out of Luck’s hands. In last year’s Orange Bowl, he was able to pick apart a pretty good Virginia Tech defense, and given the opportunity, he will easily move the ball against the Duke secondary. The Blue Devils were effective at slowing Richmond’s running game, and will hope to have the same success against Stanford Saturday.

GAME ANALYSIS

Considering that Duke lost to Richmond in week 1 and Stanford had a big win against San Jose State, it’s no surprise that the Cardinal have a decided statistical advantage over the Blue Devils. That being said, if the Blue Devils play good, fundamental football, they have nothing to lose and could surprise a lot of people with their play on Saturday.

Turnovers 

Stanford 0, Duke 2

In addition, Stanford forced 3 turnovers against San Jose State, while the Blue Devils came away with just 1 interception against Richmond. Turnovers have plagued Duke over the past year, and will continue to do so until they take better care of the football and apply more pressure to opposing offenses.

Sacks

Stanford 2, Duke 0

Again, this stat works both ways, as the Stanford offensive line has done a good job protecting their Heisman candidate, not allowing a sack in week 1, while the Blue Devils allowed 1 against Richmond. Stanford has had to break in three new starters on their offensive line, but haven’t missed a beat so far.

3rd down

Stanford 5/13 (38.5%), Duke 7/14 (50%)

It’s hard to give this one to the Blue Devils, as this stat also works both ways. The Stanford defense allowed just 3/14 (21.4%) on 3rd down in week 1, while Duke gave up 6/15 (40%) to Richmond.

Explosive plays

It’s been the same old story for the Blue Devils. The defense continues to allow a few too many explosives, while the offense isn’t able to find them when they need them. Duke will have to open things up if they expect to keep up with Andrew Luck and his explosive offense.

Rushing TDs

Stanford 4, Duke 3

Both teams have QBs who can run it in themselves, but Taylor is much more proven than the Blue Devils’ running backs. Thompson had an impressive season debut, and if he can repeat that effort against a stingy Stanford run defense, it will be a good sign of things to come.

Field goals

Stanford 2/2, Duke 0/2

Yikes, let’s not go there. Will Snyderwine will have to bounce back from week 1, but the reality is that if Duke has to settle for field goals, this game won’t stay close for long. Conversely, if the Duke defense can keep redshirt-freshman Jordan Williamson busy for the Cardinal in his first college road game (and I don’t mean kickoffs), the Blue Devils should stay in the game.

Penalties

Stanford 3-30 yards, Duke 3-14 yards

This one is another push, but Duke will have to continue to play disciplined football; they can’t beat themselves. Though they only had 3 penalties in week 1, the last of those came on a crucial 3rd and 2, ultimately preventing the Blue Devils from picking up a 1st down and sustaining the drive.

PREDICTION

The Blue Devils will put together a better effort than in week one, but it will still come up woefully short against #6 Stanford. Andrew Luck will pick apart the Duke secondary with his deep group of talented receivers, particularly at tight end, which will cause significant match-up problems. With a banged up group of running backs, Duke will have to try to stretch the field and use some tricks to move the ball consistently against a Stanford defense that has yet to give up a touchdown. Expect a slightly more competitive game than a year ago against Alabama, but the Blue Devils ultimately won’t be able to keep it within three scores. Stanford 45, Duke 16

Keeping this guy off the field and without the football should be Duke's top priority.

BDN’s Q&A preview of Duke’s matchup with #6 Stanford

Duke hosts Heisman favorite Andrew Luck and Stanford in week 2

After an opening week loss to the Richmond Spiders, things will get a lot harder for the Blue Devils in week 2, as they welcome the #6 Stanford Cardinal. Led by Heisman favorite Andrew Luck, the Cardinal have quickly become one of the top programs in the country with a physical style of play. In September 2010, Duke welcomed another top national program to Durham in Alabama, and fans would prefer to forget the result on that afternoon. The young Blue Devils will have to learn from last year’s experience and greatly improve on last week’s performance if they plan to compete with Stanford.

After putting up 57 points on San Jose State last week, the Cardinal will be expecting a similar outcome this Saturday. BDN is pleased to welcome back Hank Waddles of GoMightyCard.com for his view from the Stanford perspective. As always, please be sure to visit their site to read the BDN half to our weekly Q&A exchange.

 

BDN: Duke football fans love to use Stanford’s success as a benchmark for their own program. From the Stanford perspective, how would you compare the two schools and their football programs? What similarities do you see, and where do you think they differ?

The similarities between Duke and Stanford are obvious. Both are prestigious academic institutions, first and foremost, and the admissions requirements that go along with that don’t always mesh with the building of athletic powerhouses. (Stanford fans, however, are fond of pointing out that the Duke admissions office seems to be more lenient than Stanford’s.) Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby has publicly stated that he wants every Stanford sports team to be among the best in the nation, and recently that edict has even extended to the football program. The past two seasons have shown that a school like Stanford — or Duke — can field a competitive football team, something that didn’t seem possible as recently as five years ago. Stanford has acted on that belief by rebuilding their stadium, upgrading practice facilities, recruiting relentlessly, and making a commitment to a coach we all hope will stay for quite a while. I’m not sure if Duke has done any of that yet.

BDN: With a top ten ranking and the Heisman favorite at quarterback, the Cardinal isn’t going to sneak up on any opponent. Which teams do you expect to be the toughest match ups for Stanford this season and why?

Last year was interesting. Those of us who watched the team week in and week out were rarely surprised when they won, but those who were getting beaten always seemed shocked. This year should be different, as Stanford will likely be favored in every game they play. That obviously guarantees nothing, however. If you’d asked me this question last week, I’d have told you I was worried about the back half of the schedule: USC, Oregon, and Notre Dame, plus a trap game at Oregon State in the middle of all that. This past Saturday, though, USC didn’t score a point in the second half and struggled to beat Minnesota at home, Oregon didn’t look themselves against LSU, Notre Dame lost at home to South Florida, and Oregon State lost to an FCS team. Even so, I’m guessing those teams will all put things together enough in the next couple months to present significant challenges for the Cardinal.

BDN: Despite putting up 57 points and 373 yards on former Duke DC Mike Macintyre and San Jose State, the Stanford coaches and players felt their offensive effort could have been better. What are the areas of concern, other than Andrew Luck diving all over the field?

This will sound strange, but if you watched the game, it definitely didn’t feel like a fifty-four-point win. San Jose State helped out a lot with a handful of turnovers, and the game was never in doubt, but the offense wasn’t as dominant as the score might indicate. Over the last two seasons Stanford fans had gotten used to watching their offensive line steamroll the opposition, but that didn’t happen on Saturday. Three starters from last year’s team are gone, and this new group wasn’t nearly as dominant, as the offense rushed for only 141 yards. The line will be under a microscope the rest of the way, and I’m especially interested to how they develop over the next few weeks.

BDN: After an inexcusable opening week loss to Richmond, the Blue Devils are reeling. What advice would you give Duke coaches, players and fans as they prepare for a top ten Stanford team? As a team with nothing to lose, how should they attack the Cardinal?

As Duke gets ready to face the Stanford offense, they should probably do their best to force the Cardinal to run. As detailed above, Stanford had a hard time running the ball last week. The problem with this, though, is that they’ll probably be spending this entire week working on the running game and will likely come out looking to establish the ground game. But if the Blue Devils can make the Stanford offense a bit one-dimensional, that would obviously be a good thing. As for the Stanford defense, that’s a more difficult proposition. The defensive line was dominant last weekend, almost completely shutting down the San Jose State running game, and the defensive backs were almost as good. In between are the linebackers, who are rapidly developing into one of the best units in the nation. You might not know Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas, but you’ll hear their names a lot on Saturday afternoon.

BDN: Stanford opened as a 22 point favorite on the road this Saturday; any chance you think Duke fans should take the points?

Only twenty-two points? That’s a trap. Look for the Cardinal to win by at least thirty.

BDN: Thanks for your insight, Hank. Good luck!

Let's get this season started!

BDN previews Duke’s season opener vs. Richmond

2nd and 10 from the Duke 35 yard line

Renfree drops back, completes a pass to senior Austin Kelly across the middle. Kelly tries to elude a tackle but is brought down by Quan Sturdivant at the Duke 41 yard line. The clock hits zero. The Tar Heels celebrate and reclaim the Victory Bell. Duke’s 2010 season is over.

That was the last we saw of Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils, all the way back on November 27, 2010. Over the past nine months, Duke’s coaches and players have shed blood, sweat, and tears in preparation for the 2011 season. The 3-win 2010 season is gone, but not forgotten. It’s week one of the 2011 college football season, and time for Blue Devil fans to recite their familiar credo, “this year has to be better, right?”

Sean Renfree is ready to lead the Blue Devil offense in his second year as a starter

KEYS FOR DUKE

Second-year starter Sean Renfree and the Blue Devil offense have the potential to be one of the ACC’s top units in 2011. In order for that potential to be realized, the Blue Devils must accomplish two things: take care of the football and establish a consistent, effective running game. After struggling with turnovers early in 2010, the Blue Devils showed dramatic improvement in their final five games. Turnovers have continued to be a point of emphasis all offseason. Junior Desmond Scott and sophomore Juwan Thompson will pace the ground game and have had an excellent training camp running behind a big, experienced offensive line. Dave Harding has stepped in flawlessly for the injured Brian Moore at center, and he will have to play at a high level in his first college game action snapping the football. With several question marks on defense, the margin for error for the Duke offense is slim.

Defensively, Duke needs to see big games from their returning stars in senior Matt Daniels, sophomore Kelby Brown, and senior Charlie Hatcher. These three players will be supported by a group of talented but mostly inexperienced Blue Devil defenders, a typical recipe for inconsistency. Similar to the offense, there are two primary goals for the Duke defense in 2011: limit explosive offensive plays and improve their play at the line of scrimmage. Duke has a deep group of high-level athletes in their secondary, and the new 4-2-5 defensive scheme will rely on their ability to make plays all over the field in an effort to slow opposing offenses. In his second year as a starter, Ross Cockrell will have to develop into a shutdown cornerback for the Blue Devils. Seven redshirt-freshmen will enter the rotation on the defensive line for Duke in 2011, and the maturation of these young athletes will be key to the defense’s success. Expect to see flashes of ability from players like Jordan DeWalt-Ondigo, Jamal Wallace, and Dezmond Johnson. If the Blue Devils are able to successfully execute their new defensive gameplan, this group’s results should be greater than the sum of its parts.

If Duke is going to make a bowl game in 2011, their special teams unit will have to be special. The Blue Devils have the talent in the kicking game to dominate special teams at times this season. Will Snyderwine has established himself as one of the top kickers in the country. Alex King is a proven veteran with experience and versatility. Freshman Jamison Crowder is a playmaker at kick and punt return. Improved depth across the roster should lead to better kick and punt return units. The pieces are in place for a solid special teams effort; the players simply have to execute.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

To put it lightly, Duke was plagued by turnovers in 2010. Duke’s 28 turnovers, however, are eclipsed by Richmond’s 32 turnovers a season ago. Needless to say, the team that takes care of the football stands to have the best chance of winning this matchup. Late in the season, Sean Renfree appeared to turn a corner, throwing just three interceptions in the final five games. Limiting turnovers has been a point of emphasis for the Duke offense all spring and summer, while the Duke defense is hoping to create more turnovers than they did a year ago. If the Blue Devils can build a first half lead, expect the Duke secondary to make some plays when the Spiders are forced to pass. Duke should win the turnover battle.

Duke's young defensive linemen will need to pressure Richmond's Aaron Corp

Sacks

Richmond plays a physical game of football, and in the last two meetings between these schools, dominated the line of scrimmage. The Duke defense has struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks. With youth along the defensive line and a pass-happy offense, Duke will rarely win the sack battle. The key will be to limit the loss of yards on offense and to make some timely tackles for loss against the Spiders. The Spiders did graduate their top 3 tacklers from 2010, but still have the players to apply some pressure. Richmond will win the sack battle.

3rd Down Production

Richmond converted just 34% of their 3rd downs in 2010, while the Blue Devils were able to convert 40% of 3rd down opportunities. With a veteran offense returning, Duke should again have success on 3rd downs, utilizing their deep receiving corps to pick up 1st down yardage. The Duke defense has struggled on 3rd down in recent years, but with an improved secondary and a better scheme, they should do a better job of limiting big conversions. Duke will win the 3rd down battle.

Ross Cockrell will have a tough matchup with All-CAA WR Tre Grey, BDN Photo

Explosive Plays

The game features a trio of All-Conference wide receivers, all capable of opening the game up with an explosive play. Tre Gray will be a challenge for the Duke secondary, and his matchup with Duke’s Ross Cockrell will be one to watch. The “Killer V’s” will be up to their usual tricks, but Richmond will have to pick their poison as senior Cooper Helfet and sophomore Brandon Braxton also have big-play ability. On the ground, the Spiders will utilize a committee approach, while Duke will feature a heavy dose of Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson, two players who have dominated training camp with big plays. Duke has too many weapons on offense; they will win the explosive play battle.

Rushing TDs

Richmond will look to establish their running game early, and if they are able to control the line of scrimmage, it could be another long season opener for the Blue Devils. Duke will be able to counter with a veteran offensive line and three talented runners of their own in Desmond Scott, Juwan Thompson, and Brandon Connette. With a deep offensive line, Duke should be able to run the ball into the end zone when needed. The Duke defense will have their hands full with trying to keep Richmond’s Kendall Gaskins out of the end zone, but Duke has a deeper stable of proven runners. Duke will punch a few in on the ground.

Field Goals

Both teams feature outstanding All-Conference kickers. Duke’s Will Snyderwine has connected on 86.4% of his career field goal opportunities. Richmond’s Will Kamin has hit 90.9% of his career field goal opportunities. This matchup is a push.

Penalties

Since the arrival of David Cutcliffe in Durham, the Blue Devils have been one of the most disciplined teams in the ACC. In 2010, Duke committed just 55 penalties for an average of 40.6 yards per game. The Spiders were even better, committing just 50 penalties for an average of 35.5 yards per game. That trend should continue under new Head Coach Wayne Lineburg. This matchup is a push.

Let's get this season started!

PREDICTION

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us three times, not going to happen. Duke is ready for Richmond. There are sure to be some first-game jitters, but Duke won’t get tangled in the Spiders’ web. Sean Renfree has emerged as a leader on this Blue Devil team, and he will guide the Duke offense to a big night. The game will be won (or lost) along the line of scrimmage, and Duke’s linemen are bigger and stronger than they were two years ago. Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson will have big days on the ground. Playing from behind, Richmond will be unable to establish a consistent power running game, forcing Corp to make plays through the air against the deep Duke secondary.  The Blue Devils should come away from this game with a lot of positives to build on and a lot to learn from, while Duke fans will leave Wallace Wade Stadium thinking, “this year will be better!”

Duke 34

Richmond 17

The Blue Devils will open the 2011 football season at home against Richmond September 3

BDN Game Week Q&A Exchange with Spider Bandwagon

The Blue Devils will open the 2011 football season at home against Richmond Saturday

It’s game week, Blue Devil Nation! After months of anticipation, the Blue Devils are ready to take the field and kick off the 2011 season against the Richmond Spiders. Richmond will travel down I-85 led by USC QB transfer Aaron Corp with a lot of confidence, having won their last two trips to Durham decisively. Meanwhile, Sean Renfree and the high-flying Blue Devil offense will look to get off to a hot start, and revenge for the 2009 season opening loss will certainly be in the back of their minds. With a new Head Coach and a young team, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Spiders on Saturday. Fortunately, we caught up with Spider Bandwagon to get their thoughts on the opening night match-up in Durham. Be sure to check out their site to read the BDN take on the game as well.

BDN: After the untimely resignation of Head Coach Latrell Scott during training camp, Offensive Coordinator Wayne Lineburg was named interim Head Coach. Given these events, what is the general mood around the Richmond program? What changes, if any, has Coach Lineburg made? How much of a distraction has this been for the players, as they prepare for Duke?

Everyone even remotely associated with the program is saying all the right things: next man up; stay the line; come together; [insert other clichés here]. For the most part, I’m buying the party line. Lineburg (pronounced Lynn-uh-burg) was brought in by Latrell Scott last summer as offensive coordinator. He’s from a coaching family and already was looked at by many as an eventual head coaching candidate. By all accounts he’s changed little in the day to day since taking over. He’s familiar with the players and vice versa. I really don’t think much will be lost in the transition. What’s more, this is Lineburg’s second stint at UR; he was on the offensive staff from 2004-06 and helped lay the foundation of the national championship team. Generally, I think most Spider players and fans would admit they’d rather go through this coaching switch than repeat last year’s four different starting quarterbacks fiasco.

USC transfer Aaron Corp will start at QB for the Spiders after missing most of 2010 with an ACL injury. Photo Credit-The Collegian

BDN: QB Aaron Corp had his first year at Richmond cut short by injury after transferring in from USC. How have his health and performance been heading into the season opener? What does he need to do to realize his potential, which had made him such a highly-touted high school prospect?

Simply put Corp needs to stay on the field and stay healthy. The knee should be 100% at this point. Despite only five games last season, I think he’ll benefit from a second year studying and learning Lineburg’s offense. As long as the offensive line can gel (three returning starters) to give Corp time and keep him on his feet, he should put up big numbers.

BDN: All-Conference WR Tre Gray is back and figures to be a favorite target for Corp this fall. What other weapons will the Spiders’ offense have? How do you expect Richmond to attack the Duke defense on Saturday night?

I actually expect a pretty vanilla offense on Saturday. The order of the day will be establishing the line of scrimmage. Look for a healthy dose of hand offs especially early to a committee following FB Kendall Gaskins. When the Spiders do throw, keep an eye on sophomore WR Ben Edwards getting space opposite Grey.

BDN: With the loss of CAA POY Eric McBride along with All-CAA defensive lineman Martin Parker, the Spiders’ defense will have big shoes to fill this fall. How will Richmond try to slow Duke’s prolific passing game? Which players will have to play well for the Spiders to keep the Blue Devils out of the end zone?

Luckily the Spider secondary figures to be the strength of this defense in the early going. Tremayne Graham and Daryl Hamilton return on the corners, and Cooper Taylor, a transfer from Georgia Tech, is expected to make a huge impact in taking over the safety spot. Up front, the focus figures to shift from the linebackers to the defensive ends. Kerry Wynn and Brandon Scott, 6’5” and 6’4” respectively, need to cause havoc in the backfield and give the young linebacking corp space to make tackles. If Wynn and Scott can’t get upfield, UR will be in for a very long evening.

We'll see you under the lights in Wallace Wade on Saturday!

BDN: Richmond has two straight wins against Duke in Durham, though the Blue Devils lead the all-time series 9-3. Vegas has the Spiders starting out as 8.5-point underdogs. How do you expect Saturday’s season opener to play out under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium?

I think the Spiders will play well, keep things close for awhile, but come up short. This team is still very young. Finally getting away from camp will do this team some good, and Corp will have good numbers by the final whistle, but they’re not ready to knock off an FBS team. 27-14 Blue Devils.

BDN: Thanks for your insight. Good luck on Saturday!

Duke will host Georgia Tech on November 19th for their final home game of 2011

Blue Devils will try to slow the Georgia Tech triple-option on November 19

Duke will host Georgia Tech on November 19th for their final home game of 2011

BDN has been previewing Duke football’s 2011 opponents all summer long. This week, we wrap things up as we prepare for Saturday’s season opener, but not before taking a look at a crucial stretch of games in November. Duke will play three tough road contests at Miami, Virginia, and North Carolina in November, meaning that the November 19th match-up with Georgia Tech will serve as Duke’s final home game of the season. The Blue Devils played the Yellow Jackets tough in Atlanta last season, but a late red zone turnover turned the tables on Duke’s upset bid.

To help us preview the 2011 Yellow Jackets, BDN is glad to welcome back Winfield Featherston of FromTheRumbleSeat.com. His candid insight is invaluable when analyzing the Georgia Tech program.

BDN: Georgia Tech was among the ACC programs involved in a recent NCAA investigation, receiving a four-year probation, among other penalties. Can you summarize your thoughts on the NCAA violations? Do you expect there to be any affect on the program in 2011 or beyond?

My initial thoughts on the issue came across as too passive and made me look like I just rolled over. And I kinda sorta did unfortunately. The NCAA’s penalties given to Georgia Tech are TOTAL BULLSH*T. They penalized us anything because they felt slighted when our AD didn’t want Paul Johnson looking like Al Golden when the news broke against Tech. Sadly, GT is just big enough for big sanctions to make it look like the NCAA has teeth and could – if they wanted to- go after the big programs but we all know that won’t happen.

Nothing will happen for the future. We vacated the 2009 ACCCG (BTW it still happened – Clemson’s record book says so) and we paid a fine. Recruiting visits and scholarships are not affected.

Head Coach Paul Johnson has led Georgia Tech to 3 bowl games in 3 seasons in Atlanta

BDN: When Head Coach Paul Johnson arrived in Atlanta, he inherited a talented team and took them to a 2009 ACC Championship, led by All-ACC players like Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt, Derrick Morgan, and Demaryius Thomas. After three years at the head of the Yellow Jackets, how would you assess the state of the program under Johnson? With only 12 starters returning in 2011, what are the expectations for this young group of Yellow Jackets?

The state of the program gets defined in 2012. This year it’s finally Johnson’s players in Johnson’s system. Wipe the slate clean from the previous years. Any success or failures we had with Gailey players was just some form or luck really. Expectations are set in typical Georgia Tech fan fashion – pretty high. Many fans expect about 8 wins to reach the “good season” level. With most major games at home, that goal should be attainable. 

BDN: The Blue Devils got a good look at Tevin Washington running the triple option last year in Atlanta. There has been significant competition this spring and summer for starting jobs at QB and B-back. How do you expect that competition to play out at those two spots? What are the other question marks for the 2011 Georgia Tech offense?

The schedule plays perfectly for a good ole September platooning effort. I’d expect to see a mix of Synjyn Days and Tevin Washington to play out most of the games. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vad Lee either. The same goes for B-back with Charles Perkins, Preston Lyons and David Sims. By the time we hit October, we’ll have our depth chart in fine condition. 

BDN: Al Groh’s defense struggled in his first year in Atlanta a year ago, allowing almost 372 yards per game to opposing offenses. What changes or improvements need to be made for the Tech defense to be more successful in 2011?

Experience. We had to give the Groh-fense a year to sink in. Word on the street says that the defense has been improving tremendously and our young guys are all stepping up. 

BDN: Duke gave Georgia Tech a scare in Atlanta last November, throwing a crucial red zone interception and ultimately falling, 20-30. What do you think will be the keys to the matchup on November 19 in Durham? Can the Blue Devils give the Yellow Jackets another scare?

We’re talking November football already? Sure it’s possible. For all games this year, it will come down to the defense. History shows that over the season CPJ teams average the same offensive statistics per year. The defense will have to shut down Duke’s offensive attack and let our triple option offensive do it’s usual thing.  

BDN: Thanks for your help, Winfield! Good luck this season!

Previous week: November 12, Duke at Miami

Next week: November 26, Duke at North Carolina