Tag Archives: Duke Football

Remembering My Pal, Al Featherston

Al Featherston passed on today, Monday, 11-5-2018.

My longtime friend, Al Featherston died Monday, Nov. 5th, 2018 at Duke Hospital after a long illness.  Many of you know that Al has been a sportswriter for more than five decades and has authored books on both history and ACC sports.

Al attended Duke University and contributed to the ACC Sports Journal, Basketball Times, Blue Ribbon Yearbooks, Duke Basketball Report, GoDuke.com and many other outlets over the years.  He spent a great portion of his career writing for the Durham Morning Herald and the Durham Herald Sun as well.

He battled his illness until the end, but never recovered well from elective heart surgery.  He was also diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.  Being a long time New York Yankees fanatic, Al was able to go out like one of his favorites.

I had a lot of history with Al, which included seeing Duke win a National Championship together.  Having seen a lot of Duke athletics in my time, he enjoyed someone to talk history with,

Towards the end, another good friend of Al's named Ed McIntyre was able to help get our pal into a retirement home.  I would take Al to appointments and run errands while going over on Saturdays to watch college football games.

Make no mistake, Al loved his sports and we watched the Duke away football games together right up until his passing.  Al was staying on a strict diet and got down to 212 pounds, but he liked that I would bring something special for him for football Saturday,

We thought we'd lost Al about two weeks ago,  On a Monday, following the win over Georgia Tech, Al went back into the hospital never to come out,  He would also lose conscience for about five days.

Thankfully, Al came out of that and just in time to inform his sister Libby who was up from Southport on his final wishes.  He was able to get some closure and I can tell you after conversing with him that he was still very sharp minded and at peace with what was to come.

So, as soon as I get to his room, Al spots the box score to the Duke Basketball exhibition game in my hand.  Before he can say hello, he is reaching for it while asking me about Marques Bolden.

Yep, his faculties were intact and he wasted little time in wanting to talk about that game and the Duke loss to Pitt in football which he had just watched.

I spent the better part of three hours with Al the last time I saw him.  I filled him in on what he missed while being out and he sponged it all in while wanting to continue to talk about this years basketball team.

Al was very excited about tomorrows Duke matchup with Kentucky and the Duke-UNC football game coming up this weekend.  He mentioned that he was sad that he would miss this basketball season with this year's talented team, but we had all hoped he could bounce out of his issues and at least make it through this week.

I was saddened to hear the news of his moving on from his sister this morning whom I have been able to get to know through the process.  I contracted a virus and could not make it back to see Al beyond that last conversation.

But in the end, I realized I had a great conversation with him that day and it was a normal exchange which I think he liked.  I will miss my friend greatly and talking Duke Athletics, ACC sports in general and appreciate the many memories with him by my side.

Al wanted his sportswriter friends and acquaintances to know he was thinking about them.  He was in his favorite spot in the world on press row where he enjoyed socializing.  Towards the end, the plan was for him to dictate some messages to me but time would not allow for that.  But, again, he was thinking of many of you.

Whether you are a sportswriter, work at Duke Athletics or in the ACC offices in Greensboro, just know Al was appreciative of the relationships.

Al was the son of Louis Alywn Featherston Sr. and Mary Norfleet Vick Featherston.  He is survived by his sister, Elizabeth "Libby" Featherston if Southport, N.C.; and brothers, Mark Featherston of Caddilac, MI and Richard Featherston of Seymour, Conn.

The family plans a private cremation.  A celebration of Al's life will be announced at a future time. I will let you know of any further details and please pass this information on.

I appreciate your friendship Al, who last told me he was looking forward to seeing what happens next.

David Cutcliffe Addresses the Media

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: We obviously realize how difficult a task it is to go to Miami, and not only to play well, but to win. Extremely athletic team. A team that plays really well at home. We've had good preparation. I think our minds are in the right place. We're trying to overcome getting -- beat ourselves, and a huge challenge and one that we need to challenge ourselves to be able to be successful.

I'll take your questions.

Q. A little off-the-wall question for you. Who was your athletic idol growing up and why?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Mickey Mantle because I saw the Yankees more than anyone else. They certainly were on TV, baseball Game of the Week. I could go out and simulate being Mickey Mantle by myself, throwing the ball up and swinging in the air, and I was a switch hitter, so that helped.

Q. Did you wear No. 7?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Absolutely. The other one was Joe Namath, quarterback, No. 12. I had many of them. Listen, it changed, you know.

Q. From season to season?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, yeah, season to season. You know, the basketball was a little different, a little more removed. There was one game a week. Bill Russell -- I worked on my left-handed hook shot because of him.

You're bringing up good memories, I can tell you that.

Q. Miami's defense seems like they are growing every year into an elite defense. What do you have to do to not put play that fourth ball to those guys and put that turnover chain thing back on?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: They do a lot of things that create turnovers. First of all, they lead the country in tackles for losses, and that's a big part of creating turnovers, creating bad down and distance. You can't be desperate. You have to be smart and patient. You can't play afraid or cautious, but you have to play smart to play a team like that -- we call them havoc plays, and their defense, as we view, it leads their country far and away in havoc plays.

Q. How do you prepare for two quarterbacks or whatever? How do you prepare for that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: They really don't change their offense. I think one quarterback may run more than the other, but they have so many weapons that surround the quarterback position that you'd better focus on that. So that's not as problematic as you might think.

Q. Covered your game in Atlanta and you guys looked so good. I thought you had a pretty good shot at winning the division. Would it be fair to say you're kind of surprised to be where you are now, two weeks later?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I mean, there's no question that this team is not the same team. We have been challenged. You hesitate as a coach to ever say these things, but we've been as many as 12 starters down and it just continues to take its toll. That's something that we are hopefully turning the corner. We still have a lot of people not making the trip to South Florida, but we also know that this team is the deepest team we've had.

So my job is to get our young people playing better, and that's the biggest issue that we have faced are inconsistencies. You saw us in Atlanta, we were able to create some turnovers. In the three games we have lost, we have not created a single turnover. We've lost the turnover margin 4-0 in those three games, and we're playing a team that thrives on it.

You know, it's not a secret. If you're going to win, you've got to do the things that winning teams do. Our young people have got to not be young people right now. We've got a lot of them playing that we didn't think we would be playing with, but we are playing with them. So as I said, my job is to have them ready.

Q. Do you have a guess at who the top team in the league is, or in the division as of this week?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Obviously right now Clemson is playing at an extremely high level. They are left on our schedule. But the Coastal Division, it's just very difficult to say.

The team we're playing this week is extremely talented. But Virginia has played really well. Virginia has played very opportunistic and solid.

But I wouldn't call a winner right now. It's a horse race that you can't call. Too close to call.

Q. Can you put your finger on what's made the division so balanced?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think the coaching has just continued. Paul Johnson and I have been in this league the longest, and we know the kind of job that he does. Georgia Tech has been really impressive here of late and just really, year after year.

Then you start looking at what Justin Fuente has done to follow up a legend in Frank Beamer.

And then Bronco Mendenhall is just an outstanding coach and got Virginia playing well.

Mark Richt is at Miami and got Miami playing well.

Pat Narduzzi at Pitt; you want to talk about physical football, and Pitt football teams have been that way for as long as I can remember.

Larry Fedora at North Carolina can score on anybody. They have just hit over the last two years a rash of injuries and circumstances.

I think I've covered the Coastal there. I just have great respect for the coaches, both in the Atlantic and the coastal, and I think our league is terrific right now.

Like I said earlier and somebody else asked a question, it's no secret. You have to do the things -- if you're normal, if you're not just overly talented compared to everyone else, you've got to do the things that win football games, and that's no secret. There are four or five things that a team has to do and embrace together to be a winner, and we haven't done it as well as we needed in the three losses.

It was very disheartening in Pitt that we kept giving up when we'd get two or three scores up. That's my job is to get us over that hump and we're going to find a way to do it.

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.

Q & A with Duke Coach David Cutcliffe

Wednesday September 5, 2018

David Cutcliffe

Duke

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: It's always challenging after the first game, it may not sound it, but challenging to jump right back into a game week. You've got to grind it out Tuesday and get back after it Wednesday. I think our team has adapted to that. It's really been hot, but we obviously are playing a very good Northwestern team, very good Northwestern team. They've won nine games in a row. They're playing as well as a team as anybody I've seen on film. I think our squad is well aware of that, a huge challenge, but when you go on the road, it's a huge opportunity to say something about your own program. So I think they're looking forward to the challenge, but they do know it is a big one.

Questions?

Q. How closely would you say your team in the opener mirrored what you expected them to look like, and how did that match up during your career with how well do teams kind of meet your expectation that first time out?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think that's a great question. I think people probably were aware that we did have a little greater expectation of this team with returning players. I think one of the things that probably I was hoping for is that this is a much more physical team. We are the fastest team we've had, but I think probably the biggest thing that we found in the first game is that we were definitively the most physical team on the field against a physical football team. Army West Point has developed a physical mentality. They play the game that way. But I thought our team responded to that really well, and that was something we were certainly hoping we would see in week 1. Now we've just got to grow it. We're going to play a bigger, faster, stronger team in week 2, and we'll learn a little bit more about ourselves.

Q. We hear often, and I've been asking the guys, but the idea that teams make their biggest jump from week 1 to week 2; do you subscribe to that theory, and what do you think about that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think it depends on the quality of your team. As I just mentioned coming in, you have camp, and then all of a sudden in this environment, you're overloaded with schoolwork already, you've got to turn around and re-key and re-focus on a new opponent. So if you do that, playing the game, there is nothing like playing the game, but we don't get to scrimmage much anymore in college football, hardly at all really in a year compared to what it used to be. So it should be one of the biggest jumps you have during the season. But all of that is dependent upon, again, how you come work out of that first game.

Q. You obviously beat Northwestern pretty decisively last year, but how much better do they look to you on film this time when you're preparing for them?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think there's a couple things. It was an early game a year ago. They didn't play as well as they would have liked. That team was obviously better than people thought. That particular team was a very good football team, Northwestern. They went on and won 10 games for the season. But this team to me looks better. This team is more athletic. They look very committed. You can tell they've had a great spring and summer. So yeah, I think this is one of the better Northwestern teams we've seen since we've been here. We saw them our first year here, but we've played them four times. So I definitely think this team is one of the best if not the best we've seen.

Q. I know you played three true freshmen in the game. What was your assessment of how they did? And secondly, I know you had more true freshmen than that that pushed for playing time in camp and didn't play. How have they responded to that, and is there still a chance that may get into some games in September?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think the three that did play did all right. We didn't play them enough probably. Certainly Jake Bobo is going to continue to get in the mix. It's a very competitive environment at receiver. We've got two young receivers, Jarett Garner and Dennis Smith, that are doing awfully well. But you get into the D-line, Tahj Rice, he's just a big, strong, powerful youngster, and we want to continue to get him in better shape, but we feel like he's going to impact us before the year is over. He did well when he was in there, played hard. Casey Holman, an offensive tackle, is a very talented young man. He certainly can impact our team. You can't ever have enough depth in the offensive line.

And then I think, too, that we thought might would play would be Maurice McIntyre and Mataeo Durant, but Mataeo had a great day yesterday and today in some live work, and he's ready. But again, it's a very competitive environment. There's only one football, and there's some backs that are playing well. But he's going to help us this year. No doubt in my mind, he is a terrific prospect, as are others in that class.

I'll give you an example. I thought one of the best performances of the practice today was done by Gunnar Holmberg who's a true freshman quarterback that was being Northwestern's quarterback. I thought he was terrific today. Even what people don't see in games I think may surprise -- this class may surprise people just how talented the overall group is.

Q. Aaron Young had a big game for you last week; do you feel like he's capable of having a breakout season for you guys?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: He is. He is a very big -- people that walk up to him, I don't think they realize initially how big he is. I don't know what we list him at, but he's tall, he's very strong -- had an incredible summer. It's important to him, and I think he probably is going into his junior year realizing maybe he hasn't reached his expectations. He and I sat down and had a conversation about that. But you know, he's been flashy in the past. Now, let's see if he can put one week after another. He's definitely capable of being a guy that burst on the scene, and I know Daniel Jones has a lot of confidence in Aaron. Hopefully it heads in that direction.

Q. What do you think it's going to take for him to play more consistently and string big games together instead of just having one here or there?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, that's a great question, and I think he would answer it better than I, but I will tell you we'd have the same answer. He'd got to become focused in practice and at every little thing that he does. Just consistent focus, practice habits. It's been something that -- all young people fight it, but he's had to battle that a little bit. So whether it's alignment, just getting up off the ground and being ready to play the next play, those are things that he's working on, and I think with that will come a consistent performance that people will look to -- he's capable of being an All-Star player, and hopefully that happens for him.

Q. Touching on Aaron again, obviously with the big game he had on Saturday, have you kind of maybe allowed yourself to think of an exciting wrinkle that would be if he did have a great season kind of paired with your other wide receivers that really have some talent?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think when you -- and we feel like we've got a chance to be this, and Gerad Parker has done a really good job with our receiving corps this year and trying to build depth and confidence, and you've got the seniors -- we actually have four seniors in the receiving corps, including Trevon Lee, with our other three that are basically starters, and I think when you get Aaron playing at that level and we get others, Scott Bracey, Jake Bobo, we're one -- one of the wrinkles, as you call it, is just the size we can put on the field at receiver. T.J. may be the quickest we've ever had here, but we've got some big guys right now that can play, and I think we can use that to our advantage.

Q. Talk about the running back from Northwestern, Larkin. He played against you guys last year, but he wasn't a factor. But this past week he ran a lot through Purdue. What do you see on film to try to stop him?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he's extremely quick, and his change of direction -- he's really just a really good back. We were very aware of him in high school, recruited him out of high school. He makes people miss. He's strong enough to break tackles. He's very athletic. He's got great family DNA. He's elusive.

I thought he was one of the bigger factors in that Purdue game. He gave them some explosive plays in the running game that -- that's how you win games. He took care of the football, so he's a complete player, no question.

Q. What did you like about Daniel's performance last week?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: He was just consistently efficient. You know, he threw the ball very accurately. He knew where and why and what he was doing at every second out there, total control, I thought. 13 of 17, and it could have even been higher. We didn't throw the football a whole lot. We didn't get a whole lot of possessions. But basically of the eight real possessions in the game, he led us to six scores, so that's pretty stout efficiency.

Army at Duke Preview – Insider Preview & Prediction

Duke vs Army

The wait is finally over.  After a long offseason, the Duke Blue Devils are set to take to Brooks Field in Wallace Wade Stadium to take on Army this Friday night.

Blue Devil Nation will address what we feel are the key factors in the contest while also giving you an idea of what to expect this season via changes in the depth chart.

About Army

A season ago, Army defeated the Blue Devils on a cold and windy day at West Point by a 21-16 score.  In fact, that was the last time the program has lost and was just four games ago.  The Army defense tallied three key sacks on Daniel Jones.  The Cadets also blocked a punt for a score and that was the difference.

The Army had a stellar season a year ago winning a bowl game on their way to a recently historic finish.  Army head coach Jeff Monkan has rebuilt the program which remains on a solid foundation.

The strength of this years team will be their defense which returns 8 starters from a season ago.  It is also worth noting that Army has held Duke to just 29 points in the last two seasons. Their top players on the defensive side of the ball are DL Kenneth Brinson, LB Cole Christensen, DB Gibby Gibson leading a veteran unit.

The offense will be breaking in 8 new starters but is anchored by a solid center in Bryce Holland and running backs Darnell Woolfork and Kell Walken.

Changes for Duke

Here is a quick look at the changes for Duke Football going into the game.  Robert Kraeleng earned the LT spot and will Christian Harris mans the RT spot.  Duke has settled on young backups in true freshman Casey Holmon and soph Jayson Miller.

There are two other true freshmen to watch out for on offense in WR, Jake Bobo and RB Mario Durant.  Ideally, redshirts would be in order, but both of these kids have made it hard to sit them in the preseason.

Derrick Tangelo has beaten out Trevor McSwain on the DL, for now, Drew Jordan gets the nod over Tre Hornbuckle at the DE spot.  Duke will play a lot of players up front.

Josh Blackwell has earned the starting spot at CB to go with returning starter and standout Mark Gilbert.  Marquis Waters earned the starting job at one safety.

The keys to win for Duke

The first and most important is to keep Daniel Jones upright.  Teams will attack Duke on the corner of their offensive line and three Army sacks a year ago killed momentum.

The second and equally important factor is to get off to a good start.  Army is big on momentum.  A few years back they scored early on a Sean Renfree miscue and handled Duke in Wade.  The Cadets are not built for a comeback, so a couple of early scores could help Duke to the win.

Limit big plays is always a factor for Duke.  Army will not pass much, but when they do (maybe three times) they can go for big plays.  Duke must also play tight on special teams, namely in the punting game.

How will the game go

Pardon me while I grab the crystal ball and polish it off for a view.  I think Duke will score early and never look back.  I would think that the Duke defensive front and linebackers should handle an inexperienced Army offensive line and maybe cause a turnover for a score.  In fact, if there are no breakdowns, I think Army will be held to a single score.  The Duke offense will not show all their tricks with really tough road games with Northwestern and Baylor ahead, but I think we will see a crisp effort on most downs.

If Duke stays within the scheme on defense, matches the Army's physicality, and stays focussed, I see a nice result.

Duke 37 Army 8

Tidbits -

  • Tickets are available for the 7:00 kickoff in Wallace Wade via GoDuke.com.  -
  • Duke has won just one time on Friday night way back in 1954 over SMU and they stand 1-4 overall.
  • Duke is 8-2 under David Cutcliffe in season openers
  • Duke is 3-0 in August under David Cutcliffe
  • Mike Krzyzewski is a 1969 graduate from Army.  In his pre-Canadian tour, he expected a Duke win over his former school.
  • 21 power 5 schools have two bowl wins in their last three season and that list includes the Blue Devils.
  • Duke is a 13.5 point favorite per ESPN.  This game will be telecast on ESPNU
  • Traffic will be intense on a Friday Triangle rush hour start, so be there early for an air show starts around 6:45