DURHAM, N.C. -- Headlined by first team selection Michael Tauiliili, four Duke players received All-ACC honors as the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association announced the 2008 Associated Press football all-conference teams.
Joining Tauiliili from Duke were second team choices Thaddeus Lewis and Eron Riley and honorable mention pick Vince Oghobaase.
A senior linebacker from Houston, Texas, Tauiliili finished the regular season with a conference-best 140 tackles and added 13.0 tackles for loss, four interceptions, five pass breakups, five quarterback pressures, three caused fumbles
and one fumble recovery. A two-time ACC Player of the Week pick and the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week choice after Duke's 31-3 win over Virginia, Tauiliili is the only linebacker in the conference to rank among the top 10 in four different statistical categories. Tauiliili is the first Duke linebacker to earn first team all-conference honors since John Zuanich did so in 1994.
Oghobaase, a junior defensive tackle from Houston, Texas, posted 51 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss and a team-high 6.0 quarterback sacks in 2008. All six of his sacks came in league play as he helped the Blue Devils hold three opponents to fewer than 10 points for the first time since 1976.
Oghobaase and Tauiliili were primary reasons that Duke made significant improvement in scoring defense (-9.8 points), total defense (-67.4 yards), rushing defense (-28.7 yards) and passing defense (-38.7 yards) while facing the 2nd most difficult schedule in the nation -- a ledger that included 10 bowl eligible teams and the top-ranked FCS squad in James Madison.
Lewis and Riley, who teamed up over the past three seasons to form the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver tandem in Duke football history, both received second team honors. The duo hooked up for 19 touchdowns through the air to surpass the previous record of 16 held by the pairs of Ben Bennett-to-Chris Castor and Steve Slayden-to-Doug Green.
A junior quarterback from Opa-Locka, Fla., Lewis completed 224-of-361 (.620) passes for 2,171 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions this year. He ranks second in the ACC in total offense (206.1), passing yards per game (197.4) and touchdown passes while standing third in passing efficiency (122.95). Lewis set school records for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception (206) and most pass attempts in a single-game without an interception (52 vs. N.C. State) and was named ACC Player of the Week after 317-yard, three-touchdown day against Navy. On Duke's single-season records lists, Lewis' 2008 totals stand seventh for pass completions, ninth for pass attempts and tied for eighth in touchdown passes. Lewis becomes the first Blue Devil signal caller to garner all-conference accolades since 1988 when Anthony Dilweg was a first team pick.
Riley, a senior wide receiver from Savannah, Ga., received his second straight second team all-conference citation. In 2008, he hauled in 61 passes for 693 yards and eight touchdowns to rank second in the league in receptions per game (5.08) and touchdown grabs and fourth in receiving yards per outing (57.8). On Duke's all-time charts, Riley finished his career ranking seventh in receptions (144), second in receiving yards (2,413) and third in touchdown catches (22).
The 2008 Associated Press All-ACC football teams are voted on by 67 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
[private]When Duke steps onto the field against UNC tomorrow, several seniors will be playing
their last game at Duke. These players deserve your support, so I hope that all of you turn out in force and cheer hard for you know the other guys will.
In the end, this senior class fought with a new coach to see to it that Duke Football has a base for the future. The Blue Devil Nation salutes the Duke Senior Class for 2008 and hopes they go out with a fabulous win.
Greg Akinyibi (#5 Sr., DE) -
On North Carolina -
Last year losing in overtime ... you don't want to lose to Carolina. Now we have something we really look forward to ... playing Carolina again - it doesn't get any better than that. There's a whole much more adrenaline for the UNC game. It's a rivalry game. If you can't get up for this one it's no since in coming to play for Duke. This game carries a lot of weight.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for them, it's pretty much the same game plan because they are both really good.
On his final game at Duke -
We were really excited when Coach came in to have a chance to change the program and start something special here. It's unfortunate it took us this long to start winning, but it's really good to see the program heading in the right direction - to see the guys behind us take what we help build to another level.
Being seniors it's unfortunate that we can't go to a bowl game, but we will focus on Duke and what Duke needs to do to win this weekend.
On work habits -
It feels good to see the hard work you put in in the off season in summer and camps pay off. Coach tells us to empty our tank and go farther than we thought was possible.
On his Duke career -
My career at Duke has played a big role in my maturity. I've been through a lot on and off the field. I'm still not satisfied with who I am as a man or a player, but there has been a lot of growth. I really appreciate what Duke has had to offer me and I've gained a lot from the experience.
Fred Roland (#70 Sr., OL)-
Whatever I could do and whatever capacity that might carry to make this program better than it a was when I came in was key. I was willing to do that. Coach Cut tells us to leave the place better than you found it. My biggest reward since I have been here was the character I've developed over the four years.
Are you leaving the program better than it was?
We've already done that! To get a victory this weekend would be the icing on the cake. We won a total of four games before this year and we've already eclipsed that this season. We've definitely got it going. The program is progressing upward and that's comforting to me.
Eron Riley (#5, Sr., WR) -
So, your last game at Duke ...
It's a bittersweet feeling. Granted I wish we were in a bowl game but we are not. Going our their against our rival ... there will be a lot of intensity - playing for a lot of pride.
On the Carolina game -
To come out for any game is really intense, but they're eight miles away. It's one where all the fans have circled the game for us. The atmosphere and the hype of that game make it different.
We'll go over there to a party and we'll see some of those guys out. For the most part we're friendly. Me personally, I do not have too many fans on there team, bit we say hi. I just go about my business.
We've played close with them, but that's only good for hand grenades and horseshoes (smiling), so we want to go out and get a "W" before I leave.
It was a very bad feeling last year - one I had to get out of my mouth real fast. I really wish we'd have won, but it didn't turn out for us. I've thought about that since our last game, hopefully we can get it back this weekend.
On last season missed field goal (s) to win vs UNC -
I was on my way across the sidelines. I got to the numbers before I saw the miss and went back to the sidelines.
On his four years at Duke -
Coming in four years ago, I really wasn't a highly recruited player. I just wanted to play football but played a lot due to injuries my freshman year. After that the snowball just got rolling and I just went out there to make plays and help my team.
I feel at the end of the day, we came in here wanting to start a program and in my time here I feel like we've done that. If we win our last game this weekend we've accomplished that goal.
I look at the plays I made on my high school team and the plays I've made in college and realize I've gotten a lot better on and off the field.
Suppose you get a shot at UNC late. Do you feel like the team needs to go for the end zone and not depend on a field goal?
Yes. I would love to make that play. It doesn't matter to me as long as we win. This is our bowl game - I feel that way. There is some urgency with it being our last game. To close out with a "W" helps with so many things.
On the big game falling on the Thanksgiving break and students gone and anticipation -
Carolina is a game you think about from the start of the season, or at least know it's there. At the beginning of the season, you look at the first game and the last. I wish it didn't fall on the break with the students gone. I hope some are sticking around for it or come back early.
[private]The Duke Blue Devils play host to the struggling Miami Hurricanes on October 18th. Perennial powerhouse Miami enters the game at 3-3 and coming off a sloppy 20-14 victory over Central Florida. The Hurricanes turned the ball over three times and managed just 216 yards of offense in the victory. Miami is 11th in the ACC in total offense at 289.2 yards per game. Prior to the victory over Central Florida, the Canes suffered back-to-back home losses to North Carolina and Florida State.
The Blue Devils are coming off a bye week after losing at Georgia Tech 27-0 on October 4th. The 3-2 Blue Devils are averaging 24.6 points and 324.4 yards of offense per game. Duke's offense is spearheaded by Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis who has thrown seven touchdown passes against three interceptions this season. Six of those touchdown passes have gone to wide receiver Eron Riley who is third in the ACC with 5.4 receptions per game. After the Navy game, in which Lewis connected with Riley for three touchdowns, Coach David Cutcliffe stated, "They are pretty special friends. Eron - he is kind of climbing the ladder...If we can get him healthy, he could have a pretty special senior season."
At 0-2 in the ACC and with upcoming conference games against #21 Wake Forest and #18 Virginia Tech, the Duke game has developed into a must win game for the Canes. The pressure will be on Miami and they could come into the game tight. If Duke can force a turnover or execute a big play early, they could set the tone for the game and exert pressure on Miami.
Duke has struggled establishing a running game thus far this season. The Blue Devils are managing just 118.8 yards per game on the ground, and in the loss to Georgia Tech were held to 35 yards rushing. In discussing the running game, Coach Cutcliffe stated, "It's got to be fixed and get fixed quick." Miami is second in the ACC in Rushing Defense giving up just 95.7 yards per game, so Duke will need to figure out the adjustments that need to be made and execute them in order to establish a running game against the Canes.
The passing game has been the strength of Duke's offense this season. Duke is third in the ACC in Pass Offense at 205.6 yards per game. Miami's defense has yielded nine passing touchdowns this season including two in the fourth quarter against North Carolina. Look for Duke to attempt to exploit Miami's secondary in order to move the ball and establish offensive rhythm. Miami is last in the ACC with just three interceptions on the season. Thaddeus Lewis has completed passes to 14 different players this season with four receivers having double-digit receptions. The offensive line must give Lewis time to throw the ball as Miami is fifth in the ACC with 14 sacks for 123 yards.
On defense, Duke has played solid recording six interceptions and seven sacks. Linebackers Michael Tauiliiu and Vinnie Rey are number one and two in the ACC in tackles per game at 11.4 and 9.4 respectively. The Blue Devils are sixth in Scoring Defense and eigth in Total Defense in the ACC. Duke is third in the ACC, behind Virginia Tech and Florida State, in Time of Possession at 31:50 per game.
October 18th will be an exciting day in Durham. It is Homecoming Weekend and the basketball Blue-White Game will be held at 1:00 pm prior to the football game that is set to start at 3:30 pm and be televised by ESPNU. This year finds the situation in Durham a bit different as Duke fans are still excited about football even though basketball season is set to start. This coming Saturday, the Blue Devils have a legitimate opportunity to secure their second ACC victory of the season against the Hurricanes. Duke needs to execute the fundamentals: take care of the football, win the battle at the line of scrimmage, avoid penalties, and execute on special teams. If they can take care of those fundamentals, there is a very good chance Duke will send Miami back to Coral Gables with an 0-3 ACC record.[/private]
[private]Duke heads to Atlanta this weekend for the first road game of the Coach Cutcliffe era. The 3-1 Blue Devils will face a solid 3-1 Georgia Tech team. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a bye week after defeating Mississippi State 38-7 on September 20th. Georgia Tech's 306.8 yards per game on the ground leads the ACC. Coach Paul Johnson is considered the best coach around for the triple option spread offense. Duke's defense must contain the Georgia Tech ground attack for the Blue Devils to have a chance to win.
Coach Paul Johnson has announced that freshman Jaybo Shaw will be the Yellow Jacket's starting Quarterback against Duke due to regular starter Josh Nesbitt being sidelined with a hamstring injury. Nesbitt was injured in the game against Mississippi State resulting in Shaw playing the majority of the game. In this article, from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Johnson states, "If Josh can come back now, he'll be in a reserve [role], and Jaybo will be starting."
In this Durham Herald Sun article, Coach Cutcliffe states, "This is certainly the best team we've played, far and away. We've got to play great in all areas - and I mean great - to have a chance to stay on the field." Duke previously defeated Navy so they are experienced defending the triple option offense. Linebackers Michael Tauiliili and Vincent Rey are currently ranked first and second respectively in the ACC for tackles. They will need to have strong games against the Yellow Jackets.
This News & Observer article addresses the particular concern of Georgia Tech's big play potential. The Yellow Jackets have had 27 plays go for more than 20 yards with nine producing touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets also go for it on fourth down more often than most teams.
On offense, Duke is fueled by Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and his favorite receiver Eron Riley. Lewis is second in the ACC with 218.5 passing yards per game. He has thrown seven touchdown passes with six of them going to Eron Riley. Lewis likes to spread the ball around and freshman Johnny Williams has 18 receptions on the season; sophomores Austin Kelly and Sheldon Bell have 10 each. Duke's offensive line must provide protection so Lewis has time to pass the ball. Georgia Tech is second in the ACC with 11 sacks.
Duke must establish their running game for a couple of big reasons. First, forcing Gerogia Tech to respect the run will prevent the Yellow Jacket defense from going after Thad Lewis with a big pass rush every play. Second, Duke needs to maintain possession of the ball in order to keep their defense fresh and able to deal with Georgia Tech's high powered running game. Freshman Jay Hollingsworth came on strong in the Virginia game rushing for 59 yards on 15 carries. A similar effort against the Yellow Jackets will be needed in order for the Duke offense to achieve success.
This game will turn on the normal events: controlling the line of scrimmage, turnovers, and big plays. If Duke can survive the first quarter without getting knocked out, the Blue Devils have a chance to still be in the game at the start of the fourth quarter. And if the game is still undecided at the start of the fourth quarter, anything can happen. Duke must start fast, especially on defense, take care of the ball on offense, and create more big plays than they give up to win.[/private]
[private]The Duke Blue Devils have the opportunity to build on their early season success when they host the Virginia Cavaliers on September 27th, at 12 noon, in Wallace Wade stadium. Specifically, the following opportunities exist:
- Duke has dropped eight straight games to Virginia with the last Duke victory being a 24-17 overtime decision on October 9, 1999, in Charlottesville. So the Blue Devils have the opportunity to stop an eight game losing streak to the Cavaliers.
- Duke has not won an ACC game since defeating Clemson, 16 – 13, on November 13, 2004. Since that victory, the Blue Devils have dropped 25 straight conference games. So the Blue Devils have the opportunity to stop a 25 game conference losing streak.
- Finally, Duke has the opportunity to improve their overall record to 3 – 1, which would be the best start to a season since Duke opened the 1994 season 7 – 0.
It is not an exaggeration to state a win over Virginia is critical for Duke’s season. This is an important game for Coach David Cutcliffe in his expedition to change the culture of Duke football in that a win over an ACC opponent will validate the legitimacy of wins over a FCS team and a service academy.
The 1 – 2 Virginia Cavaliers have struggled to put points on the board so far this season. They are averaging 11 points per game, while giving up 32 points per contest. Duke’s defense has held opponents to less than 21 points per game, while the Blue Devil offense has averaged just over 30 points per contest. It is important to note that one of Virginia’s losses came against USC the number one team in the country. A game against USC has the potential to ruin a team’s statistics, just ask Ohio State.
Statistics can be misleading this early in the season with the two teams not having played any common opponents but, a quick look at the teams in the ACC shows Duke ranked second in total offense and passing offense, while Virginia is last in total defense, last in rushing defense, and seventh in passing defense. The Blue Devils are ranked sixth in total defense, while the Cavaliers are last in total offense.
In the area of individual performances, Thaddeus Lewis is leading the ACC in total offense at 273.7 yards per game; Eron Riley is tied for second in receptions per game (6.3) and fourth in receiving yards per game (77.3), and Clifford Harris is tied for fifth in rushing with 67.7 yards per game. On the defensive side of the ball, Michael Tauiliili is tied for second in tackles with 10 per game, while Vincent Rey’s nine per game has him tied for ninth place. Kevin Jones’ 45.7 yards per punt has him in second place in the ACC.
Internet fan sites and message boards are buzzing with discussion of a resurgent Duke football program, and even though Duke has a ton of work and multiple steps ahead of them, a win over Virginia will be a big step toward achieving success. Success breeds success so winning games in 2008 will assist Coach Cutcliffe in recruiting top notch talent to Durham, which will result in more victorious Saturdays in the years ahead.
The next step in the resurgence of Duke football is to snap the 25 game ACC and eight game Virginia losing streaks with a victory over the Cavaliers on September 27th. The game will be telecast on ESPNU.[/private]
[private]There is one thing for certain three games into the 2008 Duke Football season, that being Cutcliffe and his staff make masterful adjustments at the half. The Blue Devils have outscored each opponent after the break, Today they throttled the Navy offense in the second half by adjusting the Midshipman's crafty running attack.
Take away one big pass play for Navy and Duke would have shut them out. Still, they outscored them behind the arm of Lewis and the hands of Riley 21-7 to take a 41-31 win. Lewis had a great game going 25 of 35 for 317 yards, three TD's and added another 49 yards on the ground.
Thad was only as good as Eron Riley. Navy had no answers for the star senior receiver who made 8 catches, all three of the passing TD's, for 137 yards. When Duke needed a big play, the combination of Lewis to Riley was dependable. Lewis also found 9 different receivers in the game.
Duke opened the game on a 12 play 78 yard drive ending with, of course, a Lewis to Riley hook up. Navy came back with a huge 73 yard scamper by White. From that point on the game was nip and tuck with Navy taking a 24-20 lead at the half.
But Duke got some huge momentum from Joe Surgan who nailed a 52 yard field goal which cut into the half time lead. Unlike the SI cover jinx, Surgan made one of the biggest kicks of his career on a day he graced the cover of the Duke Football Game Day program.
As mentioned earlier, Duke came out ready in the second half, especially the defense. Linebackers Vinnie Rey and Michael Tauliili combined for 23 tackles, making the occasional vicious hit. Rey made the biggest defensive play of the game when he scooped up a Navy fumble scampering into the end zone.
All in all, it was a huge day for Duke Football and they now have two weeks to prepare for Virginia. On a hot and humid day, the resilient Devils gave the Wallace Wade crowd a good show making their fans proud.
Whether you talk chants like "We are Duke!," or you look to the slogan "Dawn of a new day," it's clear that Duke Football is turning the corner.
Be sure to check back to the Blue Devil Nation for more coverage of this big win, including some photos from the event!