'ALL 3 PHASES'
Coming off one of his program’s most convincing wins in decades, Duke football coach David Cutcliffe had little to fret about after reviewing game footage on Sunday.
The Blue Devils, he said, played well in all three phases while beating N.C. Central 45-0 in Saturday’s Bull City Gridiron Classic game at Wallace Wade Stadium.
That said, Duke will play tougher teams than the cross-town Eagles, who play in the Football Championship Subdivision’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
To keep posting wins against teams like Memphis, whom the Blue Devils play at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday (4:30 p.m., ESPN3), Cutcliffe said there are some things to shore up.
“It’s not a laundry list,” Cutcliffe said, “but a list of things to go out and work on correcting.”
For Duke’s defense, which posted the program’s first shutout win since 1989 and the first shutout in a home game since 1978, it’s a matter of continuing the solid execution it showed against NCCU.
“I saw fewer mistakes that we’ve had,” Cutcliffe said Sunday. “People in the right places. People contesting routes. Our interior was different than it has been. We played eight guys up front that played effectively. Hopefully we can maintain that when the competition steps up. And it’s certainly about to do that.”
Linebacker Kelby Brown, playing his first game since 2011 after missing last season with a knee injury, led the Blue Devils with seven tackles.
Up next for Duke are the Tigers, who were 4-8 last season while competing in Conference USA. This season, Memphis has transitioned to the American Athletic Conference, which was formed from the teams left over when the non-football playing Big East teams formed their own league.
The Tigers didn’t play on college football’s opening weekend, which means Duke won’t have any fresh game tapes of Memphis to study.
Instead, Cutcliffe said, the best approach is for Duke to focus on being the best it can be.
“The best focus on any opener is you’d better focus on yourself,” Cutcliffe said. That’s the best science to take.”
Fortunately, Duke doesn’t appear to have any new injuries to complicate things. While Cutcliffe said he was holding a few players out of Sunday’s practices, that is the normal course of things for the day-after-game workout.
“I don’t see any long-term effects,” he said.
On the other hand, it doesn’t look like any of the players who missed Saturday’s game will be available against Memphis. Linebacker C.J. France, a projected starter, missed the NCCU game with an ankle injury he suffered during training camp. Defensive end Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo, a reserve who is out after having ankle surgery in May, didn’t play against the Eagles either.
Related to the injury situation, Duke was forced to shuffle it’s offensive line depth chart when reserves Tanner Stone (foot) and Casey Blaser (hand) suffered broken bones during training camp. Stone will not play this season, while Blaser could return.
Against NCCU, Perry Simmons (right tackle), Laken Tomlinson (right guard), Matt Skura (center), Dave Harding (left guard) and Takoby Cofield (left tackle) were the starters.
Duke used Lucas Patrick, Marcus Aprahamian, Cody Robinson and Carson Ginn as reserves. Patrick, Cutcliffe said, took snaps at left guard, left tackle and right tackle.
“The flexibility we have with Lucas Patrick, we used that in the ballgame,” Cutcliffe said. “He played well.”
In special teams, Duke kicker Ross Martin followed up his stellar freshman season by making one of two field-goal attempts. On his eight kickoffs, Martin sent two into the end zone for touchbacks but also kicked one out of bounds for a penalty.
Martin made 20 of 23 field goals last season, including a stretch of 13 in a row. He missed from 38 yards in the first quarter against NCCU Saturday while making a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Cutcliffe said it appeared Martin was “aligned a little off” on the miss but that he didn’t think it was any cause for concern.
“He’s a relief pitcher,” Cutcliffe said, making a baseball analogy. “We are going to call on him again. He’s good.”
But, like the rest of the Blue Devils, Martin and punter Will Monday will be asked to keep a sharp focus in practice this week.
“Will and Ross are better than they played (against NCCU) and that’s good for them to get back to the practice field and make practice like a game,” Cutcliffe said. “They have been good.”
|DUKE 45, NC CENTRAL 0|
|NC Central||0||0||0||0— 0|
Duke—Deaver 3 pass from Connette (Martin kick), 5:09.
Duke—Crowder 76 punt return (Martin kick), :18.
Duke—Connette 1 run (Martin kick), 10:05.
Duke—Boone 1 run (Martin kick), 4:09.
Duke—Duncan 3 run (Martin kick), 4:59.
Duke—Blakeney 19 pass from Connette (Martin kick), :37.
Duke—FG Martin 39, 6:31.
|Time of Possession||27:36||32:24|
RUSHING—NC Central, Augustus 9-50, Bell 2-13, Wright 3-7,
Clarke 5-7, Reid 10-4. Duke, Duncan 11-76, Snead 8-53, Powell 9-47,
Thompson 6-30, Boone 6-24, Connette 5-22, Adams 3-7, Team 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—NC Central, Reid 11-22-0-87, Bell 3-10-1-16. Duke,
Boone 16-20-0-176, Connette 5-8-1-55.
RECEIVING—NC Central, Poole 4-27, Wilkins 2-15, Barren 2-6,
L.Scruggs 1-24, D.Johnson 1-17, Tate 1-10, T.Harris 1-9, N.Scruggs 1-5,
Tucker 1-(minus 10). Duke, Crowder 6-62, Braxton 4-43, McCaffrey 3-25,
Deaver 3-16, Smith 1-39, Barnes 1-21, Blakeney 1-19, Sink 1-11,
Thompson 1-(minus 5).