First of all I would like to send my best wishes to Duke’s starting QB Anthony Boone who broke his collarbone early in their game last Saturday against Memphis. Nobody wants to see any student athlete injured and having received a few of them myself back in the day I can assure you that watching your team play from the sidelines is very frustrating. Even more so for this young man as he was taking over for a multiple year starting QB in Sean Renfree who set several passing records during his time in Durham. I hope his recovery is swift and he gets back on the field this season.
Just a quick analysis of the Blue Devils season so far establishes that they are playing pretty good defense as they had a shutout in week one winning 45 to 0 over North Carolina Central from the FCS who are also located in Durham. They defeated Memphis 28 to 14 on Saturday in a road contest but were only ahead 21 to 14 with about 6:30 left in the 4th quarter to make the final score a two TD advantage. In doing a little digging I discovered that while North Carolina Central is no powerhouse (neither was Elon) they had their Head Coach Henry Frazier III (no relation to Joe) fired one week before the season started for an off the field incident. He was told to leave on August 22, 2013 and I cannot imagine the turmoil that would inflict on a group of young men heading into play a football game against any team, let alone one from the ACC nine (9) days later.
The remaining members of the coaching staff was still intact from that shocking bit of drama but from an administrative vantage point the confusion created when the designated leader is terminated creates a ripple effect that was certainly felt immediately in their opening game against the Blue Devils. Toss in the fact that Elon defeated North Carolina Central last year 34 to 14, and perhaps that will provide all of the Yellow Jackets fans a better insight as to that opening game shut out from Saturday August 31, 2013 in Durham.
While it was Duke’s first shutout in twenty-four (24) years, it’s only appropriate to provide further information in order to be objectively fair and balanced as to the totality of their goose egg win over an FCS opponent. BTW, North Carolina Central won this past weekend in double OT defeating St. Augustine’s 23 to 20 (I never heard of them either) and I’m very happy for those young men as that will no doubt help them tremendously the rest of this season during this turmoil without a Head Coach.
Duke is a very well coached football team and David Cutcliffe turned down some nice offers to leave Durham the last few years to “bigger” football programs in the SEC. However, give him credit for wanting to stay at a school that hired him after he was summarily dismissed from his prior job in the SEC. Any coach that displays that type of loyalty is tops in my book. The same can be said for Charley Strong at Louisville who likewise told the SEC no thanks when they came calling this past season after not hiring him when he applied often back when he was an assistant coach as the DC at Florida and winning BCS Championships under Urban Meyer.
Offensively Duke runs what Coach Paul Johnson refers to as the “NCAA offense” and they ran it effectively enough with their back up QB to get a win on the road this past game in Memphis. It was the opening game for Memphis which is playing their first season in the former Big East Conference, now called the All American Conference. It is hard to gauge much about Memphis as they might be a bit better as they lost to Duke 38 to 14 last season, and shaved ten points off that loss to open up the 2013 football season.
A much better indicator might be if you look at what happened to Duke against Memphis, then think back to when Georgia Tech was playing on the road in Blacksburg against the Hokies when Josh Nesbitt broke his arm and Tevin Washington was thrown into the game without any warning. That is the same situation that happened to Duke on the road against Memphis last Saturday and they were able to come out with a win after that disaster occurred. Now Memphis is not Virginia Tech but it speaks volumes about how good the players and coaches are at Duke under Cutcliffe. So I expect that the Blue Devils will put up a very strong effort against the Yellow Jackets as this is the opening ACC Game for both teams and given that they both are in the Coastal Division it becomes an instant two (2) game advantage for the winner.
Vad Lee is from Durham and will have a bunch of supporters in attendance and I expect that he might be a bit amped up for this contest for that very reason. However, I trust that Coach Paul Johnson and Vad’s teammates will provide the necessary support to make it easier on him by all doing their part to come out of Wallace Wade Stadium with a victory against Duke on the road to open up the ACC conference schedule.
More importantly though is that Georgia Tech has had two (2) weeks to prepare for the Blue Devils and no doubt that will enhance the tactical advantage for Coach Paul Johnson’s squad. I’ve always read somewhere that when a team has a bye week prior to playing an opponent that it creates a huge advantage in their preparation time for a game. Or do I have that all wrong and it only applies to when a team is facing Georgia Tech? I guess the bye week mystery or fallacy will be cleared up next week in Durham. Go Jackets!