Aaron Schoonmaker

Duke's shutout win marks change fans can believe in

Posted August 31, 2013
Updated September 1, 2013

— For Duke, Saturday’s win over North Carolina Central was a big deal. It was more than a blowout win over an FCS opponent; it was a symbol of change – a change Blue Devils fans can believe in.

Back in 2008, the President of the United States was running on a platform of change and uniting the masses to say, “Yes we can.” At that exact same time, the new head coach at Duke University was preaching change to a down-trodden football program and had the fan base saying … well, there wasn’t much of a fan base.

Saturday marked Duke’s first game since the Belk Bowl in 2012 against Cincinnati. It was game No. 1 of a season that has the potential to propel Duke into uncharted territory as they seek their first ever back-to-back bowl appearance. And after a 45-0 shutout win, the 22,500-plus that filtered out of Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday may very well have been saying unto each other, “yes we can.” Blue Devils blank NC Central, 45-0 Slideshow: Blue Devils blank NC Central, 45-0

“The shutout is something we take pride in,” said junior linebacker Kelby Brown who led the Blue Devils defense against NCCU with seven tackles. “That represents change. That was a program win.”

It was the program’s first shutout win since defeating North Carolina 41-0 in 1989. Since that season, Duke has had more winless seasons (4), than winning seasons (1).

It was their first home shutout since a 3-0 win over Wake Forest in 1978. Since that game, they have been shutout on their own home field eight times.

And you really want change? The last time Duke posted a shutout win by a greater margin was back in 1962 (50-0 over Wake Forest) when the school was still segregated**.

“It was nice to see a shutout,” Cutcliffe, who now has four such games in his career (three while at Ole Miss) said. “In this modern era, it’s difficult to get a shutout and it wasn’t a fluke.”

While NC Central was a lesser opponent to the Blue Devils on paper, and is in the middle of an internal overhaul, they entered the game with a 0-0 mark on both the scoreboard and the standings. (Laugh you might, but just this weekend eight – count them 8 – FCS programs beat FBS schools.)

Physical sign of change: Duke came out in an up-tempo, run-you-ragged style of offense and embraced the role of favorite.

“You could tell they were worn down,” said Brandon Connette, who was 5-for-8 passing for 55 yards and two touchdowns and added 22 yards and a score on the ground.

“I was pleased with our tempo but we were able to slow down when we wanted to, too,” Cutcliffe said, describing the Blue Devils’ ability to dictate the pace of the game for the full 60 minutes.

Duke got touchdowns from six different players Saturday, played five true freshman and out-gained the Eagles by 304 yards on offense (Duke didn’t even gain 304 total yards on offense in two of their games last year). More, Duke showed unprecedented depth for the 101-year-old program and played three deep at some positions – many of which by design regardless of the score.

“We played a lot of people in the first half, which was our intent,” said Cutcliffe whose team entered intermission with a 28-0 lead. “It was really good to see us playing so many in the secondary.”

Speaking of secondary, true freshman Breon Borders hauled in an interception in his first ever game and transfer Jeremy Cash recorded six tackles in his first game as a Blue Devil.

“I was a little anxious, but you can’t get overzealous,” said Cash after the performance.

“He had fun, he was chomping at the bit,” said Cutcliffe shining a little more light on the redshirt junior’s emotional state.

It was just one game, but Duke showed Saturday that last year’s bowl berth was real progress. Eleven games remain to have the faithful believing in real change.

**According to University Archives, Duke University admitted the first six graduate and professional school students in 1961. The first five undergraduates to register for Duke took place in Sept. 1963.


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  • Toddler10-21 Sep 1, 2013

    You have got to be kidding me? You beat NCCU, and its a great victory? WOW!!

  • StunGunn Sep 1, 2013

    Time will tell if this Duke team is "for real", but this is a great way to start the season.

  • Tar Heels Blue Sep 1, 2013

    One step at a time. A good victory, but I hope Duke doesn't spend too much time on this victory. There are tougher teams on the horizon who will really test them. Congrats nonetheless.

  • Boogalooboy Sep 1, 2013

    We were supposed to win and I'm tickled that we scored as many points as we did while clearing the bench. But for once I have to agree with these Tarheel folks. Proof is in the puddin'... we won't know for sure what we got until we play against better teams... but a W is a W...

    Go Devils...

  • NEVER apologize for being white Sep 1, 2013

    What an absolute joke! Sounds like a liberal campaign slogan!

    If you consider defeating the equivalent of a community college who has no head coach something to feel good about, then that just shows what an utter EMBARRASSMENT your so called program is.


  • DurhamDevil Sep 1, 2013

    View quoted thread

    Keep on defending the Constitution, A-hole...so you have the right to speak your mind and show everyone around the world how incredibly pathetic you are.

    GO DEVILS!!!

  • living the dream Sep 1, 2013

    Dukes success in sports as always starts when the pointy ends of the football fall off.
    Thanks to K.
    The end.

  • lawha63 Sep 1, 2013

    Yes, it was Duke shutting out NCCU. It's not often that you see Duke on the field as the bigger more physical team. Yesterday they were. But the Eagles were scrappy and they didn't lay down until maybe the 4th quarter when the heat and humidity had taken it's toll. NCCU made Duke work in the 1st half. All you haters who want to discount that Duke has a good team this year have no credibility. Most of you are probably from those 2 big state schools in the area. You guys continue to live under this illusion that you have great football programs. That is what is most laughable. No one in the state of NC can claim they have arrived. If you watched Clemson and UGA then you know what great teams and a great college football game looks like.

  • Toddler10-21 Sep 1, 2013

    Couldnt agree more. Bowl eligible is what the schools in NC care about. Six wins, and let the bragging rights begin.

  • cjw6105 Sep 1, 2013

    NC Central would be pushed to beat Campbell, IF they could beat them.

    Haters? The reason Duke has been such a dismal program for so long is that while their ACC competition is also nearly as bad, Duke continues to struggle on what has become an uphill climb to the bottom of a mediocre league.

    I don't think any of us State fans live under an illusion that we have a great football program. Ditto for the UNC fans. We may sometimes over-estimate our programs, but we have never under-estimated Duke football. And we don't see 6 wins being something to brag about, especially if they come over the likes of Central, Memphis, Troy, Navy, UVA and Wake Forest.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: until Duke decides to recruit bona-fide FOOTBALL players, especially the kind of quarterbacks they used to get, they'll continue to be mired at the bottom of the ACC.

    Until that happens, Duke would be better suited for the FCS playoffs, and they wouldn't be a lock by any means.




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