Aaron Schoonmaker

So much talent, so little consistency in Durham

Posted September 21, 2013

Duke Jamison Crowder (3) runs the ball. Pitt defeats Duke 58 to 55 at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday September 21, 2013(photo by Jack Tarr 2013)

— Duke head coach David Cutcliffe insists that he likes this year’s team - a lot. Each and every week he says there are guys that can make big plays. And he’s right.

Duke has five touchdowns on the year of 35 yards or more and is averaging better than 35 points per game. Jamison Crowder alone has two punt returns for touchdown, and on Saturday, became the first Duke player since 1999 (Scottie Montgomery) to rush for, catch and return a score in the same game. The superlatives can go on and on. Unfortunately, so too can the negatives.

“Where we struggle is with consistency,” Cutcliffe said. Duke comes up short to Pitt, 58-55 Slideshow: Duke comes up short to Pitt, 58-55

Through three games, Duke took care of business against a lesser North Carolina Central team, earned a road win at Memphis and was dominated by Georgia Tech. There were good and bad things in each game, but the results were about what the prognosticators rendered.

Then came Saturday, and that consistency thing became a real issue.

The Blue Devils defense gave up 610 yards through three quarters, but buckled down in the fourth to move the Panthers back 12 yards as they finished the game with 598. Brandon Connette started the game 0-for-3 with two interceptions, then led the team on five scoring drives, then threw two more interceptions, then led two more scoring drives. The team did not commit a penalty in the first half, then had three in the second half.

“We got too many things to build on and, unfortunately, too many to correct,” Cutcliffe said. “This is a game we need to remember. Not only as a team, but as a program, because we are better than what we played.”

Pittsburgh, a new member to the ACC this year, is no slouch, but the Orange Bowl Committee members in the press box Saturday doubtfully took extensive notes on the Panthers. Cutcliffe said that his team matched up well against Pittsburgh, they only areas of the game that surprised him were how well they ran and how well they blocked.

“They were who I thought they were,” Cutcliffe said, channeling his inner Dennis Green.

Simple fact, however, Duke is currently a .500 team and is 0-2 in ACC play. They face four more ACC road contests and their remaining home conference games are against ranked Miami and in-state foe NC State.

Consistency leads to wins in the eyes of Cutcliffe. How he achieves that is the hard part.

Saturday, he let youth serve as sophomore Jela Duncan got the start at running back over junior Josh Snead and senior Juwan Thompson. Also, sophomore Max McCaffrey got the nod at wide receiver and rewarded the Blue Devils with his first career touchdown reception.

“They have earned playing time, they are practicing that well,” Cutcliffe said. “I want more and more Duke football players to earn playing time. That’s the message we are sending. We have more good football players than we have had in the Duke football program.”

And so the larger issue comes full circle. If the talent is there, why is not the result? Perhaps Cutcliffe would like to turn to the kitchen for answers.

“You just have to stir it up until you get the right mix,” he said.

When Duke does get the right mix, no doubt the fans in Durham will like the taste. The clock on this season is ticking though.


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  • twodogsandus Sep 24, 2013

    I enjoy reading most of the posts. The ones I like the most are the ones from the poster from Va. Tech. He has his head on straight and doesn't talk junk but tells it like it is. Considering that Duke's QB has had only two starts he is doing a decent job and will get better. Duke got burned by a hot qb, running back and two out of this world wideouts. That could have happened to any team. It seems to me that the same thing happened to UNC last year when they played Ga.Tech and they had their starting qb. So It can happen to any team on a given day. GO DUKE++++++++

  • Dudeanonymous Sep 23, 2013

    View quoted thread

    Agree to an extent. I wouldn't say he's doing a good job, but a decent job. He can run and has a strong arm... but he is waaay off on passing routes. He is better at fades and the deep ball. However, it's hard to expect too much from a QB thrown in the fire after only being a special downs QB and other situational player.

  • Dudeanonymous Sep 23, 2013

    View quoted thread

    It's our #3 QB. Our #1 & #2 are both injured.

  • Dudeanonymous Sep 23, 2013

    The clock is ticking on DC Knowles. He has no imagination (or adjustments) whatsoever in defensive schemes to stop opponents.

  • DEVILS1 Sep 22, 2013

    55 points with 4 INT's and 3rd string QB...the defense needs to start creating some turnovers. Teams of the past would have rolled over and lost before the 4th quarter even started. This is a good team; they scored once more, but a holding call brought it back. When Boone and Sirk are healthy and they have that rotation going, I believe they can have more consistency and control the clock more. Considering this was Connette's second start, he is doing a good job, tough football payer...GO DEVILS!

  • jdupree Sep 22, 2013

    Not so, I am not a Duke fan but the fact they played a very good Pitt team this close and with their #2 quarterback is commendable. I can recall when this would have been a Pitt rout and with just a little luck yesterday, Duke could have won. They will win some games this year and may finally beat the Heels!

  • lawha63 Sep 22, 2013

    Let's also remember that the QB that Duke prepared for as the starter is injured. Connette is a good player and he improved as a player from the 1st half to the 2nd. The defense has a lot to work on, but they also learned over the course of the game. Duke can't dig deep holes and expect to win games. We will get better and hopefully do something they haven't done in recent years, win in the 2nd half of the season.

  • DUKE4EVER Sep 22, 2013

    View quoted thread

    For a small private school, DUKE does very well in recruiting of all sports and wins national championships in other sports besides basketball.

    No school in this state is a national headliner in football. No program is the dominate football program in this state. DUKE has won their last games vs. the Big 4 and lost their last game to ECU. So its not like any of them are scared of the other.

    The 4 and 5 star football recruits usually attend the more dominate football programs, just at those same basketball recruits attend DUKE.

    The football program is still improving and will win more games this year. Yeah, when you score 55 points in football, you should win the game--but we didn't. We will be back next week.

    And yeah, we can stop more schools than NCCU, try paying attention to what's going on.

  • StunGunn Sep 22, 2013

    Duke is lucky to have Coach Cut. His job at Duke is an uphill battle as Duke has higher academic standards than most schools, and Cut can't recruit the same caliber of players as a result. Duke's football players may beat players from other schools in the classroom, but not on the gridiron. I have enormous respect for Coach Cutcliff; he's a good coach, and an even better man. Duke is fortunate to have him.

  • VT1994Hokie Sep 22, 2013

    When some schools have the standard to even enter Duke, Wake, Davidson, Guilford College, and Virginia Tech, I will listen. Some of you never even entered the school house gates of a school of higher learning. This writer is proud of his degree from VT. I don't have to write a small book to say it. Most fans on here never even went beyond high school. Best guess. Objective Scientist. I will match my degrees with yours.




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