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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  • 903 PJ suspended til NCAA clears Sep 21, 2013

    I was with this whole article until the last statement.

    Sorry, I don't feel Cutcliffe is in any danger of a hot seat. The defense was bad for both teams today. But Cut is close and I don't think anyone else that Duke would be able to land as head coach would have done as much to improve Duke football as Cut has and he is not close to being done yet. I know that I feel this way as well as about 99% of the other people that sit in my section of season ticket holders at the home games.

  • VT1994Hokie Sep 21, 2013

    The clock isn't ticking on Coach Cut nor Duke. To win 6 games last season was a feat for Duke. Coach Cut is in for the long haul. He can't do any better at his age. Duke has never had any Coach lately close to him in coaching and elevating a program.

  • mroscoe Sep 21, 2013

    ticking on the season, not cut, come on guys

  • aschoonmaker Sep 21, 2013

    EDITOR'S NOTE: 903, Hokie - I was not trying to insinuate that his job is in danger and understand how the wording of the last statement may have been misleading. I have made a change to the text to clarify my intended point.

  • 903 PJ suspended til NCAA clears Sep 21, 2013

    ^Thanks for clearing up the original statement. And I do agree that those of us that are patient know that the best is yet to come. When Boone exited the Memphis game at halftime, I knew that Duke would lose a game in his absense that should've been a win if Boone was still healthy. It wasn't against GA Tech, but this loss definitely feels that way.

  • 4DukeTillDeath Sep 21, 2013

    So much talent? Compared to past years maybe. But compared to other schools who contend for bowls often, no way. This team is made up of 3 & 2 star recruits. The talent is deeper at each position than it has been for some time but don't make it sound like we are getting 4 & 5 star recruits. It would be nice if we did though.

  • cjw6105 Sep 21, 2013

    Until Duke decides it's going to join the rest of the college football universe and starts recruiting real football players, this sad song will continue.

    They won't ever win with this system unless they can outscore the opposition, which means putting up a lot of points. Few coaches other than Steve Spurrier have the offensive ability to do that; Steve Logan is maybe another who would have had more success at Duke than the current staff or the ones before them.

    Until then, Duke will continue to be the team that can't stop anyone, except maybe NC Central.

  • VT1994Hokie Sep 21, 2013

    View quoted thread

    I appreciate this one. 903 writings doesn't have much to do with anything that I write on here. He does better research than most on here. 903 does very well. IMO, he writes way too many blogs. I write from my experience as a player, coach at two 4-A schools in football and head Track coach in these two Sports. Having led two large high schools as Principal, I don't even need to write much until I see some things that are off the charts. It's good that you wrote back on this one.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 21, 2013

    View quoted thread

    "Until Duke decides it's going to join the rest of the college football universe and starts recruiting real football players, this sad song will continue." In actuality Duke does a good job of recruiting football players who are also capable of being STUDENTS - successful students! The reason Duke "struggles" against many schools is that those other schools routinely admit football players who should not be admitted because they do not have the academic prowess to succeed in college level course work, and who have NO desire to be a student... rather they see playing college ball as opening the door to opportunity in the NFL. Instead of Duke recruiting "real football players", the other schools need to recruit athletes who both want to be and are actually capable of being STUDENTS. If both criteria are not met... they should NOT be admitted - no matter how well they can run, tackle, throw, catch, etc., etc.

  • 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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