So much talent, so little consistency in Durham
Posted September 21, 2013
Durham, N.C. — 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. 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.