Caulton Tudor

Win at Wake Cutcliffe's most impressive yet

Posted November 25, 2013

David Cutcliffe, Duke, A: Sounds strange, but the 28-21 win at Wake Forest probably rates as the most impressive performance yet by Cutcliffe and his staff.

Coming on the heels of the startling show against Miami, the trip to Winston was an obvious trap game that soon become even more of a challenge when the desperate Deacons (coming off a bye week) jumped to a 14-0 lead.

A Duke football team probably hadn’t been under such pressure since a late-season 35-26 win over N.C. State in 1989.

It was just another remarkable job of button-pushing and game management by Cutcliffe, allowing the Devils to go to UNC this week with a chance to extend the dream.

Previous grades: Five As, 3 Bs, one C, one D.

Ruffin McNeill, ECU, A: Tulane’s Curtis Johnson is likely to edge McNeill, Marshall’s Doc Holliday and Rice’s Dave Bailiff in the Conference USA coach of the year race, but McNeill would be a deserving winner regardless of what happens Friday (noon) at Marshall.

The 42-21 win at N.C. State got skewed to some extent late but was another example of how much McNeill’s decision to bring in defensive coordinator Rick Smith has improved the program.

Marshall (6-1, 8-3) will enter the East Division title game with a quarterback in stride with ECU’s prolific Shane Carden, who has passed for 3,575 yards and 32 touchdowns with seven interceptions. The Herd’s Rakeem Cato has passed for 3,042 yards and 32 TDs with seven picks.

The Friday weather forecast for Huntington (W.Va.) is for a high of 40 degrees and clear skies, meaning it will be the first abnormally cold game for ECU all season. Marshall is an early 3-point favorite.

Previous grades: Five As, three Bs, one C, one D.

Dave Doeren, NCSU, C: It’s all basically irrelevant at this point, but most 3-7 teams would have completely bagged it if an in-state rival invaded, gobbled up tickets and thoroughly dominated the game for three quarters.

The Wolfpack didn’t and was able to make it reasonably respectable by scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Pirates.

Previous grades: Three Bs, one C, six Ds.

Larry Fedora, UNC, A: The 80-20 win over Old Dominion was much like the wins over Elon (62-0) and Idaho (66-0) in 2012 – good for morale, great for the stat sheets but difficult to put into any significant context.

It is clear that the offense has made the adjustment from Bryn Renner to Marquise Williams at quarterback and freshmen T.J. Logan and Ryan Switzer are going to be genuine standouts.

Yet, the defense is still something of a mystery even after 11 games.

ODU’s Gerard Johnson quietly rushed for 143 yards on nine carriers and teammate Colby Goodwyn added 57 more on 10 attempts.

It’s just been a strange season. On one hand, the Heels held Boston College’s Andre Williams to 55 yards in an easy 34-10 win on Oct. 26 but then gave up 212 yards rushing at N.C. State a week later in a 27-19 win.  But add it all up and Fedora’s second team is 6-5 with five-game win streak that began after four straight losses.

Previous grades: Four As, one B, one C, four Ds.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers, B: The Panthers were hardly sharp offensively but at least got it together in the final minutes and escaped Miami with a 20-16 win.

Among the primary running backs, only Mike Tolbert (23 yards on four carries) seemed to be on key.

An unlikely 4th-and-10 late-game conversion made the win possible and now, there’s no compelling reason to predict the seven-game win streak will be halted by Tampa Bay and Mike Glennon this week in Charlotte.

At 8-3, a playoff berth is almost at hand, but the games against New Orleans (in Charlotte Dec. 8) and at the Saints (Dec. 22) are probably going to determine when and where the postseason schedule will start.

Previous grades: Six As, one B, one C, one D, one F.

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  • 903 Hook em banned Nov 26, 8:41 a.m.

    I believe the UNC-Duke game Saturday could be a classic. The Heels are playing their best ball... View More

    — Posted by Turheel

    This might be the most intelligent post yet from a 'heel fan regarding this game. But, No way... View More

    — Posted by rick19

    Agree. And furthermore, all the desperation gimmick plays like the reverses and HB options have been used and documented. Coach Cut has seen all that stuff before and will be prepared. The Duke secondary has been stellar during this run and can't wait for Saturday.

  • DurhamDevil Nov 26, 7:04 a.m.

    I live in a proverbial "house divided" so my wife and I watch games in separate rooms. It should be a great game - there hasn't been this much riding on the Duke-UNC football game since we've been married.

    After its over, we act like nothing ever happened...I still love her even though she is a UNC grad.

    GO DEVILS!!!

  • rick19 Nov 26, 6:39 a.m.

    I believe the UNC-Duke game Saturday could be a classic. The Heels are playing their best ball... View More

    — Posted by Turheel

    This might be the most intelligent post yet from a 'heel fan regarding this game. But, No way UNC scores 10 points over their season average against Duke with a one dimensional offense. In spite of all the talk about a multi role qb, you're still near the bottom of the conference in rushing offense. probably explains why the only decent win in this run was Boston College. Duke takes it 38-21. Latest lines have Duke by 5, no problem covering on this one.

  • Gunnstigator Nov 26, 5:36 a.m.

    Hopefully, the most impressive win will come next week for Duke. I am not a Duke fan, nor an... View More

    — Posted by lec02572

    I am a UNC fan but I agree with you about Coach Cutcliffe he is a great coach and should be ACC... View More

    — Posted by iron fist

    Agree about Coach Cut! It's hard to pull against him, but this Saturday, I will be pulling for the Heels. Cut deserves a lot of credit for what he's accomplished at Duke.

  • Gunnstigator Nov 26, 5:29 a.m.

    I'm more impressed with some of Duke's other wins, like Miami and VT than the win at a Campanaro-less Wake. Regardless, Duke is having a terrific season. This is the first time I can remember when a Duke/Carolina FOOTBALL game has the potential to be so exciting.

    Agree with Tudor's grading. Rivera made a strange use of his last T/O early in the second quarter of the Miami game when he challenged a call that was clearly not going to be reversed, but that call to go for it on 4th and 10 on their own 20 yard line took guts.

    I hope the title of Tudor's next piece is "UNC's Win Over Duke Fedora's Most Impressive Yet". Go Heels!

  • thinkfirsttypelater Nov 25, 11:02 p.m.

    You can talk smack all you want but predicting what a bunch of kids will do on a football field... View More

    — Posted by snapjack

    common sense says duke wins to anyone paying attention.

  • thinkfirsttypelater Nov 25, 10:59 p.m.

    So is Duke going to the Bell Helicopter, Poulan Weed Eater or Motor City bowl?

    — Posted by Obamacare for one and all

    better bowl than carolina for sure.

  • HEELSrocknU Nov 25, 9:19 p.m.

    I believe the UNC-Duke game Saturday could be a classic. The Heels are playing their best ball... View More

    — Posted by Turheel

    Heels 35-27

  • 2ND AMENDMENT Nov 25, 8:16 p.m.

    Yeah, I guess they are a little better than Troy

  • DEVILS1 Nov 25, 7:34 p.m.

    You can talk smack all you want but predicting what a bunch of kids will do on a football field... View More

    — Posted by snapjack

    Check your facts, Duke had a really good showing at the Belk Bowl last year and if you had any... View More

    — Posted by tlg0022

    That game was 34-34 with 1:30 to go and DUKE fumbled inside the five. Cincy was a good team last year and DUKE out played them. UNC is projected to play Cincy in the Belk Bowl this year (if things play out the way 'the experts' think). DUKE, as of now, are projected to play either Texas A&M or Arizona State...things will probably change.

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