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.

83 Comments

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  • heelgrad1978 Nov 25, 10:53 a.m.

    Duke looks Good!!

    I think they beat my Heels, 31-17 this week.

    smh.

  • lec02572 Nov 25, 10:55 a.m.

    Hopefully, the most impressive win will come next week for Duke. I am not a Duke fan, nor an ABC'er, however I am a real fan of Coach Cut. He should be ACC and National Coach of the Year for what he has accomplished at Duke. He is truly a good person and a great coach. I'd like to know just how does he stay so cool all the time on the sidelines. It doesn't matter if there is a great play or a bad play like the so-called fumble at Wake. When you see him on the sideline you would not know if they are winning or losing. Good Luck Coach Cut.

  • abcersimback Nov 25, 11:07 a.m.

    LOL! wf is ust above a hs team and just below a juco team.

  • PirateGrad2009 Nov 25, 11:11 a.m.

    Absolutely LOVED hearing the deafening PURPLE/GOLD chant in NC State's house. Pretty sad when your home field turns into a road game!

    GO PIRATES

  • heelgrad1978 Nov 25, 11:18 a.m.

    Absolutely LOVED hearing the deafening PURPLE/GOLD chant in NC State's house. Pretty sad when... View More

    — Posted by PirateGrad2009

    They did to us too!! Congrats to your team, they look good.

  • DEVILS1 Nov 25, 11:23 a.m.

    It should be a good game this weekend, 12:00 start stinks, but oh well. KEEP IT ROLLING DEVILS!

  • Turheel Nov 25, 11:33 a.m.

    I believe the UNC-Duke game Saturday could be a classic. The Heels are playing their best ball of the year and Duke is one win away from an ACC Title shot. Heels will win 49-42. GO HEELS!

  • Obamacare for one and all Nov 25, 11:35 a.m.

    Will UNC be ready after playing a high school team this past weekend? Let me file this game under, who cares?

  • ABCers not happy Nov 25, 11:54 a.m.

    That lucky win at dook put them on the map. The loss at UNC will take them off.

  • DEVILS1 Nov 25, 12:01 p.m.

    That lucky win at dook put them on the map. The loss at UNC will take them off.

    — Posted by ABCers not happy

    What?

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