Durham, NC – “Probably the MVP of the day was [hurricane] Matthew” stated a visibly exhausted coach David Cutcliffe.
There was a hurricane named Matthew that is passing through the eastern parts of North Carolina, leaving Wallace Wade and the handful of half dedicated, half crazy fans to endure two and a half hours of nonstop sideways rain and wind gusts mile per hour ranging in the twenty’s. The weather set the scene for what would be a sloppy game, seeing as many punts as first downs with seventeen in total. “I’m almost certain I’ve never been in a college football game where there were only seventeen total first downs in a game” In the first half, punts and fumbles seemed to be the theme. Four combined fumbles and eight combined punts only underlines the sloppy play that took place due to Hurricane Matthews. Duke (3-3, 0-2 ACC) went in to the locker rooms leading 13-6. Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones went four of eight for 28 yards and a touchdown. After a minor freak out last weekend by coach David Cutcliffe when presented with the question of “have you thought about playing [back up quarterback] Parker Boehme?” Cutcliffe put the redshirt junior quarterback in on a 3rd and goal opportunity that turned in to the first touchdown of the day with a jump pass finding Erich Schneider in the back of the endzone, an AJ Reed point after made the score 7-0. “We had worked all week long at that play and Parker has some runs down there and we felt like we need to develop that to take some hits off of Daniel [Jones], he did a great job of executing” mentioned Cutcliffe.
Jones finished the game 7-of-15 for 45 yards and one touchdown. The 6-foot-5, 210 pound Charlotte native made more of an impact on the ground. He ended up with 55 yards, but most came when Duke seemed to be in a tough situation. It was not the game plan initially coming in to the game to run Jones 21 times, but the Duke coaches had to adjust. Cutcliffe stated that “when you know the weather is going to be like that, you know we would be in that mode. It is part of football. There are some things I am anxious to look at and write down that you have to have within your system to help you and I think this will be great. I mean, who knew we would play in a hurricane? Well now I have and that goes in the checklist, the hurricane checklist.”
Duke and Army (3-2) would trade stalled drives in to the second quarter until Duke’s Jones would find Aaron Young on the right side of the endzone. The point after attempt went slipping through the holder’s hands and Duke took a 13-0 lead. More unsuccessful drives would take place before the Black Knights’ Andy Davidson took a hand-off and squirted 45 yards up the middle for Army’s first score of the game and as a personal redemption for fumbling early in the first quarter.
The second half would be another half of a punter’s dual and more stalled drives. Defensively for the Blue Devils,
Ben Humpheys led the way with ten tackles. The Newport Beach, California native managed two tackles for a loss and assisted on one as well. “This is a team battle. Everyone did there job. Our [defensive] tackles were having a day. AJ [Wolf] had a great day. It might not show in the stat sheet, but he kept guys off of me, which is why I did what I did today.” Duke managed to go the entire game holding a team which came in to the game red hot on converting on third and fourth down to being 2-for-17 including being 0-4 on fourth down. Coach Cutclife
mentioned that the Blue Devils “absolutely” prepared for that in practice leading up to this week’s game.
In the rainy conditions, it is hard to throw, so the run game becomes very important. Army is a run heavy team being a triple option offense. It takes a lot of discipline to fight through the conditions that were presented today and still be able to focus on where the ball is through all of the offensive movement. Fight through it!? These players embraced it, Humphreys mentioned that “[He] and Corbin (Corbin McCarthy – Duke Safety) woke up this morning and were like, I dreamed of this when I was little. You get out on the field and it is raining outside. You dream about playing in mud football.”
There was plenty of rain, but no mud. The new turf on Scott Brooks Field held up like a champ for sixty minutes. Players bragged about the turf and coach Cutcliffe chimed in to say “it’s amazing!” although there is no secret that Cutcliffe believes that field is the best in the country. “Hats off to Duke University for making the commitment to build that field” continued the head coach. “And our grounds people, Duke Groundskeeping, they are the champions too. They are the only ones who could take on Matthew. They won that battle.”
Cutcliffe showed his sense of humor there and talked about his team needing to include fun with hard work in football. “I don’t ever want them to ever stop having fun. If you are not careful, the business side of football will take you out of having fun, and that’s not fair.” There will not be much time for joking around as they will have a short week of practice and head to face a very dangerous Louisville team and a Heisman-candidate in Lamar Jackson in Louisville for a Friday night contest. “I’m excited for our team about that challenge. It’s just another one of those great opportunities to find out something about yourself.”
(Photos courtesy of Duke Athletics)