december 6, 2013
A YEAR TO REMEMBER
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THU NGUYEN/THE CHRONICLE
DUKE’S MAGICAL RUN TO THE ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
2 | FRIDAY, december 6, 2013
CONGRATULATIONS DUKE FOOTBALL
2013 ACC COASTAL DIVISION CHAMPIONS & CHARLOTTE BOUND!
Just in time for the Championship Game on Saturday, show your Blue Devil pride with official 2013 Coastal Division Champions merchandise.
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FRIDAY, december 6, 2013 | 3
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
NO. 20 DUKE NO. 1 FSU DAVID VS. GOLIATH
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME • SATURDAY • 8 p.m. • BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM • CHARLOTTE
to play, and as underdogs that’s a role we embrace.” With a matchup against the Seminoles (12-0, 8-0 in the ACC) looming, Duke (102, 6-2) will face the same outside skepticism it has all season. For instance, the Blue Devils went on the road last week as the 24thranked team in the nation to take on an unranked North Carolina team and came into the game as four-point underdogs. When the Blue Devils and Florida State squared off last season in Tallahassee, Fla., the Seminoles ran Duke off the field in a 48-7 drubbing. But Florida State lost five players in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL draft and has replaced those players with a new crop of talent, including Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston, who swept the ACC’s individual awards among offensive players. Although the Seminoles have replenished their core, the Blue Devils believe they have grown enough in the past season to compete with the No. 1 team in the nation.
by Daniel Carp The Chronicle
Hollywood could not script a better underdog story. Months after being picked to finish dead last in the ACC’s Coastal Division, No. 20 Duke will ride an eight-game winning streak into the conference title game where it will meet undefeated No. 1 Florida State, a juggernaut on both sides of the ball. The Blue Devils and Seminoles will square off at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte with the ACC championship and an Orange Bowl berth on the line. College football pundits across the country aren’t giving Duke much of a chance. The game opened with Florida State as a 27.5-point favorite, with the line shifting to 29 points soon after. Although the Blue Devils are playing this game in their home state and are in the midst of a historic season, they will enter Saturday’s matchup in an all-too-familiar position. “Nobody has given us a chance all year long,” redshirt senior offensive guard Dave Harding said. “It’s business as usual for Duke football. We are going to come ready
thanh-ha nguyen/Chronicle file photo
thanh-ha nguyen/Chronicle file photo
Thank you to the Duke community for your help on making the 2013 football season special. We look forward to seeing you in Charlotte for the ACC Championship game on Saturday, December 7th. Stay tuned for bowl game information.
We Are Duke!
See David, page 9
4 | FRIDAY, DecembeR 6, 2013
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
no. 1 ‘noles brimming with talent by Nick Martin The ChroniCle
Florida State enters the ACC championship game as the most complete team in the nation and will have its eyes on the BCS national championship game. With all the talk of the potential national championship matchups dominating the media in the days leading up to the conference championship game, the no. 1 Seminoles will have to avoid getting too far ahead of themselves in addition to tuning out the noise caused by Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations if they hope to play in Pasadena. But even with the distractions, Florida State is still a dangerous team, and the Blue Devils know it. “Florida State’s a heavy favorite for a reason,” offensive guard Dave harding said. “They’re number one in the nation, and they’ve run over a bunch of good teams. So there’s a reason they’re favored.” Winston learned Thursday that he would not be charged with a felony for sexual assault from an incident last year involving a former Florida State student. Winston’s issues off the field had been hanging over the program for several weeks, but will not prevent him from playing Saturday. The redshirt freshman has been efficiently explosive for the Seminoles (12-0, 8-0 in the ACC) this season. Through 12 games, the Bessemer, Ala., native has thrown for 35 touchdowns—one short of Sam Bradford’s nCAA
freshman record—and has completed 68.8 percent of his passes, tossing just eight interceptions in the process. Winston’s favorite target this season has been junior rashad Greene. The first-team All-ACC selection has hauled in 61 receptions for 914 yards and nine touchdowns this season. “he’s got great talent around him,” Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. “his receivers are excellent. running backs, offensive line, great pass protection—so he’s surrounded by a lot of talented guys, and he can sit back there and make really good throws.” A large part of Winston and Greene’s success stems from the depth of the receiving corps. Wideout Kelvin Benjamin—at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds—has complemented Greene’s play by being a physical threat the Seminoles are confident in sending over the middle and has been a nightmare matchup for opposing teams this year. The redshirt sophomore’s 12 touchdowns have him tied for eighth in the nation while his 18.6 yards per catch is good enough for 18th. Another weapon at Winston’s disposal is junior tight end nick o’leary. The second-team All-ACC selection leads tight ends in the ACC in touchdown receptions and trails only north Carolina’s eric ebron in receiving yards. With the secondary focused on stopping Greene and Benjamin, Duke’s linebackers will share the responsibility of covering o’leary Saturday.
thanh-ha nguyen/ChroniCle file photo
First-team All-ACC wideout Rashad Greene has been quarterback Jameis Winston’s top target with nine touchdown catches on 61 receptions. “i don’t think i’ve ever seen him drop a ball,” Brown said. “he’s a guy who just finds a way to get open, and i don’t know how he does it, but he just seems to get open and make plays down the field. A lot of their offense seems to be centered around him and the run game follows him a lot, so we’ve got to really cover him well and not let him pin us
on blocks.” The Seminole offensive line is among one of the best in the nation, with three first-team All-ACC selections in tackle Cameron irving, guard Tre’ Jackson and center Bryan Stork. The experience on the line has resulted in See ScoUtiNG, page 10
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FRIDAY, december 6, 2013 | 5
RETURNING TO CHARLOTTE
RETURNing to the queen city
Duke gets a shot at redemption at Bank of America Stadium by Zac Elder The Chronicle
Charlotte holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Blue Devils. That is where Duke played, and lost, its first bowl game in almost two decades last year. The Blue Devils fell 48-34 to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in a contest that many Duke players believe they should have won. But Charlotte has also served as a recruiting hotspot for head coach David Cutcliffe, as 20 Blue Devils hail from within 30 miles of the city’s center. To them, Charlotte is not the site of a crushing loss, it is their hometown. “I’ve always enjoyed recruiting Charlotte, and we’ve gone down there and struck gold,” Cutcliffe said. “I believe we have seven or eight Charlotte area players starting in this game.” The Queen City has become a pipeline for Duke, and Cutcliffe has spent the past five years funneling talented prospects from in and around the city to Durham. Cutcliffe’s recruiting work in Charlotte has paid dividends, especially this season. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder hails from Monroe, N.C., just outside of Charlotte. The junior broke Duke’s single season record for receptions this year with 88, and stands just 19 yards shy of
Chronicle file photo
The Blue Devils lost a 48-34 heartbreaker to Cincinnati at Bank of America Stadium last year due to two late fumbles but have a second chance at postseason victory in Charlotte. breaking the single season record for receiving yards. Crowder earned AllACC first team honors as result of his record-setting season. Linebacker Kelby Brown and cornerback Ross Cockrell are also from the Charlotte area and both were named first-team All-ACC as well. Brown averag-
es 9.2 tackles per game, the second highest total in the conference, and Cockrell holds Duke’s all-time record for passes defended in a career with 53. For Crowder, Brown, Cockrell and the rest of the Charlotte natives, this weekend will provide a rare chance to play in their own backyard. It also provides a
chance for friends and family of the players to watch a Duke game closer to home. Each Blue Devil is allotted six tickets to give out to relatives and friends, but for some that may not be enough. “I’ve had at least 50 people ask me for tickets,” tight end Braxton Deaver said. “I only get six. I can’t accommodate everybody.” For Deaver, the location of the game and the extra attention from close friends and family puts added pressure on his shoulders. But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the redshirt junior. “My want to do well for my friends and family is an advantage to me. It helps me play better,” Deaver said. “It is pressure, but I like to say that pressure makes diamonds.” But for the veteran players from the Charlotte area, the return home means more than just a chance to play in front of friends and family. When Cutcliffe came calling in Charlotte five years ago to sign this year’s senior class, Duke football did not have a powerful brand name. “Not a lot of people had heard of Duke football,” Cockrell said. “To be honest, I hadn’t heard about Duke football either until Coach Cut started recruiting me.” See charlotte, page 11
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6 | FRIDAY, DecembeR 6, 2013
Blue Devils refuse to forget 3-9 seasons by Zac Elder The ChroniCle
For Duke’s freshmen and sophomores, the Blue Devils are a bowl team and nothing else. But for the juniors and seniors, the memory of consecutive 3-9 seasons is still fresh. Duke’s veteran leaders have used the pain of losing as motivation to propel the Blue Devils to a historic season. The dichotomy between players who know losing and those who don’t is proving to be a successful formula for head coach David Cutcliffe, as Duke takes it shot at the ACC championship game for the first time ever. “You need leaders that have experienced college football from both standpoints, a losing and winning standpoint,” senior Juwan Thompson said. “Just being able to let those younger guys know that it’s not always going to be an easy road. You didn’t have to witness the struggles that we went through, but at the same time, you don’t want to go through those struggles.” in 2010 and 2011, the Blue Devils won just six games total. only two of those wins came against conference opponents, and Duke finished last in the ACC’s Coastal Division both seasons. The Blue Devils even lost their home opener in 2011 to richmond, an FCS opponent that went on to win just two more games that season. now, Duke is using these defeats as motivation. The drive to move beyond the program’s losing past has helped create a new winning tradition. “The great thing is that we can still feel that feeling of going 3-9,” redshirt senior defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento said. “especially for us fourth- and fifth-year seniors, we know exactly what it is like to go 3-9 and just start to turn things around last year. So it’s not too far out of our rearview that we can’t see where we came from.” For the older Blue Devils, this attitude has prevented complacency from seeping into practices and games. They stay hungry, motivated by the memory
of losing records and perennially dwelling in the ACC’s cellar. “We want to make sure we finish. obviously guys are happy. We’ve never been in a situation like this. But we know the job is not done,” redshirt senior cornerback ross Cockrell said. “We’ve been there before, two 3-9 seasons, a 5-7 season. We’ve been there.” For the younger Blue Devils, it is not the fear of losing but rather the joy of winning that drives them. Duke has 55 players who have been with the program for two years or less. For them, motivation comes from a different source than that of their older counterparts. “i think for them what drives them is not knowing anything but success and the desire to stay ranked,” redshirt senior Dave harding said. “That’s a great feeling. The way victory feels is a lot stronger than losing, if that makes sense. it creates a hunger in you, and you just want that more. it’s like a drug almost—you keep going back to it.” This mixture of confident young players and experienced leaders is paying dividends. Duke’s freshmen and sophomores play with the confidence of winners, while the older Blue Devils play with the determination of those who have been at the bottom of the pack and do not want to return. nowhere is this dichotomy more present than in the secondary. Cockrell and fellow fifth-year senior Garett Patterson start at cornerback, while three players in their first years playing for Duke fill the safety positions. Two true freshmen also see significant playing time at corner. “You basically have the extreme on either end of the scale,” Cockrell said. “The thing that is nice about it is you have people who remember what the foundation was built on and people trying to build upon that foundation. our job as seniors is to make sure that foundation isn’t being forgotten.” As the Blue Devils win game after game, it would seem that losing sea-
sons have become a thing of the past. But some veterans fear that losing the memory of 3-9 seasons could hurt Duke in the long run. “it’s going to be a bad thing that they haven’t witnessed it,” Thompson said. “You don’t want them to think we can win any game just because we are Duke football.” At the same time, Thompson also sees a positive to this shifting mentality. “having been part of a winning tradition, it will benefit them in the long run because they know how to win,” he said. “They won’t have any doubts.” The painful memory of losing has been the catalyzing force for the Blue Devils this year, but the program is now headed in a new direction. Duke’s older generation will leave a legacy of bringing the program from the bottom of the ACC to its apex. They hope that this success will develop into a new kind of motivation for the Blue Devils in the future. “i think it’s a great transition because that was our motivation, to not go 3-9 and have a losing record. They’re coming in winning so they expect to win,” Sarmiento said. “Then you start getting recruits that expect to win. it sort of steamrolls downhill and works out for the best.” in just two years, Duke may lose its memory of losing records and ACC mediocrity. As the juniors and seniors graduate, the Blue Devils who played through those 3-9 seasons will leave behind a program with a different set of memories. But these veterans take comfort in the fact that they have instilled a legacy of hard work and fear of complacency. And they will pass the torch to a talented group of youngsters, ready to bring Duke football into a new era. “We have this young core group of guys who are going to continue on to bring Duke football to even higher levels,” Cockrell said. “i’m extremely proud of what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, and i think we’ll be even better next year.”
FRIDAY, DecembeR 6, 2013 | 7
Cutcliffe and White’s ‘perfect storm’ by Daniel Carp The ChroniCle
Win or lose, Kevin White is one of the first people David Cutcliffe sees at the end of any football game. Depending on the result of the game, the mood of their conversation varies, but one thing remains constant—Cutcliffe and White have unmistakable chemistry. As the Blue Devils’ head coach and Duke’s Director of Athletics have watched their football program flourish into an ACC Coastal Division champion in their sixth season together, that bond has only grown stronger. “Because you care about somebody and you build relationships and you like people who do things right, it’s been a lot more rewarding to do it with someone who has the same ideas and ideals as what you do,” Cutcliffe said of White. “he’s a machine. Ask any coach in any sport here. he sees and knows all the athletes. That just makes it fun. it’s been special.” White’s knowledge of Cutcliffe spans all the way back to the early 1990s, when White was the Athletic Director at Tulane. Two of White’s sons played in basketball leagues with Peyton and eli Manning, who Cutcliffe would go on to coach at Tennessee and ole Miss, respectively. White and the duo’s father, Archie Manning, quickly became friends and supporters of the Tulane athletics programs. “i remember on a couple of occasions in the early ’90s Archie would bring up on a couple of occasions this young quarterbacks coach at the University of Tennessee, David Cutcliffe,” White said. “That was the first time i had ever heard of him. And Archie said, ‘There’s a guy up there, he’s going to be a head coach.’” When Cutcliffe took over as the head coach at ole Miss in 1998, his path crossed with White’s once again. White’s son Mike, who is currently the head basketball coach for louisiana Tech, was a point guard for the rebels. Cutcliffe and White would often bump
into each other at church in downtown oxford, Miss., and were able to become truly acquainted for the first time. “it was interesting that we never really knew each other, but we knew of each other for a long time,” White said. So when White—who was ranked as the third-most-powerful man in college football by Sports illustrated in 2003— needed a new assistant head coach at notre Dame in 2005, he knew exactly where to turn. “Charlie Weis hadn’t been a college head coach before, so we wanted to surround him with coaches on both sides of the ball that had head coaching experience,” White said. “Archie called me, i can remember it like it was yesterday, and said, ‘Boy, David would be great in that role.’ And i knew he would be.” Cutcliffe interviewed for the position and was added to Weis’ staff. he was set to mentor a young quarterback named Brady Quinn, who would go on to become a heisman Trophy finalist in back-to-back seasons. But just as Cutcliffe got settled in South Bend, his health began to falter. he tried to work through his illness, but it eventually became too much for him. Doctors told him that he would need a triple bypass to clear an artery that was 99 percent blocked. After conferring with White, Cutcliffe resigned from his position at notre Dame and went in for surgery. Although White’s attention shifted toward his Fighting irish squad that would go 9-3 in 2005, he kept close tabs on Cutcliffe throughout his recovery process, exchanging phone calls and messages with the coach and his wife, Karen, on a weekly basis. As Cutcliffe took time away from the coaching profession that he had been entrenched in for the previous 36 years, it forced him to reevaluate many aspects of his life. “i never saw the leaves change color before i had triple bypass surgery,” he said. “That summer i spent a lot of time just enjoying the neighborhood,
walking, recovery. i’d take my daughter emily to school, she had just started kindergarten. We’d hang out, we had a screen porch on the back, beautiful trees out where we lived, and i’d forgotten how beautiful the fall was. i took a sabbatical. i used that term just to see how different my life was.” Cutcliffe returned to coaching for two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee before taking over a Duke team that had previously been the laughing stock of college football. After the head coach was hired by then-Athletic Director Joe Alleva, White made a point to laud the man who would become his predecessor on the hire. “i knew just how difficult this football resuscitation project was going to be, and it was going to take someone like David Cutcliffe,” White said. “i remember as soon as i heard David was coming to Duke, long before i knew i would ever be here, i wrote to Joe Alleva to tell him that.” Six months after Cutcliffe was hired, Alleva stepped down to take the Athletic Director position at lSU. in stepped White, who said Cutcliffe was one of the key reasons why he came to Duke in the first place. Four years after Cutcliffe and White were pried apart by fate, the duo had a second chance to build a program together. But White and his new head coach faced the ultimate rebuilding project with the Blue Devils, a team that had won just eight games in its previous eight seasons. Cutcliffe would later call his first team the “fattest, slowest football team he had ever seen.” he challenged his first Duke squad to get in shape, and the Blue Devils lost 597 pounds together as a team. his squad won a combined 11 games in Cutcliffe’s first three seasons at the helm, and White began to notice the beginnings of something special. “The guy had built what i called a widget See DUKe’S DUo, page 9
8 | FRIDAY, DecembeR 6, 2013
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Wilcox and Duke square off on ACC’s biggest stage by Daniel Carp The ChroniCle
As the Blue Devils and Seminoles get set to square off in Saturday’s ACC championship game, The Chronicle’s Daniel Carp sat down Stan Wilcox, who was responsible for oversight of Duke’s football program for five years as Senior Deputy Director of Athletics before taking the job as Florida State’s Athletic Director in August. The Chronicle: You’re taking Florida State on the road to take on your old school in the ACC championship game this weekend. is that at all strange for you to think about? Stan Wilcox: it’s exciting. Before i left Duke, i said to the football team, ‘hey, i would ask you guys just to do one thing for me, and that is make it to Charlotte for the ACC championship game, because i know Florida State is going to be there and i want you guys there too.’ They have actually rose to the challenge and made it there, STAN WILCOX and now it will be a Florida State A.D. great time to see all of the guys that i’d been around a lot at Duke. once kickoff goes, i’m all about FSU and the tomahawk chop. TC: You’re someone who worked so closely with the program during your time at Duke. how closely have you been able to follow the Blue Devils this season and what have you seen from them as Coach Cutcliffe continues to build the program into something that i’m sure was a vision the two of you had together. SW: i’ve been able to follow most of the games, because actually what we would do
is if the game was on television we’d put it on in our box at our games, or i would put the game on on my iPad or my iPhone and keep tabs on what the Duke Blue Devils were doing. i knew this year would be a good year for them because of knowing the talent that we had been getting each season. The talent level was getting better and better, and everyone was buying into Coach Cut’s system. The scheduling was a very favorable schedule this year, and everything kind of came together at the right time. TC: A lot of the people around the country are quite surprised that Duke is going to be playing your team in the ACC championship game this weekend. You’re someone who has seen this from the beginning. Are you surprised at all? SW: not surprised at all. While i was there, i was able to predict the year i thought that we were going to be bowl eligible. i told everybody last year that we were going to be bowl eligible. i told everybody that Duke was going to be bowl eligible again this year. i can’t say i predicted that the team would make it to the ACC championship, but i knew that the team was at that stage where it can basically play within anybody within the ACC and play them well. TC: What was your first conversation with Coach Cutcliffe like after Duke beat north Carolina and punched its ticket to Charlotte? SW: We haven’t actually talked, but we’ve been texting. i just texted him congratulations and he responded telling me, ‘You can’t come to practice.’ And i told him, ‘That’s fine, i won’t be coming to practice, but pregame meals will have to be neutral territory.’ TC: he actually made a joke in his press conference this week about trying to make you forget all the things you had seen
Congratulations on a great season Coach Cutliffe and Duke Football Team
photo CoUrteSY of DUKe photoGrAphY
Stan Wilcox oversaw the football program during his five years as Senior Deputy Director of Athletics at Duke before taking the Athletic Director position at Florida State. watching Duke in the past few years. Are you helping Jimbo Fisher put his scouting report together, given all your knowledge? SW: i guess Coach Cut has given me a little more credit for my ability to scout than he realizes. not at all. i don’t have the acute knowledge of totally understanding the different schemes and packages that Duke runs. That’s definitely not on my agenda. Both teams are great teams and have great coaches, they don’t need an administrator like myself who doesn’t know the X’s and o’s to be successful. TC: What has it meant to you shortly after taking the job at Florida State to watch what Duke has been able to accomplish and see them gaining some recognition on the national stage? SW: i’ve been feeling very prideful about it. everybody here that i’ve talked
to, and even in my press conference when i took the job here, i told everybody that what we did here at Duke, building a program, the program was on schedule to do great things. Being able to see that happen, and people that i’ve talked to here, it’s totally different in that [Florida State] is definitely in football country. People live and die football, and when they hear Duke football they don’t think very highly—they think about Duke football in the past. And then when they see what Duke has done this year after hearing me talk about how Duke football has arrived and they’re going to be a program to reckon with, now they understand what i was saying. it’s going to be a great game on Saturday. i love Duke, i love Coach Cut, i love Kevin White. But once that kickoff happens, it’s on—and we’re not going to hold back.
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from page 3
“i think that as far as they go, they’re still very talented, very physical and great football players,” harding said. “i think the differences really lie on our side of the ball, where we’ve become more talented. We’ve been able to close the gap from a speed perspective.” Winston’s offensive arsenal is fully stocked with weapons like wide receivers rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin and tight end nick o’leary. The Florida State offensive line has three first-team All-ACC selections in tackle Cameron erving, guard Tre’ Jackson and center Bryan Stork, who pave the way for the team’s three-headed rushing attack of Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder, Jr. Six of the conference’s 12 first-team All-ACC players on offense are Seminoles. Despite only having one first-team AllACC selection on the defensive side of the football, Florida State boasts one of the top defenses in the nation. The Seminoles rank first in the nation by allowing a paltry 11.0 points per game. Florida State ranks first in the conference in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Seminoles are tops in the conference in a slew of offensive and defensive categories—the Blue Devils do not rank second in any of those statistics. But Duke has done something Florida State has not this season. in the Blue Devils’ eight-game winning streak, they have come back from second-half deficits to win the game four times. The mantra of this year’s team has been to finish, and Duke has done that, allowing just 3.08 points per
game in the fourth quarter. The Seminole starters, meanwhile, are not even used to being on the field in the fourth quarter of games. Florida State’s starters have played just one full game this season—a 48-34 victory against Boston College Sept. 28. The Seminoles’ narrow 14-point victory against the eagles was the only game Florida State has won by fewer than 27 points. “We’re going to be able to battle for three-and-a-half hours and get ready to give them our best shot,” redshirt senior defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento said. “There’s a reason why they’re number one in the nation. it’s going to be tough.” The Blue Devils’ success this season has garnered the program more attention from national media than at any other time in the program’s recent history. it has also caught the eye of a man who knows a thing or two about winning ACC championships. Duke head men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who brought the Blue Devils to national prominence in the early 1980s, understands the difficulties of playing the role of underdog. “When it’s magical, sometimes you hear that its lucky. it’s not lucky. it’s magical what Cutcliffe and his staff, all these guys, how they’ve all worked together to provide an environment where magic can happen,” Krzyzewski said. “They have a chance. They are winners. They were a program that wanted to win going into the season, and now they are a program of winners. They’ve proven that they can win, and when you cross that bridge a lot of neat things can happen.”
FRIDAY, DecembeR 6, 2013 | 9
PhOtO COuRteSy OF DuKe PhOtOgRaPhy
Duke Director of Athletics Kevin White shares a moment with head coach David Cutcliffe and his wife, Karen, after the Blue Devils’ victory against Miami.
from page 7
factory,” White said. “We weren’t in a position, when he came, to go buy ready-made players. We weren’t in the player-acquisition business. David was quick enough to understand that. he’s a very smart guy—he determined we were in the player-development business. And then he built a heck of a process and put it in play, and that’s what we’re all seeing and enjoying here six years in. it’s pretty amazing.” Slowly but surely, the dominos started to fall for Cutcliffe. he won his first ACC game in 2008, took Duke to a bowl trip in 2012 and knocked off a ranked Virginia Tech squad on the road in 2013 en route to the program’s
first 10-win season and a Coastal Division championship. he won his second consecutive ACC Coach of the Year Award and had the Blue Devils back to national prominence for the first time in decades. Duke’s run to the ACC championship game is a story of redemption in more ways than one. At the core of a program that made its rise back into the spotlight after an embarrassing period of dormancy are two men who Cutcliffe said were pulled apart and brought back together by a twist of fate. “i’m a believer in it. i think there’s a purpose to be had here. i’ve felt that since i’ve been here,” Cutcliffe said. “i think a lot of this has taken a perfect storm.”
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10 | FRIDAY, december 6, 2013
from page 4
three running backs topping the 500-yard mark for the season, led by junior Devonta Freeman with 852 yards and 12 touchdowns. “Playing them last year, they’re one of the better offensive lines we played,” defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento said. “Credit to them, they just do a great job at sticking together and playing very well.” But the Seminole aerial attack has had moments of weakness. During the threegame stretch against Clemson, N.C. State and Miami, Winston threw four interceptions and suddenly seemed to show a chink in his armor. But he stopped any of that talk by throw-
ing for 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions in the final four games of the season. “If they give you an opportunity for them to make a mistake, you have to capitalize on it because they’re going to make plays,” Sarmiento said. “That’s just the nature of things.” Duke’s offense will face just as steep a challenge when it goes up against the top defense in the nation, allowing a paltry 11.0 points per game. The experienced front seven, led by senior linebacker Telvin Smith and junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernagin, boasts the 13th-best rushing defense in the NCAA. Thanks to its lockdown secondary, the front seven has been able to wreak havoc in opposing
Thanh-Ha Ngyuen/Chronicle file photo
Duke has not forgotten the 48-7 drubbing that Florida State gave them last season at Doak Campbell Stadium.
backfields—racking up 25 sacks in the regular season. The Florida State secondary leads the nation in passing yards allowed per game and is tied with Houston for first in team interceptions with 23. Senior safety Lamarcus Joyner— the only defensive Seminole to earn first-team All-ACC honors— registered a team-high five sacks and three forced fumbles during the regular season as well as grabbing an interception. Freshman safety Nate Andrews leads the team with four interceptions. But one area the Seminole defense has proved to be weak is in its pass coverage of running backs coming out of the backfield. Of the 16 touchdowns allowed, five were scored
The Chronicle on passes to running backs leaking out of the backfield to run drag or wheel routes. Duke running back Jela Duncan has been the Blue Devils’ biggest threat in terms of catching passes out of the backfield. Both he and Shaquille Powell have registered touchdown receptions this season and will certainly be used to exploit this soft spot in Florida State’s defense. The Seminoles enter the contest as 30-point favorites and one clear goal on their mind: to play in Pasadena come Jan. 6. If Florida State can forget about the distractions, as it has in the past several weeks, its depth and explosiveness will make it a tough upset to pull off for Duke.
Thanh-Ha Ngyuen/Chronicle file photo
Seminole redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin has caught 12 touchdowns so far this year, good for eighth in the nation.
from page 5
now that the Blue Devils have risen to the top of the ACC Coastal Division and established a reputation as a successful football program, this weekend’s trip will allow the Charlotte natives to return home as part of north Carolina’s winningest football program in 2013. Duke football was a mystery to Charlotte natives five years ago, but now the city has hosted the Blue Devils in postseason matchups two years in a row. Those players returning home this weekend do so as division champs, validating their decision to follow Cutcliffe to Durham all those years ago.
FRIDAY, DecembeR 6, 2013 | 11
“i caught a little bit of slack for [choosing Duke],” Cockrell said. “But i believed in what Coach Cut was doing here, and i believed in the people that came here with me. As a class, i knew we were going to do something special.” When Cutcliffe leads his squad into Saturday’s matchup with the Seminoles, and when he recruits in the Charlotte area in years to come, his message about Duke football will no longer be the first time players have ever heard about the program. “i’m thrilled for ross and all of those guys,” Cutcliffe said. “i think they know who we are now down there, which is a great thing.” eRIC LIn/ChroniCle file photo
Starting quarterback Anthony Boone, who has thrown 10 touchdowns this year, will be playing just 16 miles north of his hometown of Weddington, N.C.
Check out a week-by-week recap of Duke’s historic run to the ACC championship game online at sports.chronicleblogs.com, as well as our wall-towall coverage of this weekend’s matchup.
KeVIn ShaMIeh/the ChroniCle
When Charlotte native Ross Cockrell was recruited, Duke football did not have much of a reputation in his hometown, but two straight years hosting Duke has changed that.
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12 | FRIDAY, DecembeR 6, 2013
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Published on Dec 6, 2013