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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Devils downplay QB controversy

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Somewhere along the way, a quarterback controversy was stirred up over in Durham, N.C.

It happened the way these things usually do: Starter struggles a bit, backup comes in and leads a comeback victory, fans get hot and bothered, coach attempts to settle the waters.

“What I’ve said — and this is just the facts — is that we’ve got a starting quarterback,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe this week, faced with questions about the status of senior starter Thaddeus Lewis and emerging backup Sean Renfree. “The circumstances are like a pitcher in baseball. If the pitcher needs relief help, he’s going to get relief help. If he can pitch a complete game, then he’s going to be left in there.”

The idea that Lewis, at this point in his career, would be fighting for his job does seem a bit laughable. In addition to starting the past three seasons for the Blue Devils, the former second-team All-ACC selection entered the season as the conference’s returning passing leader, and in the team’s Week 1 game against Richmond, threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.

Through two games this year, in fact, he has thrown for more yards (410) than Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson and as many touchdowns (3) as Kansas’ Todd Reesing, despite being significantly hindered by swine-flulike symptoms following a team-wide outbreak during preseason practice.

“I’m feeling better,” said Lewis, from Opa-Locka, Fla. “It always has an effect on you when you feel you can’t go out there and give it 100 percent. But you can go out there and do as much as you can to help your team out.”

At the same time, it’s hard to argue with Renfree’s early results. After replacing Lewis in the third quarter of Saturady’s game against Army — Lewis had completed just five of 16 passes for 60 yards through 2 1/2 quarters — the red-shirt freshman completed seven of eight passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns and, more to the point, led a comeback victory that kept the Blue Devils from falling to 0-2 to start the season.

Which is probably why Cutcliffe said this week that while Lewis will start against Kansas in the teams’ matchup at 11 a.m. today at Memorial Stadium, Renfree will play, too.

For his part, Lewis seems to understand the thinking behind getting Renfree some reps this season, and he seems intent, too, on rebounding from his own sluggish performance last week. Heading into today’s game, he declines to call the quarterback situation a “controversy,” but allows that it could be classified as a competition — not unlike the many he’s been through before.

“You go through all kind of quarterback challenges every year,” Lewis said. “And you have to fight for your job every year.”

“When you’re in the third game of the season, it’s time for you to excel and get things going,” he added. “And continue to do the things you know how to do and put the rest behind you.”

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