We all know about the Duke men’s basketball program and the powerhouse coach Mike Krzyzewski has built in Durham, North Carolina. But how well do you know Duke football?
Until last season, there weren’t many reasons to pay attention to the Blue Devils on the gridiron. But then, in his sixth year, coach David Cutcliffe led Duke to a 10-2 regular-season mark, an ACC Coastal Division title and a berth in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Quickly, this return game from 2009 became much more intriguing and challenging for a downtrodden Kansas program in search of its first road victory in 27 tries.
If the Jayhawks (1-0) want to win their first road game since Todd Reesing was their quarterback and Mark Mangino was their coach, they’ll have to knock off a Duke team (2-0) that is receiving votes in both the AP and USA Today polls.
In a far better place than KU right now, Duke has gone to two straight bowl games — a program first. Cutcliffe, currently in Year 7 with the Blue Devils, has a 33-44 record. In the eight seasons before he arrived, Duke went 10-82. The Blue Devils are 25-9 under Cutcliffe when they score at least 30 points.
If there is one promising statistical nugget for KU against Duke, it is this: The Blue Devils are 1-5 against power-conference teams outside of the ACC during the regular season under Cutcliffe. Duke’s lone win in that category came in 2008 against Vanderbilt. The Blue Devils have lost to Northwestern (2008), Kansas (2009), Alabama (2010) and Stanford (2011, 2012).
But, as we all know, Saturday’s game — 2:30 p.m. (Central) kickoff at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium — will be decided by the current players and coaches. So here are five Blue Devils to watch.
No. 3 — Jamison Crowder, senior WR
His 5-foot-9 frame hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the biggest targets in ACC history. Crowder ranks sixth all-time in the conference with 212 career receptions. That number also ranks him fourth among active players, nationally.
When he gets the ball in space, he usually hits a speed the defenders around him can’t match. Crowder has two or more catches in 30 consecutive games and 25 career games with five or more receptions. In his last six games, he has seven TD grabs.
Oh, yeah. As Charlie Weis put it earlier this week, he’s a “pain in the butt” on punt returns, too. Crowder has 608 career punt-return yards and a pair of special teams touchdowns.
No. 27 — DeVon Edwards, sophomore S
Through two games, the 5-foot-9 safety leads the Blue Devils with 21 total tackles on defense to go with a couple of pass breakups and two forced fumbles last week at Troy, but he is even scarier with the ball in his hands.
He picked off two passes against N.C. State last season and returned them both for touchdowns.
Also in 2013, against North Carolina, he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD. This is just his second season at Duke and Edwards already has 22 returns for 673 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He averages 30.6 yards per touch on returns.
No. 7 — Anthony Boone, senior QB
Duke’s two-time captain is on the watch lists for the Manning, Maxwell and O’Brien awards. When he starts at quarterback, Duke has a 12-2 record — 12-0 in the regular season.
He threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-48 shootout loss to Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel in the Chick-fil-A Bowl this past New Year’s Eve.
In two games this season, Boone has thrown for 515 yards and five touchdowns.
No. 17 — Issac Blakeney, senior WR
If you haven’t already, check out Matt Tait’s breakdown of just how challenging a matchup the 6-foot-6, 225-pound receiver figures to be for Kansas and corner JaCorey Shepherd.
Off to a hot start this season against lesser competition (Elon and Troy), Blakeney has 135 yards and three touchdowns on nine receptions. Only five players in the nation entered this week with more TD grabs.
With just seven career starts in his 29 career games, Blakeney has 60 receptions, an 11.2 yards a game average and seven touchdowns. Boone hit him for a 49-yard score at Troy last weekend.
No. 77 — Laken Tomlinson, senior RG
A preseason All-America selection by FOX Sports and second-team All-America pick by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele, the 6-foot-3, 330-pounder from Chicago also landed on the Lombardi and Outland watch lists.
Tomlinson is one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the nation, with 41 consecutive starts. That streak ties him for first among active FBS players, with Kansas State’s B.J. Finney, Houston’s Rowdy Harper and Marshall’s Chris Jasperse.
One of five team captains, Tomlinson has played 3,133 career snaps in a Blue Devils uniform. You’ve got to game-plan for a big man like that as much as you do the skill players.
Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis wasn’t feeling too sour Tuesday at his weekly press conference, despite the Jayhawks’ disappointing finish to their season opener against Southeast Missouri State.
The third-year coach, like his players no doubt, instead seemed excited about the opportunity KU (1-0) has to play at Duke (2-0), in Durham, North Carolina, this Saturday afternoon.
Here are some of the highlights from Weis’s Q&A with the media:
• Duke senior wide receiver Jamison Crowder might be as good a wideout as KU faces this season. And senior right guard Laken Tomlinson “looks like a man on tape.”
• Duke athletic director Kevin White hired Weis at Notre Dame. “He taught me a lot about college football and he taught me patience,” Weis said.
• The Blue Devils’ defense is similar to what KU sees in the Big 12 — 4-3 base and bend, but don’t break mentality.
• Duke safety and kickoff returner DeVon Edwards is a “pain in the butt,” as a return weapon. Same goes for Crowder on punt returns.
• Weis and the KU coaches will be in corner Dexter McDonald’s ear all week about the challenge ahead in defending Duke’s receivers. Edwards is very good, but so is the guy that usually lines up opposite of him, senior Issac Blakeney. “You have to respect both of them,” Weis said.
• KU has spent time looking at this matchup with Duke and the Jayhawks have seen how both they and their opponent play. The Jayhawks have visual evidence they can win. But they can’t just show up for a quarter like they did vs. SEMO. KU’s players should go down there to N.C. with the anticipation of winning the game.
• There was an obvious difference against SEMO in the first and second halves for KU. The theme since has been finishing. Finish doesn’t have to only mean finish the game, it can be finishing plays, too. “Really close isn’t good enough,” Weis said. KU will have to play significantly better this weekend.
• There were no signs of jitters in the opener for sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. He played with confidence and handled the operation well. There were times when he could’ve made bigger plays and he’ll have to take advantage of his athleticism going forward. .. Cozart can throw the ball downfield. Weis has seen it in practice. KU has to put him in position to do that in a game. … He threw 3 TDs and 0 interceptions in the opener. That is big.
• It looks like strength vs. strength this weekend for KU at Duke. You could talk about almost every position but the most obvious one is KU’s defensive backs against Duke’s wide receivers. “All those DBs are gonna get tested,” Weis said. Duke won’t shy away from Dexter McDonald just because he had 2 interceptions vs. SEMO.
• Weis and the staff showed KU players a bad-play tape and a good-play tape after the SEMO game. “You want to know why you didn’t win by 50?,” they were able to say while viewing the lowlights. Then coaches showed them the evidence of all the good things. … People don’t understand how big Sundays are psychologically for the players. … When they left the facility on Sunday Weis was content with how the players handled Week 1.
• On KU’s offensive line … Two running backs no one had ever heard of led Kansas to 200-plus yards, so that’s a positive. The O-line didn’t grade out quite as well with the passing plays.
• The defensive line was pretty disappointed they didn’t bring SEMO's QB to the ground more often. KU’s bucks were in position a bunch of times. KU will have to get pressure with four guys — that’s a point of emphasis. Kansas has to at least disrupt the passer. The D-line was sound in other facets. … Defense was pretty dominant until the fourth quarter.
• Junior backup quarterback Michael Cummings will be utilized more in the future. The intent was to use him more vs. SEMO but the game didn’t play out like that. KU didn’t get to look as much at its depth as the coaches had hoped.
• Getting out to a big lead was new to KU’s players. Good teams end up laying the wood to opponents when they jump out early. It was easy to teach off of that after the SEMO game because the evidence was on video.
• The fourth quarter didn’t do anything to the psyche of KU’s secondary. The coaches will have some fun with them the next few days, give them a hard time about how SEMO played in the fourth quarter.
• On coaching at a basketball school … Duke football coach David Cutcliffe has Coach K and Weis has Bill Self. “Does it get any better than that?” Weis hopes KU wins every game all season and he uses that program’s success as something to shoot for. Weis totally plays into the success of the basketball program as a way to build the football program. … Weis wants to make sure Kansas football is winning more than it is losing before he leaves.
• Cutcliffe wasn’t “lighting the world on fire” the first few years at Duke, but he recruited, stuck with the plan and in his sixth year they won 10 games.That’s what happens when you walk into a program that hasn’t won recently.
• Players don’t need to comment on their focus or lack thereof following games, nor do they need to comment on the crowd. Players need to comment on their play. Weis isn’t big on making excuses.
• The KU coaches don’t encourage Cozart to take off and run, but there will be more times coming soon when you will see him run instead of pass in those situations.
• Because Weis wasn’t involved in play-calling he got to see the whole game. He didn’t have to worry about straightening out specific offensive problems while other things were transpiring. That allowed him to get a better feel for everything that was going on.
• Junior college transfer Damani Mosby, a “buck,” isn’t necessarily a redshirt candidate.
• KU would like to go ahead and get that road win out of the way early in the year. That’s one less thing for the players to worry about. The season doesn’t end with a win or a loss, but beating Duke would be a big win for the Jayhawks.
— Hear the complete press conference: Weis: Jayhawks capable of winning at Duke
— Listen to the coordinators' perspective: Bowen and Reagan evaluate KU's season-opening performance