Duke vs. Kansas: Pregame notes and quotes

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Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils host the Kansas Jayhawks at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.

The game will be the sec­ond matchup all-time between the two teams with the Jayhawks owning the victory, a 44-16 decision, during their inaugural meeting on Sept. 19, 2009 in Lawrence, Kan.

The Blue Devils carry a five-game win streak at Wallace Wade dating back to last season, including winning eight consecutive home games against non-conference opponents since Sept. 10, 2011 (Stanford, 44-14 L).

Both head coaches, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and Kansas’ Charlie Weis, have a past together.

Back in January 2005, Cutcliffe was hired by Weis, then the head coach at Notre Dame, to serve as assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach with the Irish.

However, due to health reasons at the time, Cutcliffe resigned from the position just six months later.

Cutcliffe knows Weiss well enough to understand that the Blue Devils will have their hands full against their Big 12 opponent.

“Coach (Charlie) Weis is coming to town, and I have great respect for Charlie Weis,” the Duke coach said during his weekly ACC teleconference on Wednesday.

“After being at Ole Miss, he was a guy that quickly believed in me enough to offer me a job. I went to Notre Dame and was there with him for a short period of time, but long enough to know what kind of football coach the guy is. He knows how to get a football team ready. I don’t know that anybody in football knows the game better.”

While Duke enters the game with a 2-0 record with wins over Elon (52-13) and Troy (34-17), Kansas will face Duke having played only one game, a 34-28 victory over Southeast Missouri State last weekend.

Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone owns the school record for highest career win­ning percentage (.857) by a starting pivot (minimum 10 wins), and is undefeated in all 12 regular-season starts he has made during his career at Duke so far.

Faced with playing the season without starting linebacker Kelby Brown, the Blue Devils defense has infused younger talent into the mix early on.

True freshmen Zavier Carmichael (LB), Zach Muñiz (CB), and Alonzo Saxton II (CB) have all seen game time this season, learning quickly and supporting the efforts of veteran linebackers David Helton and C.J. France, along with safeties Jeremy Cash and Devon Edwards.

Duke enters the week tied for third in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in scoring defense with 15 points, behind only Pitt (10 points) and Wake Forest (12 points).

Cut’s quotes

Cutcliffe’s comments during his weekly ACC teleconference included talking about what he expects to see from Kansas, Duke’s key receivers, his team’s approach to the running game, and what he wants to accomplish in the team’s third game.

On Kansas overall:

“I am looking at Kansas, and I see a much improved team. It doesn’t surprise me, but even as I watched them last year, an extremely well-coached team. They know what they’re doing in all three phases. They know what they’re doing in the kicking game. The players execute well on offense with what they’re trying to accomplish and do, and certainly defensively they’ve become more and more veteran. Great secondary, veteran, good football players at linebacker and up front, and a formidable opponent, a true Big 12 opponent, so it’s a big challenge for our team as we continue to try to get better.”

On receiver Issac Blakeney finding his spot opposite Jamison Crowder:

“Issac played corner and receiver, believe it or not, in high school. He was so big, he just didn’t know what he was going to do best. Certainly we were needing defensive help. We looked at him as a big defensive end, a pass rusher. We looked at him as a big safety, he’s so athletic. We certainly looked at him at tight end, and it just wasn’t clicking really anywhere. And when Scottie (Montgomery) came back and joined the staff, I wanted Scottie to coach him. I felt like Issac really needed to have a challenge like Scottie Montgomery brings, and I think that was a saving grace for Issac a year ago, making that transition and making it as well as he did even then. I think it’s a work in progress. I think his talent level is exceptional, and I think he has no ceiling. He’s a lot faster than people think he is. He ran track for us this spring on the 4 x 100 meter relay team, and he has got outstanding speed, as well, and just got to keep working to be a complete player.”

On the team’s running game:

“Well, I think in the style of offenses that we are seeing more and more people run, including ourselves, you’ve been able to commit to not quite that big I-tailback or that big — when everybody went one back initially they went with big, strong 235-pounders that were running the zone play between the tackles, etcetera. And now we’re getting up off the ground, snapping as fast as we can, and a lot of guys are smaller, quicker, but they’re not going to be able to take the hits that 25 carries bring. It’s a long season, we’re committed to a 12-game regular season, and you’re going to need three or four that are regular players, and I think it’s a challenge sometimes. Backs need their carries to get rhythm to get going, and I think there’s a reality to that, so you have to balance that as a coaching staff.”

What to expect in Duke’s third game:

“Well, we’ve played two really well-coached teams, which has made us execute, and it’s also displayed some things that we badly need to work on. You know, it’s kind of hit or miss. We’re still focusing on all three phases. In the kicking game I’m looking for some consistency that we normally have that we haven’t had, whether it’s the specialists or whether it’s the coverage or whether it’s the blocking on a return. I just think we can get a lot better. If we’re going to beat a Big 12 team, we’re going to have to play great in the kicking game. That would be the start. Also from the standpoint of offensively and defensively – for us to win this game – we’re going to have to be better on first down than we’ve been on both sides of the ball. We’re putting ourselves behind in the chains on offense, and we’re putting ourselves in some difficult circumstances at times defensively, so we’re working hard on that, and it’s one of the things I was doing previous to this call is writing down all the continued things we’ve got to emphasize to get better at quickly, not even just this week but as we move forward.“

Duke Injury Report (As of Sept. 11)

OUT

TE Dan Beilinson (upper body)

CB Johnathan Lloyd (lower body)

OL Trip McNeill (lower body)

OL Jake Sanders (upper body)

OUT FOR SEASON

LB Kelby Brown (leg)

TE Braxton Deaver (leg)

DE Taariq Shabazz (leg)