Duke football headed to Memphis

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

Blue Devils focusing on striking early and often

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke Blue Devils football head coach David Cutclifffe is not taking anything for granted as his team prepares to travel to Memphis, Tenn. to play the Memphis Tigers for the second consecutive season.

After handily beating an outmatched NC Central Eagles squad 45-0 at Wallace Wade Stadium last week, the veteran coach is not sure what to expect at this point in the season from the Tigers who will host the Blue Devils during their home-opener at Liberty Bowl Stadium on Saturday.

Regardless of what Memphis presents, Cutcliffe and his staff have prepared the Blue Devils to be ready to execute effectively, quickly, and often.

It will be the only way that Duke will win its second consecutive game to start the season – a feat last accomplished in 1998.

“It’s always interesting to be basically playing another opening game,” Cutcliffe said during his segment of the weekly Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) coaches teleconference held on Wednesday.

“They’ve got a lot of experienced, physical people back. They have a lot of people back that can run. They obviously felt very good about a young quarterback for him to beat out a returning starter that played well. Always a challenge to go on the road. We’re looking forward to seeing how we handle that test, certainly how we handle playing a really good football team, a much better football team in Memphis.”

In beating the Tigers 38-24 in Durham last season, Cutcliffe expects Memphis to be a tougher team to contain on the ground.

He noted improvement in their running game during the latter part of their season last year, and that will be an area that Duke’s defense will focus on.

“I think the biggest difference was their commitment to the run game,” Cutcliffe said.

“They’re physical. They’ve got some backs that are good backs, strong, but really quick. They got the ball outside effectively. They developed a power game inside. I think it made them a better team.’

Duke’s special teams play, led by wide receiver and punt returner Jamison Crowder, this week’s ACC Specialist of the Week, will aim to once again place the opposing defense, this week the Tigers, deep in their half of the field.

From there, the offense led by starting quarterback Anthony Boone and backup Brandon Connette, will continue to focus on executing a constantly churning, no-huddle offense intended to wear down the opposing defense.

Strike early and strike often is a main part of the game plan that Cutcliffe pointed out earlier in the week as his team started to prepare for this week’s game.

“If you go on the road, you have to find a way to take momentum away from the home team,” Cutcliffe said.

“They’re in their environment. They’re in their comfort zone. My focus is always on trying to quiet the crowd. We’ve really made a huge emphasis in that regard. What we need to do is start fast and get the game under our belt and go in there and execute at a high level for 60 minutes because that’s generally what it takes to win on the road.”