Cutcliffe wraps up first spring at Duke
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM ó David Cutcliffe prowled one sideline, then the other, all the while chatting into his headset during Duke’s final scrimmage of the spring. He grabbed a microphone and addressed a crowd that was considered large only by the Blue Devils’ annually low standards.
Most importantly at this basketball-crazed school, the new coach did his part to push football back into the spotlight.
The Blue Devils wrapped up their first set of spring workouts under Cutcliffe with Saturday’s annual spring game. While the signal callers were solid ó as they should be under the noted quarterback guru ó the biggest plays were made by a pair of players with ties to the defense.
Safety-turned-running back Tony Jackson took a handoff 75 yards for a touchdown, and defensive end Wesley Oglesby returned a fumble 7 yards for another score to lead the White team’s 14-3 victory against the Blue.
“It was a game of big plays, and that was one of the things you realize playing in a conference like the ACC,” Cutcliffe said. “Most games are won or lost by four, five, six, maybe sometimes 10 plays. You never know when they’re going to happen, and this was one of those games that was critical to that.”
In recent autumns, Duke has lost those games significantly more often than it has won them, and when Ted Roof was fired in December after the team’s 13th consecutive losing season and third straight with double figures in losses, Cutcliffe was brought in to halt those losing ways and make the school’s sagging football program significant again.
The coach who led Mississippi to five bowl games in six full seasons in Oxford ó and won the Cotton Bowl with Eli Manning after the 2003 campaign ó was charged with revitalizing a fan base that, as the losses mounted over the years, seemingly had become apathetic toward football as it waited for Mike Krzyzewski’s basketball powerhouse to take the court.
Cutcliffe wanted to bring a dollop of Southeastern Conference flavor to Duke’s spring game ó albeit on a much smaller scale. The coach said the announced crowd of 3,250 at Wallace Wade Stadium was a school record for the annual scrimmage.
“I don’t think I’ve seen this many people at a spring game before,” said backup quarterback Zack Asack, who called it “one of the most fun days I’ve had playing football.”
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