College Football Preview: Duke vs. Stanford
DURHAM ó Just when Duke seemed poised to take another step toward respectability in football, the Blue Devils lost to a Championship Subdivision team.
That doesn’t mean Duke is going back to square one. The Blue Devils (0-1) know the most immediate way to prove they aren’t that same hapless bunch from past years is to beat ó or at least hang with ó No. 6 Stanford (1-0) this weekend.
“All I know,” coach David Cutcliffe said, “is difficult times (are) when leaders are called upon to do their job.”
A third straight loss to FCS team Richmond might qualify as a trying circumstance for a program that hasn’t had much success in the BCS era yet insists it’s headed in the right direction, despite last week’s setback.
“We know where we are as a team, and we’ve got to demonstrate that through our play,” cornerback Ross Cockrell said. “We’ve got to win games, and people will start to believe in us.”
Of course, Duke hasn’t been able to win consistently for nearly two decades.
The Blue Devils own the longest postseason drought in the Bowl Subdivision, having spent every December and January at home since the 1994 team ó their last to finish with a winning record ó lost in the Hall of Fame Bowl.
They’ve had four winless seasons since then and haven’t defeated a Top 25 team in 17 years. They’ve been beaten so often by Richmond ó three times since 2006, including a 23-21 loss last week ó that it no longer seems to qualify as a surprise.
None of that seems to matter to Stanford. The Cardinal have a few things they want to work out after their 57-3 romp over San Jose State ó which, coincidentally, is coached by former Duke defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre.
“We have a saying: ‘It’s not about who we play, it’s about how we play,'” Cardinal coach David Shaw said. “And we have some guys who are not satisfied with their performance from last week. … We talked about as a staff and we talked about as a team, we want to win the game.”
Shaw said they also need to see in games what they’ve been teaching on the practice field.
“The coaches and the players, especially our senior leaders, they saw some minor things that happened during the game, which they know could cost us down the road,” he said. “So we’re concentrating on the process, we’re concentrating on how we play and how we execute.”
The last time Duke played host to a top-10 nonconference opponent, the Blue Devils were overwhelmed by then-defending national champion Alabama in a 62-13 romp last September.
The visit from Stanford doesn’t have quite that same buzz ó unlike last year, Cardinal fans aren’t expected to invade Durham with such a huge a fleet of RVs ó but it does give Cutcliffe a chance to claim the signature victory of his four seasons at Duke.
“I expect us to bounce back. I truly do, and I know we’re capable,” Cutcliffe said. “This is just a great opportunity. This schedule’s tough. It’s just one game at a time. To start worrying about bowl games and worrying about, ‘Are we going to win six or are we going to win seven? Is there a fear of winning four or five or whatever it may be?’ That’s just a waste of your energy and focus.”