This week's contest between Duke and Troy will feature a pair of teams facing off for the first time, with both looking to break a two-game losing streak and climb back above .500.
Duke looks to enter the upcoming bye week with a winning record by snagging a victory against the Trojans in front of its Homecoming crowd at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday at 3 p.m.
“It’s a long season and I think we have a lot of veteran leaders on this team that understand how long this season is,” redshirt senior cornerback Ross Cockrell said. “We’re 2-2 right now, but we still have eight more games to play.”
In last week’s 58-55 loss to Pittsburgh, the Blue Devils fought back from a 20-7 hole in the first quarter and a 51-28 deficit in the third quarter, only to have the game put out of reach by Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage.
This weekend will not require the Blue Devil defense to venture far outside of its comfort zone, as Troy sport a two-quarterback system that is similar to the one Duke ran before starter Anthony Boone went down with a broken collarbone. Senior quarterback Deon Anthony also leads the Trojans' rushing attack, racking up 211 yards on the ground in the first four games.
“We have to be able to change gears on a moment’s basis,” defensive end Kenny Anunike said. “You come off playing Georgia Tech, that spread-option offense, then going to playing hard-nosed traditional football where Pitt is just trying to pound the ball down our throat. We have to switch gears and get back into that mode.”
Troy redshirt senior quarterback Corey Robinson, who leads the passing attack, entered the season as the NCAA’s active leader in passing attempts, completions and yards. He has struggled to find consistent success from game to game this season. His last two performances include a 371-yard outburst against Arkansas State, followed by a 105-yard performance in last week’s blowout loss to Mississippi State.
The Trojans have been on both ends of major blowouts this season, routing Savannah State 66-3 Sept. 7 before getting trounced by Mississippi State 62-7 just two weeks later. But Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was adamant that neither of the blowouts would affect the team's approach to Saturday's game.
“When you’re dealing with [watching film], you really don’t get into the score of the game,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re so in-tune to studying the individual and the scheme they’re in and using that often times when I’m watching a game, I don’t even know what the score of the game is.”
On the other side of the ball, Connette became the first quarterback in Duke history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 when the redshirt junior racked up 323 yards through the air and 101 on the ground in a losing effort against the Panthers.
The contest did not start well for the Blue Devils’ signal caller, who threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown. Connette went on to toss four touchdowns and punch in two more scores on the ground himself, tossing two more interceptions in the fourth quarter.
“[The coaches] really put an emphasis on instead of playing from [behind], just going out getting a lead,” wide receiver Jamison Crowder said. “Coming out with that urgency early so we can play with a lead instead of, during the game, trying to come back.”
Crowder proved once again why he is one of the most explosive players in the league, racking up 279 all-purpose yards against the Panthers. The height of Crowder’s performance came in his three-touchdown second quarter, including a punt return for a touchdown, which led to his second ACC Specialist of the Week selection.
Against a Trojans defense that lets up an average of 146.2 rushing yards per game, along with 10 touchdowns through their first four contests, the Blue Devil backfield should be geared to have a big day on the ground after tallying 213 rushing yards against the Panthers.