Stock Watch: Duke field hockey stays hot; swim team starts strong

The bell of the Blue Zone stock exchange has just rung again, meaning it's time to take another look at who is rising and falling with their performances for Blue Devil sports teams. Each week The Blue Zone will look at whose stock is on the rise and whose stock has taken a hit from the week in the world of Duke athletics.

Bull Market-Trending up

Field Hockey — Head coach Pam Bustin’s squad moved into the top five in the country following a lopsided 7-0 win Sunday against Longwood. Duke has won four straight contests, three of which were against formerly top-15 teams—No. 9 Louisville, No. 12 Delaware and No. 15 Old Dominion. The Blue Devil defense recorded back-to-back shutouts this weekend and allowed just three shots throughout the game against the Lancers and seven in the rainy Friday evening match against Louisville. Sophomore back Alyssa Chillano provided the offensive highlight of the weekend and tallied the first hat trick of her career. The Blue Devils will look to keep their strong defensive play going as they head up the coast to face ACC-opponent Boston College this Friday.

Women’s basketball rankings — As official practices begin across the nation, Duke is ranked No. 8 in The Sporting News poll and No. 13 in Athlon Sports. The Blue Devils return three starters from last year’s Sweet 16 squad including Rebecca Greenwell, Amber Henson and Azurá Stevens‚—who represented Duke on the All-ACC Freshman team this past season. Duke also welcomes the top-ranked recruiting class in the country with five stellar freshmen—including Angela Salvadores who has collected two gold, one silver and two bronze medals as part of the U19 Spanish national team. Read more »

Recruiting Roundup: Gabriel chooses Kentucky; top recruits expected for Countdown to Craziness

The big news from this week in the world of recruiting came out of Lexington, Ky., and its one that will upset Blue Devil fans. Five-star forward Wenyen Gabriel decided to bypass a chance to join five-time champion Duke and instead commit to Kentucky .

As we mentioned last week, the commitment of forward Javin DeLaurier made it seem likely that the No. 23 prospect in the 2016 ESPN 100 would head elsewhere with Maryland being the most likely destination. Gabriel becomes the first five-star recruit in the Wildcats' 2016 class and joins Sacha Killeya-Jones as their second overall commit. In lieu of Gabriel's commitment, expect Duke to place an even greater emphasis on landing forward Harry Giles—the top-ranked high school senior in the nation.  Read more »

Around the ACC: Week 5

Although conference play is in full swing in the ACC, the most anticipated matchup of the week featured a battle between two top-15 squads as Notre Dame visited ACC preseason favorite Clemson. 

Duke 9, Boston College 7

The Blue Devils wrapped up a four-game home-stand with an ugly victory against the Eagles on Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium. Facing one of the top defenses in the country, Duke’s offense managed just three field goals in the first half and then could not reach 100 total yards in a scoreless second half. Quarterback Thomas Sirk struggled once again, completing 18 of 36 passes for 195 yards, while the running game racked up just 33 total yards on 35 attempts. But, Boston College was even more offensively inept for much of the game. Quarterbacks Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie combined to complete just 8 of 21 passes for 141 yards, 66 of them coming on a long touchdown connection from Flutie to Thadd Smith late in the third quarter. Despite having numerous chances, Boston College’s offense could not put up more points, culminating with Colton Lichtenberg’s missed 45-yard field goal try with less than four minutes remaining. With the victory, Duke moved to 2-0 in the ACC, while the Eagles lost their second consecutive conference game. 

No. 12 Clemson 24, No. 6 Notre Dame 22 Read more »

Duke football Player of the Week: Week 5

Duke football Player of the Week: Week 5

Ross Martin

Statline: 3-for-3 on field goals from 36, 38 and 53 yards

The Good: Senior kicker Ross Martin shined on a day when offense was scarce and field goals turned out to be the difference. Despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions that plagued Duke’s homecoming weekend, the two-time All-American made all three of his attempts and matched a career-high 53-yarder. He hit all three on back-to-back-to-back drives in the first half as the Blue Devils built up a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Martin's accuracy proved to be the difference as Boston College’s kicker, Colton Lichtenberg had a chance to steal the lead for the Eagles but failed to convert from 45 yards out.

The Bad: Senior quarterback Thomas Sirk had another poor day throwing the ball, but what hurt the offense more was his inability to make plays with his feet as usual. Sirk completed just half of his 36 passes for 195 yards and was held to five yards on nine carries. The running backs couldn't get much going either as Shaquille Powell mustered up only 18 yards on 14 carries and Jela Duncan and Shaun Wilson tacked on 21 yards on eight rushes. Perhaps even worse was the Blue Devils four consecutive failed attempts to score a touchdown from inside the five-yard line in the third quarter.  Read more »

SPORTSWRAP: Don't Skip Leg Day

This week's issue of Sportswrap features Duke kicker Ross Martin, who drilled three field goals to provide all the offense the Blue Devils would need in Saturday's 9-7 win against Boston College. Sportswrap is your one-stop shop for the weekend that was in Duke athletics.

Duke football survives against Boston College thanks to Martin, defense: The Blue Devils weren’t perfect Saturday afternoon, but the defense held firm once again in crunch time to squeak out another win, using three field goals from Ross Martin and timely defensive stops to beat Boston College 9-7 on a wet Homecoming afternoon.

As offense searches for consistency, defense and special teams continue to produce: For the first time in head coach David Cutcliffe’s seven-year tenure, Duke won a game without scoring a touchdown. Had it not been for the staunch Duke defense that limited the Eagles’ offense to just seven points—which came on a long touchdown pass—and an average of 4.0 yards per rush, the Blue Devils may have faltered down the stretch. Read more »

Blue Devils see room for offensive improvement after reviewing Boston College tape

Blue Devils see room for offensive improvement after reviewing Boston College tape

A day removed from a 9-7 win against Boston College, Duke hit the film room to study its offense, which put kicker Ross Martin in position to drill three field goals but struggled to move the ball in the second half.

After watching film of Saturday’s contest, head coach David Cutcliffe acknowledged on a Sunday teleconference with reporters that the offense left points on the field.

“We just watched the tape as an offensive unit. Our guys see and will continue to see we had things that we just didn’t execute and that we can execute better,” Cutcliffe said. “Sometimes that’s a mysterious thing how you can get caught in that. We will work this thing out, but we left a lot of… opportunities on that field. Whether it's technique or assignments, you’ve got to get to a point where you’re 100 percent in both of those categories. So that’s the challenge as we move forward.”

The Blue Devil offense could not sustain drives against Boston College’s defense, which entered Saturday's game ranked first in the nation in total yards allowed. Although starting quarterback Thomas Sirk rebounded from his two-interception performance against Georgia Tech, completing 18 of 36 passes for 195 yards and no interceptions, Duke did not score a touchdown and collected 228 total yards of offense. Read more »

Thoughts on the AP Poll: Week 5

Week five marked the beginning of October and the start of conference play all around the nation. This week brought its fair share of upsets and exciting finishes that changed the AP Poll: 

Duke gathers 31 votes after defensive battle

In a low-scoring, soggy matchup against a hard-nosed Boston College team, the Blue Devils found a way to win behind the leg of senior Ross Martin. The Duke offense could not manage to put a touchdown on the scoreboard but quarterback Thomas Sirk collected 195 yards through the air without recording a turnover. Freshman T.J. Rahming had five receptions in the game for 75 yards and proved to be Sirk's best downfield option. Duke will look to stay strong on defense while hoping for improvement on offense as the team heads up to West Point for a meeting with Army.

Dramatic finish in Death Valley  Read more »

Duke men's basketball kicks off season with open practice

Duke men's basketball kicks off season with open practice

Six months removed from capturing the program's fifth national title in April, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils officially kicked off their 2015-16 season Friday afternoon with an open practice available to the public. The squad that took the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday looked very different from the one that cut down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis—gone were the likes of Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, and in their places stood Brandon Ingram, Chase Jeter, Luke Kennard and Derryck Thornton.

The team will kick off its regular-season slate Nov. 13 at home against Sienna as part of the 2K Classic benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project. Before that, Duke will host a pair of exhibition contests—against Florida Southern Oct. 30 and Livingstone Nov. 4—and will scrimmage itself during the annual Countdown to Craziness showcase Oct. 17.

Here are some observations from the open practice:

  • Freshman Antonio Vrankovic dressed but did not practice due to a walking boot he was wearing on his right foot. The 7-foot center appeared to be able to walk around without too much trouble and participated in stretching drills, but did not partake in any of the individual or team drills on the court.
  • During a segment in which the coaching staff split up perimeter and post players to work on finishing at the rim, swingman Brandon Ingram was grouped with the other guards on the roster. Thornton is the Blue Devils' lone true point guard on the roster, though shooting guards Kennard, sophomore Grayson Allen and Matt Jones could see time handling the ball. Ingram stands at 6-foot-9, 190 pounds, and it remains to be seen if his frame can withstand the pounding required to play at the three or four spots at the college level.
  • Physicality could be an issue for this Duke squad. In addition to Ingram, the 6-foot-10 Jeter and 6-foot-2 Thornton seemed small for their positions. Without the physical presences of Okafor and Winslow, redshirt senior Marshall Plumlee is the biggest physical threat the Blue Devils have. The wild card here is redshirt sophomore Sean Obi—a 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward who sat out last season due to transfer rules but can be a bruiser down in the post if he proves himself ready to take on a significant role.
  • Matt Jones was the star of the day for the Blue Devils, as the junior captain nailed several treys from behind the arc—albeit with no defense around him—and looked comfortable asserting himself within the flow of the offense. After starting at the three spot during last season's national championship run, Jones did more ball-handling in the open practice and functioned as a more traditional two guard. The DeSoto, Texas, native has made his biggest impact on the defensive end of the court in his first two years in Durham, but he looks as if he is poised to make some big contributions offensively this season as well.

Chronicle Postgame: Duke 9, Boston College 7

The Chronicle's Brian Mazur and Meredith Cash break down Duke's 9-7 win Saturday against Boston College, moving the Blue Devils to 2-0 in the ACC and 4-1 overall. Duke did not find the end zone against the Eagles, but Ross Martin's three first-half field goals were enough for head coach David Cutcliffe's squad to survive as the Blue Devil defense got stops when it needed to down the stretch.

After a 3-1 homestand, Duke will head back on the road Saturday at Army in its last nonconference game of the season.

Making the Grade: Duke football vs Boston College

Making the Grade: Duke football vs Boston College

The Blue Devils were able to survive a tough challenge from Boston College with a 9-7 victory Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium. This was the last game of a four-game stretch at home during which Duke finished 3-1 with only a loss to No. 16 Northwestern. Although both teams struggled on offense and the game was far from pretty, the Blue Devils (4-1, 2-0 in the ACC) built an early 9-0 lead and hung on late to stay atop the ACC Coastal Division.

Offense: C

Pass: It was a tale of two halves for the Blue Devils’ passing attack. Through the first half, quarterback Thomas Sirk looked solid and completed 10 of his 18 passes for 138 yards. Sirk was stepping up in the pocket and using his agility to evade defenders and throw downfield as needed. But after halftime, the Glen St. Mary, Fla., native struggled against the Eagle secondary. The redshirt junior had difficulty stretching the field and hitting open receivers, with passes either ending up too low or behind his intended man. Sirk finished the game 18 of 26 for 195 yards and did not record a turnover for the first time since week two. With wide receiver Johnell Barnes sitting out the first half due to a penalty from a week ago, freshman T.J Rahming was Sirk’s go-to receiver and finished with five receptions for 75 yards.

Rush: Throughout the game, Duke struggled to get going on the ground. The Blue Devils were held to 33 rushing yards on 35 attempts and had trouble finding room to run on a Boston College defense ranked number two in the nation. Center Matt Skura and the rest of the offensive line struggled to create running lanes against the Boston College defensive line and the combination of Shaquille Powell, Jela Duncan and Shaun Wilson struggled to break free from the Eagle defenders all evening. There was perhaps no clearer example of Duke's struggles on the ground than when the Blue Devils could not get into the end zone with four consecutive rushes from first and goal on the one-yard line. Duke's struggles running the ball allowed Boston College to control time of possession in the contest by a 31:50–28:10 margin and did not make life easier for Sirk.  Read more »