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Close call builds team confidence

Head football coach Carl Franks displayed an upbeat, yet unsatisfied mood towards his 2-1 team in his weekly press conference Monday. Franks said he hoped his team would have its first 3-1 record since the 1994 Hall of Fame Bowl season, but that it still had many improvements to make.

 "I hope there is some confidence building there [from the back-to-back wins]," Franks said. "I also sense that we haven't played nearly as well as we're going to need to play or are capable of playing." Franks also said that he was happy the Blue Devils, who lost five games by five or less points last season, finally won a close game against Rice Saturday, but was unhappy that the game was close.

 "It happened to be a close game," he said. "At some point you've got to believe that you're going to win those games. Being in them and having some success is going to help you do that. I really believe we'll be in another one down the road. So instead of [the media] asking our players, 'Did you think, oh here we go again [with another close loss]?' Now hopefully our players will be saying 'We've been in a close game before, we've had success, and we know we can win those close games.'"

 Offensive lineman Drew Strojny, who was also at the conference, shared his coach's sentiments.

 "Winning a close game really helps a lot," he said. "Last year we lost a lot of close games. It was definitely a confidence booster."

 Franks made similar comments about redshirt freshman starting quarterback Mike Schneider. Franks felt Schneider was playing very well, but was continually making rookie mistakes. According to Franks, the communication between the coach and the young quarterback improves daily, with Schneider showing an intense commitment to both individual and team improvement.

 Strojny said that although Duke has had three starting quarterbacks in the past three years, cohesion is not greatly hampered on the Duke offense.

 "I'd say anytime you have a new quarterback who hasn't had any game experience, he's going to make mistakes," Strojny said. "Because we've had three quarterbacks in three years, there's going to be mistakes. But I think Mike is doing great. He made some great runs and some great throws [Saturday]."

 Strojny went on to say that Schneider is cocky, but in a good way. "He's not what you'd expect from a redshirt freshman," Strojny said. "He's really confident in the huddle. I think that's a quality you need to have in your quarterback."

 Strojny also seemed happy with the performance of his fellow offensive linemen. The Blue Devils are leading the ACC in rushing offense, and senior running back Chris Douglas leads all individuals in yards on the ground.

 "This is our third year together, and we're really confident in what we're doing," Strojny said. "We've been playing really well for the first three games of the season."

 The Duke running game looks to only get better, as last season's leading rusher Alex Wade is finally getting over his hamstring injury and redshirt sophomore Cedric Dargan is cured of the virus that kept him out of Saturday's game.

 Wade played in the first two games of the season, but every time he was questioned about his hamstring by coaches and trainers he said it was bothering him. Against Rice he repeatedly said the back of his leg was feeling good en route to his season-high 45 rushing yards.

 Franks also discussed Northwestern, but it is still hard to evaluate the Wildcats because they are plagued by injuries. Northwestern's quarterback Brett Basanez is injured and so is running back Jason Wright, who averages 108 rushing yards per game.

 No matter who plays Saturday, the Blue Devils will be looking to avenge their 26-21 loss to Northwestern a season ago. The game saw Duke lose its lead in the fourth quarter, leaving a bitter taste in the Blue Devils' mouth.

 "I just remember it being a really winnable game that we let slip away," Strojny said. "It's one of those things. It's two different football teams; it's not going to be the same as last year. We just want to come out and get a win."


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