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Douglas, Smith pace 1-1 Duke

One week after suffering a 27-0 shutout at the hands of Virginia, Duke (1-1) took an important step in the right direction Saturday night, snapping its eight-game losing streak with a 29-3 drubbing of Division I-AA Western Carolina (0-2).

The 26-point margin of victory was the Blue Devil's largest win at home since defeating Navy 47-17 in 1994, and the three points allowed were the fewest by a Duke defense in the Carl Franks era.

"This was a tremendously important game because of the way that we played at Virginia," Duke head coach Carl Franks said. "It was important for us to come out and play with some emotion and get back to playing the way we knew we were capable of playing."

The Blue Devils would get all of the offensive production that they would need on their first drive of the game, going 80 yards in 6:19 to take an early 6-0 lead.

The assault was led by senior running back Chris Douglas, who powered his way through a porous Western up 40 yards--including a three-yard touchdown run--on the first drive alone, helping to relieve some of the pressure on quarterback Mike Schneider, who started his first game as a Blue Devil in place of last year's No. 1 passer Adam Smith.

"I knew that one of the things we were going to have to do was establish the run," Douglas said. "I just tried to take it upon myself to run as hard as I could. My offensive line did a tremendous job blocking, and I'm very proud of them."

Six points were all that Duke could muster in the first quarter, as its kicking game faltered early and often.

The Blue Devils missed their first extra point attempt after a fumbled snap, while also losing senior kicker Brent Garber to a rib injury as he tried unsuccessfully to run the loose ball into the endzone.

Junior Matt Brooks replaced Garber, pulling a 35-yard field goal wide left with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter and barely skimming a 44-yard attempt over the goal post at the end of the opening half.

"The area that we have got to fix right now is our kicking game," Franks said. "I don't know if it was the protection or how long it took to get the ball off, but our kicking game has got to come along." However, Duke's shaky kicking was not enough to keep the game close. An interception by cornerback Temo George--one of his two on the night--on the Catamount's first drive of the second quarter gave Duke the ball at Western Carolina's 37 yard line.

On third and nine after George's pick, Schneider ran for six yards to the 30 yard line, but he was hit hard by Catamount linebacker Lamar Barnes and defensive tackle Phillip Young. The Duke quarterback suffered a concussion on the play, forcing the Blue Devils to call a timeout and insert Smith back into the lineup.

Smith made a seamless entrance into the offense, hitting wide receiver Khary Sharpe in stride on the left sideline for 24 yards to keep the Blue Devil drive alive. He then connected with wide receiver Reggie Love--who led Duke with four receptions--in the endzone for the senior's first of two touchdowns on the evening.

"It was a little difficult coming in being cold," said Smith, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 120 yards just one week after a disastrous 47-yard performance against Virginia. "But I knew there would be a chance for me somewhere down the road." Coming out of halftime with a 16-0 lead, the Blue Devils erased any thoughts of a Catamount comeback less than one minute into the third quarter.

Western Carolina quarterback Brian Gaither, who finished 18 of 33 for 181 yards and three interceptions, was sacked by defensive end Philip Alexander on the team's second play of the drive. The ball was recovered tackle Matt Zielinski, putting Duke on the Catamount's one yard line.

Smith easily took the ball into the endzone on a quarterback sneak to give the Blue Devils a 22-0 cushion.

"We made a lot of big plays on defense," Franks said. "One of our goals is always to create turnovers on defense and not give any up on offense."

The Catamount's lone score in the game--a 26-yard field goal by Chris Vought with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter--denied Duke a chance to post its first shutout victory since it blanked North Carolina 41-0 on November 18, 1989.

"We were anxious to get the shutout tonight, but unfortunately we gave up the field goal," George said. "But we kept playing defense so we wouldn't let them get any more points after that. We knew that getting the first win of the season would be a big momentum boost and keep everybody striving for more wins the rest of the season."


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