Two days after its 27-12 opening loss to Navy, the football team remained “disgusted” with its performance. Duke head coach Ted Roof and some of his players conceded that nerves affected the team’s ability to execute. Roof, however, said he would try to build on the positive aspects of his squad’s performance.
“It’s a new week, a new opponent [and] we have to put all that behind us,” Roof said. “[We have to] learn our lessons, learn what we did well. [We have to] understand what we need to improve on and move on and get ready to play a very good Connecticut team.”
Roof also said he wanted quarterbacks Mike Schneider and Chris Dapolito to “let loose” more on the field and throw more passes down the field. Navy, a team known primarily for its triple-option running game, threw for nearly 40 more yards than the Blue Devils.
“I think we need to be more decisive as far as making decisions and going with it,” Roof said of his quarterbacks. “We’ve got to let it go. That’s how we’re going to improve at that position.”
Duke will get its first chance to improve from its lackluster performance in Annapolis, Md., at Connecticut Saturday at 12 p.m.. Although the team moved up to Division I-A just two years ago, the Huskies have quickly adjusted to their new setting, finishing 9-3 in 2003. Connecticut ended last season with a 51-17 victory over Wake Forest and began 2004 with a 52-14 rout of Murray State.
Connecticut’s rise on the national scene has occurred under the tutelage of head coach Randy Edsall. Edsall and Roof both coached for Georgia Tech in 1998; Edsall was the defensive coordinator and Roof was the linebackers coach. The two remain friends, and Roof greatly admires what Edsall has accomplished at Connecticut.
“He’s a good football coach. He’s built a really good program up there,” Roof said. “[Connecticut’s] stuck with him and given him some resources. He’s done a nice job up there of building a program. He’s a worker.”
Although Edsall was known for his defensive tactics in Atlanta, the 2004 Huskies boast one of the top passing games in the country. Led by All-America candidate, quarterback Dan Orlovsky and several athletic receivers, the Huskies are a high-scoring threat every week. Unfortunately for Duke, Kenneth Stanford, the Blue Devils’ most experienced cornerback, is questionable for Saturday’s game after suffering an injury against Navy.
Cedric Dargan, who rushed for a career-high 114 yards against the Midshipmen, is expected to be completely healthy for the Huskies, after injuring his leg Saturday.
Optimistic about Connecticut, Duke players fell that their team would improve more this week than in any other of the season.
“We want to build on the game against Navy,” Dapolito said. “Offensively speaking, we need to execute more.... Having a game under your belt certainly helps a lot experience wise. It will calm your nerves now that you know what to expect.”
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