The Blue Devils hope to get their first win of the season Saturday against The Citadel. Duke's offense has struggled in its first four games but looks to gain momentum against the Division I-AA opponent.
The key word for the Duke football team (0-4) this Homecoming weekend is improvement. In an ACC matchup, improvement alone might be considered a moral victory—but against the winless Citadel (0-2), significant progress may be enough to yield a win.
To get that win, head coach Ted Roof wants to see improvement from top to bottom.
“We all have to play better, coach better—we’ve all got to do it all better,” Roof said.
When Roof says all, he is not just talking about the team itself. He means the entire program, including the fans.
“I want to thank the fans that came out last weekend, and at the same time encourage fans to please come out [Saturday at 2 p.m.],” Roof said. “It makes a difference, it really does. It makes a difference for our players, it makes a difference for recruiting, it makes a difference for the perception of our program and how we support our own school. I was very thankful for the people that did come, and I would like more to come this time.”
Wallace Wade Stadium was half full last week as No. 23 Maryland handed Duke a 55-21 shellacking in which the Terps scored 38 unanswered points. After losing badly in many areas, including time of possession (41:22 to 18:38), first downs (35 to 8) and total yards (685 to 185), the players realize they need to put one in the left column Saturday.
“We’re desperate for our first win just so we can get this thing going,” sophomore defensive tackle Casey Camero said. “We’ve played well in spurts, but haven’t been able to sustain it long enough.”
The Bulldogs, a Division I-AA team, are coming off a major loss in its own right, suffering a 33-3 defeat at the hands of No. 10 Auburn. First year head coach John Zernhelt, Duke’s offensive coordinator in 1995, emphasizes the running game on offense while employing a two-quarterback system similar to that of the Blue Devils. Senior running back Nehemiah Broughton, a 6-foot, 240-pound bruiser, gained 73 yards last week and will be counted on for more against the Blue Devils. The Citadel will start senior field general Justin Hardin, although freshman Duran Lawson is likely to receive a decent share of the snaps. Both will be looking for the wide receiver tandem of Jermaine Anderson and Rontreal Tyler to spark the offense.
“They’ve got an excellent tailback and a couple of different quarterbacks,” Roof said. “[Lawson] is mobile and [Hardin] is a little bit better thrower, and they’ve also got some big-play wideouts.”
Leading the defense are outside linebackers Julian West and Shawn Grant, who combined for 10 tackles for loss in the team’s first two games.
For Duke, questions continue to arise about the quarterback position. Sophomore Mike Schneider saw most of the action against the Terps, while fellow sophomore Curt Dukes took several snaps and senior Chris Dapolito sat on the bench for most of the game. This week, Roof plans to divide up the playing time in roughly the same manner.
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“Mike Schneider’s going to start and play quite a bit,” Roof said. “Curt Dukes is going to see some reps, and Chris Dapolito... I’ll see.”
Blue Devils freshmen Justin Boyle and Ronnie Drummer will share the load once again at tailback with Cedric Dargan injured, and they will look to better their combined total 36 rushing yards a week ago. Wide receivers Ronnie Elliott and Corey Thompson and tight end Ben Patrick will look to take advantage of a Citadel defense that allows an average of 300 passing yards per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore cornerback John Talley has already provided many big plays with three interceptions and a school-record two interception returns for touchdowns. Fellow cornerback Kenneth Stanford, defensive end Eli Nichols (two sacks) and linebacker Giuseppe Aguanno will do what they can as defensive leaders to secure Duke its first victory of the season.
“The Citadel is the next team on our schedule so we’ll go out and play as hard as we can,” freshman safety Chris Davis said. “That is all we can do: prepare for the game all week and then play the game.”