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Cutcliffe & Co. Prepare For Hanna

Northwestern comes to town Friday afternoon for its Saturday night matchup with Duke, but the Blue Devils are also competing with another force in their second game: Tropical Storm Hanna. The highly disorganized storm system is expected to make landfall somewhere on the North or South Carolina coast early Saturday morning and its effects will likely litter the region throughout the day. Given the current weather reports, it looks like the Triangle will be spared the brunt of the rain and it might not even be raining at game time—unlike last week's game, which was delayed 87 minutes because of lightning.

Still, Hanna is sure to have an effect on the matchup. The field in Wallace Wade Stadium figures to be slick for the second straight week, and quarterback Thaddeus Lewis struggled at times with a wet ball against James Madison. A slippery and muddy field seems to favor Northwestern, which has a markedly better running game, led by star back Tyrell Sutton. Duke's three-headed attack of Clifford Harris, Tony Jackson and Jay Hollingsworth performed admirably against the Dukes, combining for more than 200 yards, but it is still an untested corps playing against its first Division I-A defense.

But head coach David Cutcliffe said Thursday that his team has prepared for wet games all season, which might put the Blue Devils at an advantage if Hanna makes her presence felt.

"When you look at game plans, you have to be prepared for potential torrential rain," Cutcliffe said. "We have somewhat of a rain plan all the time—offensively, defensively, it kind of goes in the same thing. Just through the years, [we have] developed some philosophy. We have rehearsed some of that. We have a wet ball drill every week, although we have played with a lot of wet balls this year. We have had a lot of moisture in practice, but you just have to keep them focused on what we can control, and we certainly can't control Mrs. Hanna."

I traded e-mails with Northwestern's Assistant Athletic Director Mike Wolf Wednesday about the Wildcats' travel plans, and he told me the team is flying out of O'Hare early Friday afternoon and will watch the radar and adjust accordingly, if need be. Duke Athletics officials are holding a conference call with the ACC and Northwestern officials Friday morning to determine their course of action, depending on the updated track of the storm, Associate Athletic Director Mitch Moser told The Chronicle Wednesday.

A few points of interest: Wallace Wade's drainage system was installed in 1997 and the field is crowned toward the sidelines, so rain flows to the track surrounding the field.... The game will be broadcast on ACC Select, meaning the two teams don't have to deal with television because the ACC can film and tape delay at any time.... Northwestern and Duke don't share the same bye weeks.

More on this developing story in The Chronicle tomorrow.

—by Ben Cohen


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