For the first time in 12 years, Duke can finally claim to have a wackier offense than Georgia Tech.
Quentin Harris and the rest of the Blue Devil offense will be hoping that they can defeat the triple-option-less Yellow Jackets, as Duke hosts Georgia Tech for its 2019 Homecoming contest Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“Definitely a first. I don’t know how long [previous head] coach [Paul] Johnson was at Georgia Tech, but I know [they were running the triple-option] quite a while, at least since I’ve been watching college football or been a part of it,” Harris said. “It’s definitely different, but I’m sure they’ll know how to defend it. Just given some of the personnel they’ve had some of the past few years, they’re used to defending it every practice.”
Head coach David Cutcliffe expects neither Georgia Tech (1-4, 0-2 in the ACC) nor its new coaching staff to have forgotten the two teams’ history.
“I think… they as coaches have [some familiarity] with us," Cutcliffe said. "The Georgia Tech players are familiar with us, also. The game is still a game of personnel, and regardless of what you run and what you do, you have to win your personal battles, you have to play well, you have to execute well and I think for both teams, that will be more of the focus than worrying about past experiences.”
‘Jimmie’s and Joe’s, not X’s and O’s,’ as the saying goes. And that would certainly ring true for a Duke squad that has retained its coaches but replaced some key contributors this year. Last year’s team trounced North Carolina Central at Homecoming and left that weekend with a top-25 national ranking. This year’s team won’t sniff that, but that doesn’t mean the players are losing any focus.
This might be the most important game remaining for the Blue Devils (3-2, 1-1). There are a couple of competitive, yet winnable games left on their schedule, but no games more important than their Homecoming matchup. Alumni have been a good luck charm for over a decade, with Duke going 9-1 over their last 10 Homecomings in a time period which has seen every possible performance, from defensive battles to complete shootouts. Its place in the ACC has been just as wild, going from last place to bowl eligible and now back to the middle of the pack.
“I think that we’re all very evenly-matched, and all very capable of exploding,” Cutcliffe said. “I had felt the explosions of other teams before, and they had felt ours at times… when I say ‘even,’ a lot of people think it’s a sign of a lot of average teams—it’s not. There’s a lot of really good football played in the ACC.”
“Good football” is a bit of a stretch when none of the teams in the ACC Coastal Division are ranked. But “evenly-matched” could be a fair way to describe a division where the top team is just two games better overall than the bottom and a conference that at the turn of the century had somehow achieved 19 overall losing seasons in its first 67 years of existence. (For reference, the SEC has now accomplished this feat once in 87 years.)
Not that such a global level of mediocrity makes it any easier for Duke. And coming off a three-point divisional loss, Harris is as amped-up as ever to put the Blue Devils back into contention for a Coastal title.
“The balanced nature of the ACC and the Coastal Division—you know you’re in for a dogfight each week,” Harris said.
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