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Duke football looks to bounce back in home-opener against Boston College

Transfer quarterback Chase Brice has quickly become the face of Duke's offense.
Transfer quarterback Chase Brice has quickly become the face of Duke's offense.

After a competitive matchup at now-No. 7 Notre Dame, Duke has caught the attention of many across the nation. 

Moving into the team’s home-opener against Boston College this Saturday at 12 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium, head coach David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils will look to make another statement, this time with a win. 

“We’re looking forward to another ACC football game,” Cutcliffe said. “Every week you’re playing conference football and you better play at a high level.”

What will Chase Brice bring?

After throwing for 259 yards and adding a rushing touchdown, quarterback Chase Brice is no longer known as the transfer from Clemson—he is Duke’s starting quarterback. Throughout this past week, Cutcliffe and Brice both emphasized the importance of the former Tiger taking ownership of the offense. And as he becomes more comfortable leading the team on that end of the field, Brice should significantly improve upon an already-solid start to his Blue Devil career.

“He is starting to feel ownership of the offense," Cutcliffe said. "And that is what you have to do as a starting quarterback."

Seven players hauled in a reception against the Fighting Irish, though none of Brice’s passes reached the arms of redshirt junior wideout Damond Philyaw-Johnson. Throughout the week, Brice also expressed his desire to get the speedy receiver more involved with opportunities to make big plays in open space. 

A home matchup against Boston College certainly brings less hostility and uncertainty than a trip to South Bend, Ind., and Brice is ready to impress on his home field.

“That starts with leadership,” Brice said. “And for me to be the starter here, I have to take a larger role into that, being more vocal, leading in every category, on and off the field.”

Can the Blue Devils improve their running game?

After rushing for just 73 yards against Notre Dame, Duke will definitely hope for improved production on the ground this Saturday. While Boston College ranked 11th in the ACC in rush defense last season, the Eagles’  talented and deep armada of linebackers still pose a tough challenge for the Blue Devils. 

In addition to the returners in the middle, graduate transfers Chibueze Onwuka and Luc Bequette are sure to increase Boston College’s physicality up front. Cutcliffe emphasized that if Duke can improve on finishing blocks and finding holes, the running game can open the rest of the offense up and help Brice get the ball down the field. 

“We missed some opportunities out there, left some yards on the field,” Cutcliffe said. “A big part of that is we’ve had very little live running the football.”

Who will win the battle in the trenches?

Boston College is a traditionally physical team on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, Duke’s defensive line impressed many in the first half against the Fighting Irish before allowing Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams to pick up 73 second-half yards.

The Blue Devils will need to contain the Eagles in the running game if they hope to nab their first win Saturday. Senior defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo emphasized the need to limit explosive plays, though he was impressed with the younger players’ week one performance. 

“It definitely helps us going forward,” Tangelo said of Duke’s ability to compete against the Fighting Irish’s talented offensive line for much of last Saturday’s contest. “The first game, to see what you got, see what you’re doing good, see what you need to work on. I feel like it was a good day for us. I feel like it showed us that if we show up and we work hard, we can compete. So I definitely feel like it gave us a little bit of momentum.”

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