For the first time in 11 years, the Blue Devils will take the short 22-mile trip to Carter-Finley Stadium, home of the N.C. State Wolfpack.
Duke takes on N.C. State Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Raleigh, the two programs’ first matchup since a meeting at Wallace Wade Stadium in 2013. After a four-game losing streak to start the season, Duke celebrated its first win last Saturday against Syracuse and will look to start a winning streak this week against the Wolfpack.
“Proud that our team was able to go get a road win, and a convincing win in a lot of ways,” head coach David Cutcliffe said of the win against the Orange. “But obviously if you saw that game, there is a lot left to work on.”
Starting quarterback Chase Brice posted his best stat line of the season against Syracuse, yet still struggled with inconsistency. Cutcliffe actually switched out Brice in favor of redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holmberg early in the second quarter. While Brice promptly returned after one drive, proving the switch was likely due to a hard hit he had taken on the previous possession, Holmberg impressed in his limited minutes.
For this upcoming matchup, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some experimenting at the quarterback position for the Blue Devils—turnovers have plagued Duke (1-4, 1-4 in the ACC) all season and will certainly be an important factor in Saturday’s outcome.
The X-factor, however, will be the Blue Devil running backs. Duke rushed for 363 yards against the Orange, nearly matching its previous season total. Senior Deon Jackson and junior Mataeo Durant combined for over 150 yards in the first quarter alone, which, along with a strong performance on the defensive end, helped power the Blue Devils to a commanding victory.
Senior defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo will look to build off the momentum of the Syracuse win, in which he contributed six tackles, three tackles for loss and his first sack of the season.
“I wanted to tell Derrick [that] he had an impact in that game,” Cutcliffe said. “An interior defensive lineman can be a disruptor much faster than an edge guy, because they can do it consistently on every play. I thought he’s healthier than he has been, and I think he played terrific in the game.”
On the other hand, N.C. State (3-1, 3-1), led by eighth-year head coach Dave Doeren, has gotten off to a hot start, including a 38-21 win at Virginia last week. The Wolfpack shot out to an early lead behind their high-powered offense, but the most iconic play of the game was an interception early in the fourth quarter by 320-pound defensive tackle Alim McNeil, who turned it into an 18-yard touchdown that secured the N.C. State victory.
The Blue Devils must continue their focus on mitigating turnovers in order to avoid such misfortunes Saturday.
N.C. State has had some tough injury luck this season. Cornerback Teshaun Smith and safety Rakeim Ashford have been ruled out for the rest of the season, while safety Khalid Martin remains out indefinitely. Nevertheless, the Wolfpack have actually improved their points against average over their last two games and will look to stay hot against Duke.
Overall, there will be a lot at stake in Saturday’s matchup. Due to their placement in opposite divisions during a normal ACC season, this will likely be one of the few matchups between Duke and N.C State in this decade, despite their close proximity.
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“[Playing N.C. State] is a great thing,” Cutclliffe said. “But at the same time it’s not really something that you can do from an ACC standpoint when you have 14 teams in [two] divisions…. I don’t think they’re going to have us play every year.”