With a spotless 3-0 record, the Blue Devils will travel to Lawrence, Kan., this Saturday, to face off against another 3-0 program, the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas, coming off of an impressive 48-30 victory at Houston, are heavy 7.5-point favorites in the matchup. However, Duke will go into Saturday riding the momentum from its blowout win against North Carolina A&T. Here are five things to look for when the game kicks off.
Going into Saturday afternoon’s showdown in Lawrence, the Blue Devils are treating the matchup as just another game. Saturday’s highly anticipated matchup is the last nonconference tuneup before Duke enters ACC play. However, the Blue Devils have prepared just like any other game.
“There are no big games, there’s just the next game,” Duke head coach Mike Elko said in media availability Monday. “That mindset is the mindset that we want our program to have.”
Elko’s message clearly resonates with his players. Sophomore wideout Jordan Moore is coming off yet another touchdown performance, his third of the year, yet he is remaining focused on the goal ahead.
“We look forward to every game the same, I mean, we only get 12 of these guaranteed,” Moore said in Tuesday’s media availability. “Every one is as precious as the next one.”
Sustaining fast starts
In the Blue Devils’ last two games, they have shot out to large leads, but struggled to grow them in the second quarter. In fact, Northwestern and North Carolina A&T have combined to outscore Duke by two points across both second quarters. The Jayhawks, on the other hand, just outscored Houston by 14 in the second quarter.
“I did think we hit a lull in the second quarter,” Elko said. “[I] really challenged them at halftime to come out in the third quarter and get back to playing the way we are capable of.”
Nevertheless, the slow second frame has come off of a lighting-quick first, something Elko does not want to give up.
“I don’t want to trade starting fast,” Elko said. “I think sometimes maybe we relax a little bit at times more than I would like us to.”
A true road game
The hype around this matchup is palpable in Lawrence, and like Duke last weekend, Kansas expects this game to be a near-47,000-person sellout. Although there will be noise, and plenty of it, Elko expects their previous road trip to Northwestern to pay dividends.
“Certainly for your kids, there’s a little less anxiousness when they’ve been through it all,” Elko said.
In order to come back to Durham as a 4-0 football team, the Blue Devils will need to stay composed in deafening conditions.
Balancing the running back room
Following the Northwestern game, Elko’s offense had two running backs rise to the top of the pack, redshirt juniors Jordan Waters and Jaylen Coleman, leaving out sophomore back Jaquez Moore.
Against the Wildcats, Waters and Coleman combined for 21 carries and 174 yards, while Jaquez Moore had four carries for nine yards. Similarly, he had four carries against North Carolina A&T, while Waters and Coleman had 10 apiece.
“I love Quez [Moore],” Elko said. “He still plays a role in that equation for sure. That just continues to speak about the character of the kids that we have in our locker room.”
In order to keep the Jayhawk defense uncomfortable, it will be up to Duke to throw different offensive looks at Kansas, possibly incorporating all three backs to a greater degree.
Battle of the blue bloods
Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky are known for their men’s basketball successes, not football. However, this year is the first year in college football history where all four schools’ football programs have gone 3-0 to start their seasons.
Although the men’s basketball teams will meet in November, Duke-Kansas is now a huge college football matchup. The pressure will be there for both programs, as just one loss could diminish the hype surrounding their respective teams. That hype could make this game the biggest test of Elko’s head coaching tenure so far. Duke must play its best game of the season this weekend in order to escape David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium as an undefeated team.
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