DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Coaches and players alike live by the mantra “short memory” in the football world. This way one bad play will not affect the next and create the dreaded downhill spiral that ruins entire games.
The Duke football team has managed to do this for the most part but there is something about the 49-6 loss Syracuse put on the Blue Devils last year they haven’t been able to move on from.
“It’s a big challenge for us,’ said Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe. “A year ago they came down here and spanked us pretty badly.”
The Blue Devils were on a three-game slide. They were 14 days removed from the botched jump pass loss to UNC and fresh off a tough battle with Notre Dame. They were drained physically and emotionally. The Orange came to Durham on their own 4 game slide but were fine-tuning their offense in each loss.
“I think a year ago that was a unique game in itself. A real low point for our team,” said Cutcliffe. “Not just a low point after the game, really before. I think there were things we needed to address, and we did later.”
Just not in time for the Syracuse offense to put up almost 400 yards of total offense on the Blue Devils and jumping out to a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions. Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
The Syracuse backfield, which only had one 100-yard rusher in its first nine games, had two players break the century mark on the ground. Moe Neal and Jarveon Howard scored touchdowns and both rushed for 115 yards each.
The Orange put up a season-best 286 yards rushing and took full advantage of three Duke turnovers all while keeping the Blue Devil offense out of the end zone.
“Last year’s game and the score was definitely unacceptable and me personally and left a sour taste in my mouth and I know it left a bad taste in the rest of my teammates,’ said running back Deon Jackson. “We are extremely motivated more than ever to come to this game and come out with a win.”
Different season, different setting but David Cutcliffe is hoping just enough of last year’s game is still in the back of the mind of those players that were there last year. You can give pregame speeches and you can have motto’s but nothing gets a true competitor ready more than a chance at redemption.
“I do think any football player is embarrassed by poor performance and they want to respond,” said Cutcliffe. “They’re well aware of what occurred a year ago.”
“We’re using it for motivation because last year and we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, said cornerback Leonard Johnson. “We have been game planning and we know they like to hurry up on offense so we’re getting ready for that.”
They have waited almost a year for redemption. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
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