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Wins, injuries pile up in early-going for Duke

Duke Quarterback Football

Duke's Quentin Harris throws a pass during the second half of a game against Northwestern on Sept. 8. Harris is tasked with filling in for quarterback Daniel Jones, who is out indefinitely.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Somewhat wondrously, after being chased to Texas by a hurricane last Thursday, after marching into Baylor’s stadium last weekend without its NFL prospect at quarterback, and after losing more starters during the first three weeks than during any three-game stretch last season, Duke football has two power five road victories and a 3-0 start to its name.

Finally, a deep breath.

“We are very glad to be home,” Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe emphasized on Wednesday.

On Saturday, in its first home game since the last day of August, Duke will have its easiest on-paper game yet: the Durham Bull City Classic against FCS opponent N.C. Central, which the Blue Devils handled to open 2017 by a 60-7 score.

Should they take care of business, they’ll be 4-0 for the second straight year, with a consensus big game next week at home against No. 13 Virginia Tech, an ACC matchup which Duke may also enter ranked.

But Cutcliffe, just 10 words into his opening statement during availability on Wednesday, mentioned the injuries, not the 61 votes his team received in AP poll voting. Five starters were unavailable against the Bears, and two more left the game. 

“I am ready for that to slow down,” Cutcliffe said of his team’s health problems. “We’re plugging people in the kicking game. We literally were plugging people that hadn’t played in certain places in the game. So I’d like to see that slow down, but I am very proud of our coaches and very proud of our players for responding as well as they have.”

The recruiting at the affected positions, and the depth they’ve enjoyed, said Cutcliffe, have also been positives in their three-game start. That was apparent with quarterback Quentin Harris, who was plugged in in the absence of Daniel Jones. The junior went 12-of-30 throwing the ball, but had three passing touchdowns and 83 yards rushing.

“He was effective with explosive plays. He ran the ball well when we asked him to run the ball, which didn’t surprise me,” Cutcliffe said. “But he managed the game. We didn’t turn the ball over.”

Against the Eagles, it will be more of Harris.

Jones ‘moving well’

The fractured left clavicle that threatened to cave Duke’s upstart season against Northwestern 11 days ago slowed a great start to Daniel Jones’ season.

And, while the ACC is no longer obligated to disclose injuries or release injury reports, Cutlciffe gave a promising update on his quarterback on Wednesday.

He has been practicing, said the coach, though the suffered injury still has him out indefinitely.

“He’s a tough young man, so he has actually put on pads and gone through practice,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s no-contact, obviously, but he’s gaining his confidence back. He’s moving well. He’s running well. So it’s hard to say. We’re still indefinite, but our medical people are absolutely amazed at what he’s doing.”

Unblemished

Duke is 6-0 in the Bull City Classic against N.C. Central, its 60-7 victory last year its largest scoring output.

The Eagles enter the game 1-1, having beat NCAA Division II opponent St. Augustine’s 51-14 last week.

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