DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The last time the Blue Devils played in Carter Finley Stadium was October 10th, 2009.
Thaddeus Lewis was under center for Duke. Russell Wilson was taking the snaps for the Wolfpack. Lewis went 40-of-50 on the afternoon for 459 yards with six total TD’s 5 of them passing.
The Blue Devils won the game 49-29.
Duke fans would love for history to repeat itself this weekend, but the 2020 Blue Devils are a band still searching for their sound while the Wolfpack is headlining shows.
“They’re physical and they tackle well,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. “They play well together. Very impressive defensive team.”
One thing the Wolfpack has been able to do is light up the scoreboard.
In their only loss this year against Virginia Tech, they managed to score 24 points.
With a season high 45 against Wake Forest, Dave Doeren and company have shown it doesn’t take long before opponents can be looking at an insurmountable lead.
“They’re balanced on offense. They do a great job of mixing things up with run and pass,” said Cutcliffe. “That’s one of the greatest elements you can have offensively.”
Devin Leary settling in at quarterback has helped the team tremendously.
The Wolfpack offensive line has given him plenty of time to operate as well.
Emeka Emezie and Devin Carter are a couple of favorite targets with numerous big catches between them.
“We need to rush the passer. You can’t let people hold the ball,” said Cutcliffe.
“I feel like being a disruptor is a part of my game,” said Duke defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo. “My coach always says you never know when the play is going to come but when they come you have to be ready to make them.”
The air attack is good for shock and awe but it’s the ground attack that chews up teams and time alike. The 1-2 punch in the backfield of Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person is starting to really blossom.
“You have to try to stop the run. Everybody in football says it. It’s much easier to say it than it is to do it,” said Cutcliffe. “We’ve got to do a tremendous job of being in gaps. We’ve got to do a tremendous job of trying to whip blocks. You got to stop the run game before it really gets started.”
“They are very good offense. They are very talented they do a lot of things to try and get you out into space,” said Duke defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo. “I feel like one thing we really have to do is be physical. Run to the ball, follow the fundamentals and just believe in the game plan. I feel like that’ll take us a long way.”
Cutcliffe knows Thaddeus Lewis isn’t walking through the locker room door, but he doesn’t have to for the Blue Devils to win.
Duke has shown they can play with anybody when they limit their mistakes. When the Blue Devils won in 2009, it was the start of a 3-game winning streak.
A win Saturday might be enough to propel this team to bigger run to finish out 2020.
“I never played NC State my whole career here, but I always heard they were good.” said Tangelo. “You always want to compete against the bed, so I feel like it’s a great opportunity just to go against another great school in North Carolina and show everybody what you have to prove.”
“We’ve got to finish blocks. We’ve got to finish tackles. We have to avoid giving up explosive plays as well,” said Cutcliffe. “The reason I’m saying all that kind of leads to this week. We’re playing a really, really good North Carolina State team, that’s well coached. All three phases, they know how to win football games.”
If Duke can put together four solid quarters of football without turning the ball over, they might not set records like the last time they were inside Carter Finley. But they can certainly win a football game there.