CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – The Duke Blue Devils football team put up big numbers through the air and on the ground, but in the end the only numbers that mattered were on the scoreboard as Duke fell in upset fashion on the road to the Charlotte 49ers, 31-28.
“They (Charlotte) played well, they are a good football team,” Duke head coach David Cutlciffe. “Certainly I wouldn’t call us one yet (a good team), and I’m going to say yet, because I believe we can be.”
The Blue Devils offense moved the football up and down the field all game long. Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg threw for 258 yards and a touchdown in his first career start, while running back Mataeo Durant rushed for a school-record 255 yards on 29 carries and had scoring runs of 59, 53 and five yards.
“He (Mataeo) is a great finisher. He’s been a leader for us the entire time he’s been here,” Cutcliffe said. “Since we came back in January I don’t know that anybody has worked harder.”
Charlotte jumped out to a 10-point lead, but Durant and fellow back Jordan Waters sparked life into the Blue Devils, through their ground game, beginning in the second quarter.
Waters scored Duke’s first touchdown, a 43-yard catch-and-sprint, while Durant added his 5-yard rush to put Duke on top 14-10 with 5:58 until the half.
“Overall as a team we came out and played very well and we were very consistent,” Durant. “At the end of the day you just have to live with some of the results sometimes.”
The game featured six lead changes, including three in the fourth quarter.
Unlike last season, Duke took much better care of the football, only giving up a single fumble. However, it proved costly as it came inside Charlotte’s 5-yard line, rolled into the end zone and was recovered by the 49ers for a touchback.
“We turn it over, they don’t, and that’s an age-old story; that’s literally the way this game came down,” Cutcliffe said. “They did a better job of taking advantage of their opportunities and their explosive plays, we didn’t.”
Cutcliffe went on to say Duke had a number of first-game jitters he takes responsibility for, things the team as a whole has a lot to work on.
He said he believes in is team, thinks it has more than enough capable players that will hit the practice field Saturday and beyond to build on what they did do well against Charlotte, as well as make corrections.
“The spirit of this team is not broken by any means,” Cutcliffe said. “The team is not broken.”
The Blue Devils hit the field next Friday in Wallace-Wade Stadium when they host North Carolina A&T. Kick off is set for 8 p.m.