DURHAM - Duke coach David Cutcliffe said on Tuesday that there was no reason for his players to grow a big head after a convincing 49-28 victory over N.C. State on Oct. 10.
"I certainly wouldn't think we should get big-headed about anything around here," he said. "The only thing I want them to be is confident."
Confidence is a word Duke coaches and players are using freely to describe how they feel after an off week headed into Saturday's contest against Maryland (2-5, 1-2 ACC) at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Blue Devils (3-3, 1-1) enter into Saturday's contest filled with the belief that they can compete with any ACC team after playing Virginia Tech close and then dominating the Wolfpack in back to back weeks.
"I would characterize it as an earned good feeling," Duke's Catron Gainey said. "We feel good right now, but we only feel good because we know we worked hard. And in order to keep feeling good we have to keep working hard."
Some players say they are now entering a new season where the team's record is 0-0. They want to forget about earlier season losses to Richmond, a Football Championship Subdivision team, and Kansas.
"We try to look at this part of the season as a second half, as a whole new season," Duke senior Re'quan Boyette said. "We ended up 3-3 in the first half and we want to end up improving on that in the second half in these next six games. ... We want to get out and show ourselves and prove what we can do and that we have the players to win here at Duke."
Duke faces a Maryland team it has not played in five seasons, one Cutcliffe said is better than some might believe. He said Terp's physical talents at the line scrimmage will test the Devils.
Cutcliffe announced that freshman running back Desmond Scott will likely start in Saturday's game. The Devils have struggled to produce any consistent traditional running game, though they have been successful dumping short passes into the flat.
Duke will again live by its passing game, which helped them roll over the Wolfpack. Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis completed 40 of 50 pass attempts for 459 yards and five touchdowns.
The way Duke so masterfully passed against N.C. State has others seeing them in a different light. Talk of possible bowl eligibility is once again resurfacing.
Earlier in the season, Cutcliffe said his team should be a bowl team, though he said getting there would be left up to how they performed. With six games on the schedule, the Devils need four victories to become bowl eligible.
Naysayers will look at the schedule - Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami and Wake Forest - and wonder aloud if the Devils, a team with a history of losing, can fight through the remainder of its conference schedule and come out with enough wins.
Duke, on the other hand, sees a pathway to its goal of finishing the year in a bowl game.
"We feel like we're a team that has opportunity in front of us and we need to capitalize on it," Lewis said.