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Duke Now is your place for Blue Devil hoops and football. Beat writer Laura Keeley has up-to-the-minute news and analysis. Columnist Luke DeCock also contributes. Follow us on Twitter at @laurakeeley or @accnow.

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Duke coach David Cutcliffe laughs off Tennessee rumors

When asked about the Tennessee job, David Cutcliffe said he's only focused on Duke. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Get used to this, Duke fans: there's talk in Tennessee of trying to lure David Cutcliffe to the Volunteers.

Earlier today, while Cutcliffe was on the weekly ACC football coaches conference call, I tweeted out a link to a column from Joe Biddle, who works for the ABC affiliate in Nashville. The title: Would David Cutcliffe be Tennessee's Answer?

Ross Cockrell's personal rise mirrors Duke's rise

 

Now that he's had success, Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell can laugh off memories of his struggles.

DURHAM—Two years ago, on a nearly every-week basis, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe told the media that Ross Cockrell was going to be a great football player.

And every time, the reporters would pause, put their hand to their mouth or reveal whatever was their personal tell that indicated disbelief.

But now, two years later, a question was posed to Cutcliffe: is Ross Cockrell the best cornerback in the ACC?

Quick hits from Duke's David Cutcliffe on Florida State

Tags: Duke Now

Last Saturday was a banner day for Duke football, but it can't be the last one, David Cutcliffe said. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Here's a summary of what Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. Topics this week included the big, bowl-clinching win over North Carolina (including the pre-snap hit that injured Conner Vernon) and this Saturday's trip to Florida State. The highlight is unquestionably Cutcliffe's description of EJ Manuel, whom he did recruit in high school. 

David Cutcliffe on bowl eligibility: "There is a burden gone"

One Winter 2007 morning, David Cutcliffe saw the potential in Duke football. Saturday, everyone saw it, too. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

While the Blue Devils (and this blog) have already turned their attention to next Saturday's game at Florida State, here's one more post on Duke's bowl-clinching win over North Carolina.

First, if you haven't read Luke DeCock's two columns, one from Saturday night and one today on what the win means to recent Duke football alumni, check those out.

I wrote a story for today's paper detailing the beginning of Duke's trek to six wins. The origins date back to the wee hours of one 2007 winter morning, when David Cutcliffe sat alone in an empty Wallace Wade Stadium. After his peaceful moment, he went through his scheduled interviews and was eventually offered the Duke head coaching job. The rest is history.

Emotions were obviously running high in the aftermath of the 33-30 win over UNC. But which emotions? After the game, Cutcliffe was asked if finally earning win No. 6 took a burden off the team.

"It’s only natural that that’s what everybody around them was talking to them about because of the length of time we have not been in a bowl game," Cutcliffe said about his players. "I would be naïve to not think they weren’t hearing that everywhere they go. That’s a great thing. I saw it in the senior’s faces particularly, to have it behind you. What I expect is that there is a burden gone, but there’s a hunger that needs to be created that’s greater." 

If you have access to a replay of the game, look closely at Sean Renfree's face on the sideline after he throws the game-winning touchdown pass. You'll see tears. 

Know the Foe: Florida State

 

Devonta Freeman is part of what is now a two-headed running attack for Florida State. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Every week, I do a little bit on Duke's upcoming opponent for the Tuesday paper. Why has it taken me until week nine to post one here? Good question. 

No. 11 Florida State (7-1, 4-1 in the ACC)

Last time out: beat Miami 33-20

Name to know: James Wilder Jr. will likely receive the majority of carries at running back on Saturday. The sophomore will take over for Chris Thompson, the Seminoles’ leading rusher who was lost for the season with a torn ACL last week against Miami.

Wilder was the top-rated recruit as a senior at Tampa Plant in 2010. After struggling with the playbook last season, he has rebounded this year and has collected 369 yards on 61 carries (an average of six yards per touch) along with a team-high seven rushing touchdowns.

Wilder is complemented by fellow sophomore Devonta Freeman. Last week against Miami, the dup combined for 119 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

UNC CB Jabari Price on Tim Jackson cut block play: It was a nasty play and something should be done

CHAPEL HILL — There are two plays from Duke’s 33-30 victory against North Carolina on Saturday that a lot of people are talking about today. One, we’ve already discussed right here – that strange moment when UNC freshman linebacker Shakeel Rashad collided with Duke receiver Conner Vernon.

The other play happened a few moments after that one. I’ve posted the video of it above. On that play, Brian Moore, a senior center for Duke, engages Tim Jackson, the North Carolina defensive tackle. Moore and Jackson aren’t near the action, as the clip above shows, but Moore stands Jackson up and then cuts him down. 

1350929936 UNC CB Jabari Price on Tim Jackson cut block play: It was a nasty play and something should be done The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Florida State loses top running back Chris Thompson for the year

 

FSU quarterback EJ Manuel will have one less option in his backfield after Chris Thompson's ACL injury. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Florida State will go into its game against Duke without its leading rusher, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. Chris Thompson tore his left ACL in last week's game against Miami, ending his season.

"He was upset, very disappointed," Fisher said. Having a great year, doing everything right. He's what's right about college football. I say it all the time. But this game takes no prisoners. It's a very unforgiving game."

Thompson was leading the Seminoles with 687 rushing yards on 91 attempts, an average of 7.5 yards per carry. He was also on track to become the first Florida State running back to eclipse 1,000 yards since Warrick Dunn topped that mark in 1996. 

ACC suspends UNC LB Shakeel Rashad one game for run-in with Duke WR Conner Vernon

5 p.m. update: The ACC announced that North Carolina LB Shakeel Rashad would be suspended for one game "for his dangerous collision against an unsuspecting Duke player during a substitution in the second quarter." Additionally, head linesman Tyrone Davis and side judge Angie Bartis have were given one-game suspensions "for failure to adhere to correct mechanics of the game and rules related to player safety."

Also, The N&O's UNC beat writer, Andrew Carter, wrote about Larry Fedora's response to the incident earlier today. In short, he felt Rashad's hit was unintentional.

In a game full of twists and turns, a pre-snap collision in the second quarter may have been the most eyebrow-raising of all. At the very least, it has caught the attention of the ACC league office. 

Take a look at the above video, which, for the record, was titled by the individual that posted it, not me. What it shows is UNC LB Shakeel Rashad, a true freshman, running into Duke WR Conner Vernon from behind. Vernon went down to the ground, rolled around and the trainers came out. He went off the field and was back on the next snap. 

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said he was told by an official that Rashad had been running backwards and bumped into Vernon. Now, that's clearly not true, and Cutcliffe saw as much when he reviewed the game tape Sunday morning. 

Rewind: Duke vs. UNC

 

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe receieved a bowl-clinching Gatorade bath 17 years in the making. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Duke (6-2, 3-1 in the ACC, first in the Coastal Division)

The epigraph: "That’s what college football is all about right there. Playing a big rival, being at home and playing in front of a fantastic crowd, the best crowd I’ve ever seen here, and that really pushed us over the top." — Duke quarterback Sean Renfree
 
What worked: Duke ran the ball more effectively than they had at any point in David Cutcliffe's five-year tenure. Against UNC's 14th-ranked rushing offense, Duke collected 234 yards on the ground, the most for the Blue Devils since they ran for 253 in an Oct. 28, 2006 loss to Vanderbilt. Duke attempted a season-high 53 rushes, and Juwan Thompson gained 64 yards on 11 carries, Jela Duncan 74 yards on 22 handoffs, and Josh Snead set a new career-high with 99 yards on 15 attempts.

"Sneed was on fire. He was possessed, the way he played tonight," Cutcliffe said. "He was knifing, and he’s more physical than people think."

Duke gorges UNC on the ground

 

Duke's Kenny Anunike (84) and Brandon Connette (18) brought the victory bell into the Blue Devils' locker room. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY 

DURHAM—Duke turned in its most impressive rushing performance of the David Cutcliffe era, running for 234 yards on a season-high 53 carries. And it came against one of the best run defenses in the country.

North Carolina, ranked 14th in the nation with an average of just 99.7 rushing yards allowed per game. Before Duke rushed for its 232 yards, the previous high for a North Carolina opponent was 183 yards to Louisville. Duke’s total was also well above the Blue Devils average of 111.1 yards per game.