by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM David Cutcliffe said he was a little bit worried about the media after his Duke football team dropped its season opener to visiting Richmond on Saturday night.
The Blue Devils were competitive against the defending NCAA Division I (Championship Subdivision) champions in a 24-16 loss in a nearly full house at home. But Duke never led and couldn't complete a fourth-quarter comeback.
Duke's next two games are now on the road, beginning with a visit to Army (1-0), which beat Eastern Michigan 27-14 on Saturday in its first game under former Cal Poly coach Rich Ellerson. Duke leads the all-time series 10-9-1, but the teams haven't played since 1997.
"Are y'all saying I'm in the hot seat?" the Blue Devil coach said today after noticing the warm temperature in the media room at the Brooks Football Building. "I did bring a cookie (from the media luncheon.) In case none of y'all were sweet to me, I could eat my cookie. When I came in the room I was looking for ankle casts, trying to see if anybody had broken his ankle jumping off the bandwagon."
Duke's kicking game was a disaster against the Spiders, with the first punt blocked for a touchdown and both field-goal attempts going awry.
The kicking game was an aspect the Blue Devils sorely needed to win on a night when they rushed for only 19 yards and never forced a turnover.
"For us to win, we have to first win the kicking game," Cutcliffe said. "And we've known that since we've been here. We dad-gum could've won the kicking game (against the Spiders.) We had opportunities."
Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis (pictured) had a career night throwing the ball against the Spiders, completing 34 of 55 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns.
Lewis said one loss is no reason for the Blue Devils to panic.
"We fell short of one goal - we're not going 12-0," Lewis said. "Richmond has a good defense, a very good defense. Their defense was set up to stop the run, and we didn't respond to it very well."
Cutcliffe was disappointed in the overall effort, and came prepared with a plan to beat the Black Knights and their triple-option offensive machine.
"Army is well-coached in the kicking game as you might imagine," Cutcliffe said. "We have to be way more physical in the kicking game. We were not near as physical as (Richmond.) Army is extremely physical. They will flat mix it up with you.
"We have to be consistent on third-down conversions. We have to be really good there.
"We need to have consistency in our execution first. It kills you that you have flashes where you play extremely well and then you have letups that occur. We've got to do it for 60 minutes for us to be a good football team."
Some of the Blue Devils' leaders were at the weekly press event, and instead of pointing fingers at teammates after the Richmond loss they were pointing them at themselves.
"We had all the energy and enthusiasm in practice (last week) that we're bringing this week," cornerback Leon Wright said. "At some point in the (Richmond) game we lost it and didn't get it back. We're just going to continue doing what we do best, working hard.
"We were looking for each other to pick us up. No one picked us up. I suppose you can blame the nine seniors for not picking us up, and I take responsibility for that. Especially on defense."