by Mike Potter
Duke football coach David Cutcliffe said he got a big surprise when he settled in in Durham a year and a half ago.
Once he got outside the campus walls, he found himself surrounded by fans of the University of North Carolina, the team his Blue Devils will take on in the annual Victory Bell game on Saturday at 3:30 at UNC's Kenan Stadium.
The game between the Blue Devils (5-3, 3-1 ACC) and Tar Heels (5-3, 1-3) will be shown on ESPNU.
"I learned how close (the schools) were together, and I had no idea 'til I got here," Cutcliffe said. "It's amazing. And then every time whether I go into my little places I go, Target or Harris-Teeter, there's nothing but North Carolina fans everywhere. I think I realized quickly that I was reconnaissance, not coach. Behind enemy lines, sending out reports, you know? It's pretty amazing that you're surrounded by so many fans of North Carolina.
"Go in there and look and see what they're selling in the front of the store. Go in any of the sports stores and see what they're selling. Obviously they've earned that. ... I do get a lot of comments (from UNC fans), and I haven't really had anybody be negative. But I get a lot of comments, and my wife tells me next time I don't get to go. I get maybe one trip to Target and one to the grocery store a year. After that, I'm shut out."
Cutcliffe said Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has been helpful to him in dealing with what is often called the "Battle of the Blues."
"He has a great perspective on this rivalry, as you might imagine," Cutcliffe said, recalling the first time he saw the two basketball teams square off at Cameron Indoor Stadium. "It's been two unbelievably great (basketball) programs. I think one of the things that I remember most that impressed me was that Coach Krzyzewski had great respect for the type programs both Duke and North Carolina were in basketball. He said, 'I hope it can turn into a rivalry for you guys.' He said, 'They've got good people, we've got good people. They do things right, we do things right. Let's just settle it out there on the floor.'
"I was really impressed with that, and that's the way any great rivalry should be. He wasn't bad-mouthing North Carolina, none of that. He had nothing but positive things to say, just how much energy and how positive that rivalry was between Duke and North Carolina. I was overly impressed with his comments in that regard, because I've been around some of the uglier rivalries in college athletics. Then I went to that ball game and I couldn't speak, hardly, just watching those kids compete in both programs and both coaches coach, and when the dust settled everyone went on their way. It was pretty impressive."
Cutcliffe has announced his game captains for Saturday, and the list is no surprise.
Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will be a captain for the sixth time this season, joined by sophomores wideout Johnny Williams and tackle Kyle Hill on the offensive side. The defensive captains are seniors nose tackle Vince Oghobaase and middle linebacker Vincent Rey.
Duke released its injury list on Thursday and it's a short one, with cornerback Lee Butler (leg) probable and linebacker Abraham Kromah (leg) questionable.
Two Blue Devils get academic honors
Redshirt junior offensive lineman Mitchell Lederman and sophomore wideout Donovan Varner have been named to ESPN the Magazine's Academic All-District III football team on Thursday.
Lederman, a sociology major who has played both at left guard and right tackle this season, has started six of seven games this year and played in 411 snaps.
Varner has started every game this season, with 42 catches for 660 yards and five touchdowns.