Blue Devils face tough challenge to end losing season on the upswing | Sports

Blue Devils face tough challenge to end losing season on the upswing

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BROOKS FOOTBALL BUILDING/DURHAM Duke’s chances to finish .500 and get a bowl invitation fell by the wayside on Saturday, when Sean Renfree’s last pass from the four-yard line fell incomplete in the final minute of a 21-16 loss to visiting Boston College.

Duke running back Desmond Scott
But the Blue Devils have two games left to play.

The finale is again that be-all, end-all game for the Victory Bell against archrival UNC. But first Duke (3-7, 1-5 ACC) will have to go Saturday to Georgia Tech (5-5, 3-4), a team that has given the Blue Devils fits with six straight wins in the series including the 49-10 romp in Durham last season.

“I think our seniors have done an incredible job of changing the expectations of Duke football,” Cutcliffe said on Tuesday at his weekly press luncheon. “It certainly has changed in my mind. Our players young and old have different expectations of what we expect from ourselves on a week-to-week basis. It’s been disappointing to lose ball games, but not disappointing to see us continue to get better and grow as a program and really playing excellent football in most all phases a big percentage of the time.

“Now is the opportunity to take that next step, playing a really talented Georgia Tech team on the road. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to go play them. It’s going to take a lot of work to prepare for that (option) offense. They do a tremendous job and know what they’re doing with it. They tend to hit on all cylinders. I have great respect for (Tech defensive coordinator) Al Groh and all the issues he causes defensively. We’re trying to get ready for a great ACC game in Atlanta.”

Renfree, the sophomore quarterback in his first season as a starter, said he expects the Blue Devils to be ready for the challenge.

“We’ll probably get some limited reps due to their offense, but we’re going to try to take advantage of the amount of reps we do get on offense,” Renfree said. “If we can keep the ball and sustain long drives, it’s going to help. I didn’t have any turnovers against Boston College and our completion percentage was up pretty high. We just didn’t score enough in the red zone. I’m always proud not to have any turnovers.

“I think we just want to finish the season strong. The next two games will determine what kind of team we’re going to be next year. It’s going to be a difficult test of what kind of team we are, whether or not we can bounce back on the road against a good team. It’s going to determine who we’re going to be next year, and what kind of people are going to step up and make plays. Everybody knows the deal next week, but our focus is on this week.”

One huge improvement for the Blue Devils this season has been the rushing attack, with sophomore Durham Hillside product leading the way with 50.9 yards per game. Duke took a step back in that department with a four-yard rushing game against BC, but Scott said the Blue Devils haven’t lost faith in the ground game.

“We talked about our goals as a team (today), not just as a team but the coaches brought it to our attention,” Scott said. “We’re building a program here and it’s going to continue to get better. We have two games left and we’re going to try to win those games, but the preparation for next year starts now. We have Georgia Tech this week, a big game. We can make a statement on the ACC. But our mindset is not for next year. We know we’re working better and working harder to sustain and make a bowl game next year.

“We want to let people know we can bounce back from losses. We’ve been down a lot this year, but we always bounce back as a team. We’ve never hung our heads and just kept pressing forward. We’ve just got to run the ball, pass the ball and do everything we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks.”

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