- File photo by Chris Baird
- Both Duke and N.C. Central face pivotal games this weekend.
Two of the four Triangle’s Division I football teams have the weekend off, but Saturday will be a big day for both teams from Durham.
Duke (2-0) will take on decade-long nemesis Georgia Tech (1-0) at Wallace Wade Stadium at 3:30 p.m. in the ACC opener for both teams.
And N.C. Central (1-1) will face a tough road challenge when the Eagles travel to face the brand-new program at UNC Charlotte (2-0) at noon.
N.C. State (2-0) is idle until its Thursday night home game with Clemson, while UNC (1-1) is off until its Sept. 21 visit to Georgia Tech.
Duke vs. Georgia Tech
Duke will have a huge opportunity in this one, as an upset over the Yellow Jackets could get the Blue Devils some
national attention and get them a leg up in their shot at a second straight bowl bid.
But they’ll have to do it without their regular starting quarterback, as Anthony Boone suffered a broken collarbone in Saturday’s 28-14 win at Memphis with Brandon Connette ably stepping in.
Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, who annihilated Elon 70-0 in their opener, run a “flexbone” option offense that the Blue Devils generally see once a year unless they also play a service academy (and Navy will visit on Oct. 12).
Tech has won nine straight in the series; coincidentally the Blue Devils’ most recent win over the Jackets came in 2003 when current Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof was Duke’s head coach.
Tech is listed as an 8½-point favorite.
“It’s a challenge because it’s a completely different style of offense than in the past,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “They do the best job consistently of creating problems with big plays; great play action pass team particularly with a quarterback like (Lee). He has such a strong arm. He can go downfield with the ball. They always have big, tall receivers that give you opportunities to out-jump you. It’s difficult. It’s a huge challenge for our defense.”
Connette has completed 19 of 29 passes for 253 yards and four TDs with one interception, and also has 53 yards and a TD on 19 carries. Jamison Crowder has 17 catches for 202 yards this season, but also has a punt return for a TD. Jela Duncan has carried 18 times for 108 yards for Duke.
Durham Hillside product Vad Lee has completed seven of 11 passes for 189 yards and two TDs for Tech, rushing six times for 49 yards and another score. Justin Thomas has carried five times for 53 yards and a TD for the Jackets, while Micheal Summers has three catches for 79 yards.
N.C. Central at UNC Charlotte
Just about anyone who’s familiar with the program would have expected NCCU to be 1-1 at this point, but Saturday’s 23-20, double-overtime win over former CIAA rival St. Augustine’s was a bit too close for comfort after the blowout loss at Duke.
The Dunkel Index has NCCU as a 2 ½-point favorite.
(Disclaimer: My mother, Ramona Potter who was then in university development, did some of the leg work to re-start Charlotte College’s athletic program a little over 50 years ago).
A sellout is expected at 15,000-seat Jerry Richardson Stadium, where the 49ers will face what should be their toughest opponent so far in their eventual climb to the FBS ranks in Conference USA.
NCCU needs a win to get things rolling against its first FCS opponent of the season.
“(Charlotte is) explosive offensively,” NCCU coach Dwayne Foster said. “They like to spread things out to keep the tempo up. We definitely have to eliminate the big play. We’ve got to keep everything in front of us, and stop the run. And they have an extremely active defense. They’re not looking to read and react; they want to get up field and make something happen. We’ve got to keep everything in front of us, and stop the run.”
Jordan Reid has completed 35 of 65 passes for 340 yards and two TDs with an interception for the Eagles, also rushing 31 times for 49 yards and a TD. Idreis Augustus has rushed 23 times for 126 yards, while Marvin Poole has nine catches for 76 yards.
Matt Johnson has completed 42 of 59 passes for 538 yards and eight TDs with no interceptions in Charlotte’s wins over outmanned Campbell and Chowan. Alan Barnwell has carried 23 times for 135 yards, while Austin Duke has 12 catches for 149 yards and three TDs.
Last week’s three stars:
1. Niklas Sade, PK, N.C. State. Sade scored 11 points including the game-winner from 48 yards out with 33 seconds left as the Wolfpack beat Richmond 23-21.
2. Brandon Connette, QB, Duke. Connette came off the bench to complete 14 of 21 passes for 198 yards and two second-half TDs in a 28-14 win at Memphis.
3. James Hurst, OT, UNC. Hurst played 80 snaps in a 40-20 victory over Middle Tennessee. Hurst posted 12 knockdown blocks and did not allow a sack or a hurry as the Tar Heels generated 511 yards.