DURHAM, N.C. – Looking to carry over the momentum from a phenomenal 2013 season, the Duke Blue Devil football team will start their 2014 campaign in Wallace Wade Stadium Aug. 30 with a matchup against Elon at 6 p.m. Duke is undefeated in their seven all-time meetings, holding a 6-0-1 record over the Phoenix. In the most recent matchup between the two schools, the Blue Devils walked away with the victory, a 41-27 finish in 2010.
Head coach David Cutcliffe returns for his seventh season in Durham after he led the Blue Devils to the ACC Coastal Division title in 2013 with their first 10-win season in school history. Cutcliffe was named National Coach of the Year by the AFCA, Walter Camp Foundation, Maxwell Club and Bobby Dodd Foundation, along with being voted as the ACC Coach of the Year for the second straight year.
Elon starts the year with a fresh face at the helm, hiring Rick Skrosky as its new head coach. Skrosky, who brings 26 years of collegiate coaching experience to the job, coached at Elon from 2006-10 before spending the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Ball State. Under Skrosky’s direction in 2013, the Cardinals offense ranked 13th in the country with 40.1 points per game and produced two 1,000 yard receivers in a passing attack that ranked ninth nationally.
In Saturday’s matchup, expect the Duke offense to lean heavily on the running game against an Elon defense that surrendered 225.1 rushing yards per game and 29 ground scores last season. In 2013, all four Blue Devil running backs, including returnees Josh Snead and Shaquille Powell, averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry. The committee of ball-carriers was even more dominant at home, averaging 201.0 yards per game on the ground, compared to an average of 150.4 yards on the road.
Quarterback Anthony Boone and wide receiver Jamison Crowder will be looked upon to lead the air assault for the Blue Devils. Boone, entering his fifth season with the program, comes into 2014 with a perfect 10-0 record as the starter in regular season games. Boone has been sharp in his three season openers as Duke’s starter, posting a 77.2 completion percentage on 17-of-22 passing while adding two rushing touchdowns. Crowder, known for his ability to turn any catch into a home run play, is coming off a season where he racked up 108 receptions, an ACC single-season record.
Boone and company will operate behind an offensive line that returns three starters from a group that was one of the best in the nation last year, allowing an ACC-best 1.21 sacks per game and only one per 27.8 pass attempts. Anchoring the offensive line is preseason All-American Laken Tomlinson, who enters his senior season tied for the longest active streak by current NCAA Division I linemen for consecutive games started with 39.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Blue Devils will be led by linebacker David Helton and safety Jeremy Cash. Helton recorded an ACC-leading 133 tackles and ranks seventh among all returning tacklers in the nation. Right behind Helton was Cash with 121 tackles, who also added four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries to garner All-America honors.
With Coach Skrosky bringing his high-powered passing attack to Elon, the Blue Devil secondary will be tested early and often. A young but talented group, four of Duke’s six primary defensive backs in 2013 were freshmen. Now sophomores, Breon Borders and Bryon Fields are expected to be the starting cornerbacks in 2014. Borders set a Duke freshman record with four interceptions, two of which came against eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in the Dr Pepper ACC Championship game.
In the trenches, Duke will start a unit that looks fairly inexperienced on paper. Having a combined 15 starts but 2,769 career snaps between the three, ends Dezmond Johnson and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and tackle Carlos Wray will join returning starting tackle Jamal Bruce to handle the task of reestablishing the line of scrimmage.
Since Cutcliffe has taken over, Duke has found success on the opening weekend. The Blue Devils are 4-2 in their past six season openers and has outgained their opponents in five of them. Duke will also look to pitch consecutive shutouts in season-opening games for the first time since 1949-50 after beating N.C. Central 45-0 last year.
Tickets for this weekend’s game are available at GoDuke.com or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at 919-681-BLUE.