BEING A HEAD COACH
No better way to put it. You never know what a bunch of 19, 20, 21, 22 year old guys are going to do. It’s a tough job for a head coach in college football.
Case in point, Duke’s David Cutcliffe -- his quarterback of the future, Thomas Sirk, battling for the starting job sustains a season ending injury in the spring; his starting quarterback, Anthony Boone, injuries his collar bone in the second game of the year -- all part of the game of football.
But a rising star receiver, suffering a hand injury during a brief altercation on an off-campus dance floor, and then your freshman phenom defensive back breaking team rules and being suspended for the Navy game is something you can never count on happening.
Freshman Johnell Barnes was looking to be a big play receiver for the Devils this year; he had pulled in five receptions so far for a team leading 21.4 yards per catch and was the leading kick returner for the Devils through five games. But a squabble late Saturday night following the Troy game has cost Barnes a chance to help his teammates secure a second consecutive bowl trip.
Singleton has been suspended for the Navy game because he missed two academic obligations.
But a veteran head coach like Cutcliffe knows to move on to the next play.
“Our captains got together and handled both situations,” he explained. “We’re in good spirits and ready to go play some football.”
The open date has given the Blue Devils an opportunity to get in some good work and to heal up some sore people.
“We were able to let some of our guys nurse some injuries, but it’s now time to get back to work,” said Cutcliffe.
Boone continues to improve, but Cutcliffe said it was tough to call when he would be cleared for contact, so Brandon Connette is still listed as the starter for the Blue Devils.
One positive from the Boone injury is the fact that when he is cleared to play, Cutcliffe will have two quarterbacks with game experience, making the quarterback position even stronger for the Blue Devils.
In the meantime, the Devils have to prepare for a Navy team that can cause lots of problem with their ball control offense.
It’s never easy being a college football head coach. Injuries crop up at the most inopportune times and then there are those players who don’t believe what they do off the field can hurt the team, but it can hurt the team even more than missing a tackle or dropping a pass. Duke has never been a deep football team, so when two of your better players are missing because of non-football related incidents it hurts the entire team.
It’s all part of the growing process of becoming a solid winning football program. Realizing how valuable you are as a teammate and that things you do off the field can sometimes hurt the team more than making a mistake on the field.
DUKE-NAVY SET FOR 12:30 ON SATURDAY
Last week there was concern with whether the Duke-Navy game would be played with the U.S. Government shutdown.
“We have every indication that we will be playing Navy on Saturday,” said Cutcliffe on Sunday afternoon.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s full speed ahead. I told the coaches after today’s game to start preparing for Duke,” Navy Director of Athletics Chuck Gladchuk told the Capitol Gazette.
“We haven’t been told we can’t play; so I’m not going to create a situation that doesn’t exist,” Gladchuk said. “My instincts tell me that the Department of Defense is doing everything possible to ensure the service academies meet their contractual obligations with regard to future football games. I have great confidence that we will be playing Duke in Durham as scheduled.”
This will be the 40th meeting between Duke and Navy, a series that stretches back to their first meeting in 1927.
There have been some very historical games in the series with the Blue Devils facing 1960 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino in Duke Stadium on November 6, 1960. The Blue Devils upset the No. 4 ranked Midshipmen 19-10. That win and the win over No. 4 ranked Pittsburgh in 1938 are the highest ranked teams Duke has ever defeated. That 1960 Duke team went on to win the Blue Devils’ last bowl game, 7-6, over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.
Then in 1963, the Blue Devils faced another Heisman Trophy winner in Durham in quarterback Roger Staubach. Navy won that game, 38-25. The Devils have captured the last two meetings with Navy, winning 41-31 in 2008 in Durham and 34-31 in Annapolis in 2010.