Duke vs. NC Central: Preview and Prediction


Nov 12, 2011; Charlottesville, VA. Duke Blue Devils running back Juwan Thompson (23) runs the ball before being tackled by Virginia Cavaliers defensive end Bill Schautz (47) during the second quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We are here folks.  It is time for the start of classes, which means the start of football.  The days have come where we get to the television at 10 am on Saturdays to watch College Gameday in anticipation for the excitement that will be stirred up that afternoon and night.  For Duke fans, the start of this season looks a little different doesn’t it?  I mean we have our ghosts from last season of what could have been in the previous year, but they look different.  Instead of pouting about a season of complete woes we are hopeful about returning to a bowl game.  Even though Duke took a loss in the Belk Bowl last season, nobody can tell me that they were not a happy Duke fan to be there.  Now Duke looks to show that our bowl bid last season was not a fluke and that this Duke team is for real now.  The first test will be against the N.C. Central Eagles in the Bull City Classic.

What we know

-Last year the Eagles posted a record of 6-5 and 5-3 in the MEAC, which was good enough for a tie for third in the conference.

-They only return 9 starters from last years team and 6 of those are on offense.

-Due to unfortunate circumstances, Leslie Frazier, former head football coach, will not be on the sidelines.  He was replaced with Dwayne Foster, who was the assistant head coach for the Eagles.

On Offense

Look for the Devils to roll on down the field with a bevy of different rushers in the run game.  Whether it is Juwan Thompson, Josh Snead, Jela Duncan, Shaquille Powell, or Anthony Boone, the Devils will test the run stopping ability of the Eagles.  The defensive line of the Eagles is in a major rebuilding mode with losing three starters on the defensive line alone.  The linebacker corp will be asked to help stop the Duke rushing game, led by senior Tazmon Foster, who is projected to be among the team leaders, if not the leader, in tackles this season.

A very experienced Duke offensive line should not have a problem fending off the inexperienced defensive line of the Eagles.  QB Anthony Boone should have plenty of time to go through his reads and look comfortable in the pocket.  The secondary of the Eagles are more experienced than the defensive line but any side of the ball that has 8 new starters will be looking to make strides of improvement.  Duke will be able to move the ball very well and create a lot of scoring opportunities.  Execution will be key and this will give the young guys a chance to acclimate themselves into a game week routine.

On Defense

The Devils will be trying to stuff the rushing game of the Eagles.  Much like the Devils, Central has a stable of running backs that can be used in any given situation.  The running back unit will be lead by redshirt junior Andre Clarke who averaged 5.1 yards per carry and had 9 touchdowns in only 8 games before having his season cut short due to injury.  He will also have an experienced offensive line to run behind as the Eagles have 4 returning starters in the trenches.  This will be helpful for redshirt senior signal caller Jordan Reid, who Duke fans may or may not remember from last season.  Reid was put in for a relief effort against the Blue Devils in last seasons Bull City Classic and went 17-26 for 218 yards and 2 interceptions.  After that game he led the Eagles the next 8 games and won 5 of them.

The Blue Devils have a much improved defense this year.  An experienced defensive line along with some key playmakers in Ross Cockrell and Jeremy Cash, just to name two, will look to stifle the running game and cause Jordan Reid nightmares in both the backfield and the secondary.

On Special Teams

Don’t look away when the kickers are on the field on Saturday.  Both teams sport special teams units that will be exciting to watch.  NCCU boasts the number 1 punt return average in FCS last season and also led the nation with 5 punt return touchdowns.  The Blue Devils need to key in on redshirt sophomore Adrian Wilkins who will be pivotal in the return game for the Eagles.

The special teams unit for Duke has been much heralded for the 2013 season.  With a watch list punter and kicker on the field for Duke, the kicking game could be game changing for the Devils in 2013.  Duke also fields an explosive punt returner in Jamison Crowder and kickoff returners Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell.

Keys to the Game

Establish the run- With this many talented running backs it only makes sense to use them right?  Well Duke will need to take full advantage of an inexperienced defense to let “The Stable” run wild on the Eagles.

– Make plays early-  It is tricky playing FCS schools.  Yes, Duke is more talented, but talent only looks good on paper if it isn’t utilized efficiently.  Duke needs to make plays early on both sides of the ball to let NCCU know that the Devils mean business.  And Michigan and past Duke teams know a little something about letting FCS teams stay around late in games.

-Block shedding-  The Eagles have an experienced line and shifty backs.  So keeping those backs out of the open field and in traffic will be key to keeping the Eagles off the scoreboard.  This means getting away from blockers in both the pass rush and the run stop and getting a hand on the ball carrier.  This will also cause QB Jordan Reid to rush progressions and make him make mistakes.

Players to Watch

– Juwan Thompson:  Thompson will get plenty of looks in this game both running and receiving and will have lots of room to run around.

– Jeremy Cash:  The Ohio State transfer will be playing in his first game as a Blue Devil and he will be all over the field.  I feel like we are really going to love this guy in our secondary.

– Kenny Anunike:  Anunike returns for a rare 6th season for Duke and was the leader in sacks last year for the Devils.  Look for him to get to the QB and cause absolute chaos in the trenches.


Duke will be able to move the ball however they want to.  Whether through the air or on the ground.  There will also be little for NCCU to do on offense with a stifling defensive effort on Duke’s part.  Although the Eagles return game will make some plays, it will not be enough to frustrate the Devils on this day.

Duke- 38

NCCU- 17