Duke football hopes to turn around narrative with improved season

Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports) /

The narrative will look to be changed around the Duke football program this season. 

Most of the country is buzzing with the return of college football, but seeing the Duke football team take the field in early September does not hold the same weight as the men’s basketball team taking the floor in just two months.

However, the Blue Devils are back on the gridiron this evening as David Cutcliffe takes his squad to Charlotte to face the 49ers to begin the 2021 season.

Cutcliffe, for all the good he has done with the Duke football program, could be on the hot seat this season with new Athletic Director Nina King overseeing operations and the successor for Mike Krzyzewski already picked out.

Duke has won seven games over the last two seasons, with just two victories last year. And the 2019 and 2020 seasons were just the first time since the 2010 and 2011 seasons in which the team did not participate in bowl games in two consecutive years.

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Despite just two victories last year, the other coming against Syracuse, Duke was able to beat Charlotte at home, 53-19.

Cutcliffe will turn the reins of his offense over to Gunnar Holmberg, who has thrown just 25 passes in his college career.

Holmberg is 18-of-25 in his Duke career with 161 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.

The graduate student has rushed for a touchdown in his career in 24 rushing attempts.

Duke football will rely on skill positions to help carry offense

Turnovers were arguably the biggest reason for the failures of the Duke football program over the last two seasons, but the Blue Devils will have some familiar faces in the backfield this season.

Mataeo Durant rushed for 817 yards last season and has 1,321 rushing yards in his career with nine touchdowns.

Expect Durant to get a heavy workload early and often this season to try and keep the defense rested, something that rarely happened last season, as well as to get Holmberg slowly acclimated to the speed of the college game.

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Expectations are low in Durham, but with a seemingly easy non-conference slate, the Blue Devils have a chance to stack some early victories before the rigors of ACC play begin.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00pm EST and can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.

PREDICTION: Duke 34, Charlotte 24

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