Duke has played four games thus far, as many as any team in the country. It is still looking for its first win.
The Blue Devils, coming off a 38-31 home loss to Virginia Tech last weekend, will try again Saturday in an ACC game at Syracuse that kicks off at 12:30 p.m. ET.
“I have not been 0-4 as a head coach,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “But I was 0-6 at Tennessee as an assistant, and it wasn’t much fun. What can happen from it, if you’re willing to learn, if you’re willing to work, we went from 0-6 to 5-6 and the very next year to 11-1. I will never forget those lessons.”
Duke (0-4 overall and in the ACC) was installed as a slight favorite for the matchup despite being outscored 129-70 this season and leading the nation with 15 turnovers. That’s not just a 2020 problem, either. The Blue Devils averaged 2.3 turnovers per game last season, the highest mark in the country. Quarterback Chase Brice has been intercepted seven times this year. Opponents have scored 34 points off Duke turnovers in the past three games.
Syracuse will try to take advantage after posting its first win of the season — 37-20 over visiting Georgia Tech on Sept. 26. The Orange could be without their top defensive weapon against turnover-prone Duke, however. Safety Andre Cisco, the nation’s active leader in career interceptions (13), was out last week after suffering a “lower-body extremity injury” during pregame warmups, coach Dino Babers said.
After a bye week, Babers didn’t offer much clarity about the All-American’s status on Monday.
“I’ve seen him every day and he’s been smiling and he’s been excited. So we’ll see,” Babers said.
Syracuse also has been without safety Eric Coley for the past two games because of an injury, which put true freshmen Ja’Had Carter and Rob Hanna into the starting lineup as safeties against Georgia Tech. Each had an interception in what was a four-pick effort by Syracuse.
Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito, who passed for 2,360 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions while starting 11 of 12 games last season, is off to a modest start. He has completed 35 of 70 throws for 338 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Against Georgia Tech, running back Sean Tucker became the first Syracuse freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game since 2015. He finished with 112 yards on 24 carries, including a 38-yard score.
Brice, a graduate transfer from Clemson, has completed 81 of 154 passes for 993 yards and three touchdowns for Duke. Cutcliffe chalks up some of the struggles to lack of regular preseason preparation.
“I think it’s an ongoing process and each week I sit down with him: ‘What are you comfortable with? What are you not comfortable with?’ ” Cutcliffe said. ” … And then we move it from there.”
Brice has been comfortable with tight end Noah Gray, who has 19 receptions for 203 yards and two scores. The senior needs four more catches to break the school career record of 98. On defense, senior end Victor Dimukeje (four sacks this season) is four away from tying the Duke record of 22.
Syracuse beat Duke 49-6 last season in Durham, N.C. Saturday’s matchup against Duke is the middle game of a three-game homestand in a renovated Carrier Dome.
–Field Level Media