On Sunday, Ben Cohen and Matthew Iles met to review Duke’s 31-7 win over James Madison Saturday night in Wallace Wade Stadium. Check out their video preview from Thursday for some perspective and to look back at their picks.
The Blue Devils began the David Cutcliffe era with a 31-7 win over James Madison on a rainy Saturday night in Wallace Wade Stadium. Short game story up on The Chronicle’s website, with more reaction and audio analysis up here tomorrow.
Ben Cohen, The Chronicle’s sports editor, and Matthew Iles, sports managing editor and lead football beat writer for the past two seasons, discuss the Blue Devils’ opening day matchup against James Madison. This video was filmed on the steps of the Duke Chapel Thursday afternoon. We apologize in advance for the wind. We can’t control it.
This is the first of 12 video podcasts previewing football games, and we hope you’ll stay with us as we iron out the kinks. If you have questions for next week’s Northwestern preview, feel free to send an e-mail to email@example.com or call The Chronicle’s office at 919-684-6404. Otherwise, enjoy.
Mike Krzyzewski has never been afraid to challenge local media, which very much includes The Chronicle, especially when he reads criticism of his team–and, of course, he has every right to defend himself, just as every journalist has every right to write freely. In years past, however, The Chronicle has been one of the most analytic and vocal of newspapers, which was never more evident on three days last March.
When Duke lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to West Virginia last year, now-graduated sports columnist Andrew Yaffe wrote an opinion piece contradicting Krzyzewski’s press conference claim that the Blue Devils had enjoyed a “great” season. The tenet of the column was that great teams don’t lose five of their last 11 games or fail to make it past the first weekend of the Tournament, and that saying last season was “great” does a “disservice” to the truly sublime Duke teams of the past.
The column was a fair, honest assessment of the year that was, even though Yaffe, a member of one of two Duke classes to graduate without a Final Four since the Class of 1986, caught flak from the sense of entitlement that ran through the piece. “I certainly appreciate the effort the team put forth Saturday and don’t doubt DeMarcus Nelson was trying his damndest,” he wrote. “But Duke students don’t sleep in the cold for two months just to see players give it their all. Expectations can and should be high, and they were not fulfilled this year or last.”
The column’s sentiments were amplified the next day by editorial (read: non-sports) columnist Dan Belzer, who wrote on the back pages: “I don’t know about y’all, but I was under the impression that part of my birthright as a privileged Duke student was a men’s basketball national championship-or at least a Final Four. You really think I came here for the academics?” It had none of the accuracy or validity of Yaffe’s piece, and, of course, was a lesser derivative of the previous piece. Those two pieces, especially combined with editorial (read: non-sports) columnist Tom Segal’s further cretinous rant the very next day, did not sit well with the Duke Basketball office, which may have accepted Yaffe’s column as critical but somewhat indisputable and honest but could not find the same merit in the last two offerings.
Which brings us to Wednesday, when Krzyzewski showed, yet again, that he doesn’t forget anything and, at least occasionally, reads The Chronicle for non-Sudoku purposes:
What do you think? Were Krzyzewski’s points valid?
At the end of his press conference Wednesday, Mike Krzyzewski offered a disclaimer for the reason he insisted on meeting with the media so early in the week: he wants the attention at the end of the week to be devoted to David Cutcliffe’s football program. Cutcliffe stood at the back of Scharf Reception Hall in Duke’s new practice facility to listen to Krzyzewski, and he chatted with the Team USA head coach for five minutes after the question-and-answer session. Cutcliffe also schmoozed with associate head coaches Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski for about 10 minutes before Krzyzewski walked in as the two Team USA scouts relayed their abroad experience.
The era of good feelings between the two programs was capped with a hug between Krzyzewski and Cutcliffe before they started talking, which Chronicle Online Photography Editor Lawson Kurtz captured in some photos. And Krzyzewski made one thing clear: he wants Duke Football to win, and he’ll be there to cheer the Blue Devils on.
“I figured whatever would be in the paper would be in there and out by Thursday and we can get the ball rolling,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re really excited. To come back and not just to see our team, but to see him start his time here at Duke, I know all the preparation that’s been done and the emergence, the start of their program, and that’s what he’s going to do there is develop a program…. Hopefully Saturday night, it’s not going to be an easy game, we’ll support his football program in the way it deserves to be supported. Hopefully they’ll win and play great, and it will be the start of his program. I’m glad that we’ve become friends. I’ll be there cheering—I have a few Chinese words now that I can give him and the officials won’t know what the hell he’s saying.”
In response to my question about Tailgate at Tuesday’s media luncheon, David Cutcliffe recounted an experience he had at LSU when he was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. The vignette includes references to cattle prods and Kool-Aid–that is, you must read it. Wacky? Yes. Entertaining? You bet. We’ll work on getting the audio clip up, but here’s the transcribed excerpt:
I can tell you Tiger Stadium at LSU, it’s got a first-come, first-serve student section. When you go in there, when I knew it was serious, was when I walked in… you ride on the bus about two hours and a half before the game. And you come out of the tunnel, and right as you come out of the tunnel, there’s a big tiger in a cage. As soon as they see you, you’re the head coach walking in, they take a cattle prod and they hit that tiger. That tiger hits that cage, and you jump pretty good when you’re not really ready for it. I kind of learned, I was a veteran after a while. Then you go out and I look up at the stands, and the student section’s drinking a lot of Kool-Aid, and they’re partying. Then I look up there, and there I am up in the stands with them, in some kind of form, and I’m on fire. So there were a lot of people having fun in the stadium-now, I’m not asking them to drink lots of Kool-Aid in the stadium. But there’s a lot that can go on in the stadium that’s a lot of fun and a lot cleaner than what I’m hearing about Tailgate.