Monthly Archives: September 2008

Riley, Georgia Natives, Ready For Revenge

For 15 players this weekend, going on the road to Georgia Tech really means going back to their home state.

And for one player in particular, that means it’s time for revenge.

“I know that with Georgia Tech, Eron Riley is ready to play,” quarterback Thaddeus Lewis said. “You could cut one of his fingers off and that guy’s still going to play in this game.”

Riley, out of Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Ga., has made a habit of producing big plays against the Yellow Jackets. In  three games against Georgia Tech, the senior wide receiver—who has the most touchdown catches in the ACC and third-most in the country—has caught passes of 38, 47 and 64 yards, with the last two resulting in touchdowns. Although Riley has only managed seven total catches and two touchdowns in those games, those receptions have gone for 208 yards on nearly 30 yards a catch.

Riley, who was a two-star recruit and did not receive an offer from Georgia Tech, was not available Tuesday at the team’s weekly media luncheon, but Lewis did not hesitate in expressing Riley’s excitement for Duke’s first road game.

“You want to shine on the people you play against—tell them, ‘Just because I’m not playing with y’all, I’m still doing big things on this end,’” Lewis said. “[With Riley] being from Georgia, there might be a little Facebook talk going back and forth and some text messaging.”

SEE FULL STORY IN THE CHRONICLE WEDNESDAY.

—by Stephen Allan

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Audio Analysis: Duke-Virginia

As always, Ben Cohen and Matthew Iles met to discuss Duke’s 31-3 ACC win over Virginia Saturday. Some key points to the discussion: the stalwart performance of the defense, the emerging of freshman running back Jay Hollingsworth, the future of Duke’s running backs and a different type of game from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

You might notice the sound quality is better for this episode. Tip of the hat to Sports Blog reader Dan Romero, who introduced us to another sound studio on campus. The rest of our recordings will be up to this standard.

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Update: Spurrier Did Not Vote For Duke

Contrary to what may be popular suspicion, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier did not vote for Duke in this week’s coaches’ poll, Director of Media Relations Steve Fink confirmed in an e-mail to The Chronicle.

Now that the most likely suspect has denied the vote, we’ll keep digging. Up next: Tennessee head coach Philip Fulmer, who has obvious ties to the Duke program through David Cutcliffe.

Again, feel free to drop your guesses in the comments section below.

–by Ben Cohen

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Weekly Honors Pour In For Tauiliili, Blue Devils

When you’ve been as bad as Duke as has been over the last four seasons and then open 3-1 and win your first ACC game since 2004 in convincing fashion… well, expect lots of recognition. Especially when you’re the counterpart of perhaps the most famous team in the country, when you’ve hired an outspoken coach who has walked the walk and, more than anything, when you deserve it.

One game after Thaddeus Lewis and Vincent Rey were named ACC offensive and defensive players of the week, linebacker Michael Tauiliili was awarded ACC defensive lineman of the week after his career day against Virginia. The senior collected a team-high 16 tackles, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and intercepted one of four Marc Verica picks on the day. He now leads the conference with 46 tackles. The ACC honor comes one day after he was named national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Foundation.

Not surprisingly, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was effusive in his praise for Tauiliili Sunday, one day after proclaiming he would vote for Tauiliili and Rey as co-winners of the Butkus Award for the country’s best linebacker.

“He’s certainly improved his game,” Cutcliffe said Sunday. “He’s playing at a much faster pace. He’s a much better tackler. I think he’s grown as much as anybody on our team to this point, since we’ve been here.”

Cutcliffe paused. Perhaps prompted by a pause on the teleconference, he decided to continue.

“I think he’s playing like an All-American linebacker, personally.”

Cutcliffe has made some outlandish claims this year, chief among them the assertion that Duke’s student section is the best in the country. We know that’s not true—but this one about Tauiliili might be.

In her chat on ESPN.com, ACC blogger Heather Dinich hinted Tauiliili and Rey might be the frontrunners for ACC defensive player of the year right now. She also included Cutcliffe as the favorite for coach of the year—at least right now. Of course, reality will hit soon. Duke hasn’t played an away game and has only faced off with the worst team in the conference. Might be time to enjoy it while it lasts.

Then again, if the Blue Devils can, somehow, manage three more wins and become bowl-eligible… Jake from North Carolina on Dinich’s chat said it best: “…does Cutcliffe get pronounced coach of the year, king, and any other title he wants?”

—by Ben Cohen

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Making The Grade: Duke-Virginia

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Duke-Alabama Game To Stay In Durham

Back in May, Duke planned to move its 2010 home game against Alabama down to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for “more money and recruiting exposure,” said former athletic director Joe Alleva. A lot has changed since then—and, according to The Birmingham News, so has that decision.

Alleva has been officially replaced by Kevin White, but, more importantly, David Cutcliffe’s team is actually winning and doesn’t necessarily need the recruiting exposure of a game in Atlanta. Plus, by 2010, Wallace Wade Stadium might, you know, be intimidating for an opponent.

—by Ben Cohen

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Duke Earns Vote In Coaches Poll

Before the season, Grant Teaff, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, asked Steve Spurrier not to rank Duke No. 25 in his preseason Coaches Poll, as the South Carolina head coach typically did, and Spurrier obliged.

Now, Duke is back in the Coaches Poll—in the fifth week of the season.

The Blue Devils earned one vote at No. 25 in the latest poll, the first time Duke has been in the “others receiving votes” category after the preseason poll since… well, we have no idea. The last time Duke was legitimately ranked was in 1994, when it went to a bowl.

We’ll work on getting some more information about the vote but, in the meantime, any guesses to the mysterious coach? For the record, the coaches don’t reveal their ballots until the last week of the season. Our guess? Spurrier, of course. Here’s a link to a list of voters, and feel free to drop any guesses in the comments section below.

UPDATE: Just asked Cutcliffe about it on his weekly teleconference. His comments:

“It might be a good friend or it may be Coach Spurrier who did it again, as he did in the past,” Cutcliffe said. “Those things don’t mean a lot, other than if somebody is sincere in the vote, that there is some respect that  is being earned. All that is short-lived if you don’t take care of your business. We’re more interested in just becoming a better football team.”

—by Ben Cohen

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