Duke, BC desperate to open ACC play with win

This season sure hasn’t gone as planned for either Duke or

Boston College.

The Blue Devils and Eagles have the two worst offenses – and the

two worst records – in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Both are 0-2

entering this weekend’s meeting in Boston and are coming off

blowout losses against nonconference opponents.

It’s a position that’s all too familiar for Duke, which hasn’t

had a winning season since 1994. That was also the last time BC

opened with two losses.

The only guarantee in this matchup is that one team will pick up

a much-needed victory – and the other will become the ACC’s first

to reach 0-3.

”We’re 0-2 right now, but we’re not throwing in the towel,”

Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike said Tuesday.

Not enough things have gone right for either team, especially

when they have the ball. Duke ranks 11th in the ACC in both scoring

offense (17.5 points) and total offense (357 yards), ahead of only

Boston College, which is averaging 10 points and 298 yards.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe blames his team’s troubles on

turnovers, sacks allowed and the lack of what he calls ”explosive

plays.” The Blue Devils have given up seven sacks – including five

to No. 6 Stanford last week – have lost an ACC-worst three fumbles

and have had only one offensive play gain at least 30 yards.

”We have a lot of things that we believe win and lose games,”

Cutcliffe said. ”As we look at who we are, we’re in two games

maintaining the negative side of that. So to turn that worm, you

have to work at it.”

And in those few instances in which the Blue Devils create

opportunities to score, they can’t seem to take advantage. Duke’s

offense in the red zone ranks 117th nationally, scoring on just

three of seven trips inside the opponents’ 20.

”We’re getting the right play calls in, but it’s coming down to

execution, and we’re basically hurting ourselves, shooting

ourselves in the foot, so to speak, when we get there,” running

back Jay Hollingsworth said. ”I don’t know what’s going on right

now, honestly, but we have to execute.”

The biggest problem BC has faced is the absence of ACC preseason

player of the year Montel Harris, who entered the season 1,002

yards shy of the league’s career rushing record but hasn’t played

this season as he recovers from knee surgery.

Without him, the Eagles rank last in the league in rushing,

averaging just 80.5 yards. They were held to 57 yards on the ground

– and 141 total yards – in an ugly 30-3 loss at Central

Florida.

”There were a lot of positives there, but there were certainly

too many negatives,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said.

Further complicating things, BC announced earlier this week that

offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers is taking a leave of absence for

undisclosed health reasons, effective immediately. That forced

Spaziani to shuffle his staff, promoting tight ends coach Dave

Brock to acting offensive coordinator and putting him in charge of

the quarterbacks. Also, graduate assistant Ben Johnson was elevated

to interim tight ends coach.

At least Duke had a glimmer of success to build on in what

became a 44-14 loss to Stanford. The Blue Devils contained Heisman

Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck for about 28 minutes and trailed just

10-7 with 2 minutes left in the first half and had the ball before

the game swung on a series of big plays by the Cardinal.

”We’ve shown what we can do, hanging with the No. 6 team in the

nation and keeping them down in the first half,” Anunike said.

”We’ve shown what we can do. We just need to put it together. So

having a win this coming weekend would definitely be a huge turning

point because it will show that our work has paid off and we can

keep going forward.

”Obviously, one win is not going to do it,” he added. ”We

need to continue to win. If we get one this weekend, it’ll help us

to get a streak.”