Desperate For A Conference Victory

The Blue Devils' 0-2 start has them desperate to win this weekend's game against BC

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.''


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