Despite Struggles, Cutcliffe Has Support

The Blue Devils will look to salvage their season with games against UNC and Georgia Tech before going back to the drawing board for 2012.

The Blue Devils will be home for the holidays again, unable to break through to the bowl level.

With a 3-7 record, all they can do is hope for a couple of victories to build on for next season. This calls into question the rebuilding plan conducted by coach David Cutcliffe, whose team has become more competitive but hasn't shown the ability to rise above the rubble on a regular basis.

Support appears strong for Cutcliffe, who has maintained his belief that the Blue Devils are headed in the right direction and that a sturdy foundation is being constructed. But the losing has a way of chipping away at the morale of a team and the coach will try to limit that as the season winds down.

Cutcliffe's record at Duke sits at 15-31. It has dropped his career mark in 11 seasons overall to 59-59.

Duke's 1-5 home record reflects the smallest win total at home among ACC teams this year entering the last home outing when Georgia Tech visits. At 0-3 in the conference at home, the Blue Devils are the only team without a league victory at home.

It will be a difficult finishing stretch for the Blue Devils. Their two remaining opponents hold a combined record of 13-7.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Duke has lost 15 of its last 16 games in the series against Georgia Tech. Duke hasn't reached a bowl in any of those 16 seasons and the Blue Devils won't be going to the postseason again this year.

--The Blue Devils are averaging 98.2 yards per game on the ground and that's one of the lowest totals in the country. It ranks 113th nationally. That's a tough spot for Duke, which takes on Georgia Tech in its next game. Georgia Tech ranks third nationally with 319.5 rushing yards per game.

SERIES HISTORY: Georgia Tech leads Duke 47-30-1, including seven wins in a row.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: This group is waiting for a full breakout game, putting up more than 20 points only twice in the past five games. The receivers are putting up good numbers, but there's a severe lack of balance with the offense.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Blue Devils haven't been able to slow down teams often enough. The wear and tear of the season might be taking its toll on S Matt Daniels, who has been the backbone of this unit. With injuries striking at linebacker, it has altered the depth at that area. The defensive line is mostly inexperienced and that group will have a major chore in dealing with Georgia Tech's rushing attack.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "All of us want that opportunity for our players. Particularly when you're in my shoes here, I've been so fortunate in my career to have been a part of so many bowl games. ... So, yeah, I think we all do pay attention to it." -- Coach David Cutcliffe, understanding the importance of missing out on a bowl game.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Georgia Tech at Duke, Nov. 19 -- Duke is out of the bowl picture for the 17th year in a row, but the Blue Devils will be aiming to snap a five-game losing streak. Georgia Tech has a couple of extra days to prepare after playing Nov. 10 (and losing to Virginia Tech), and the Yellow Jackets will try to bolster their bowl stock.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Blue Devils will have to slow down Georgia Tech's rushing offense. Duke at times doesn't have much of a ball-control offense, so keeping the ball for sustained drives will be something that could benefit the Blue Devils and keep Georgia Tech's offense off the field. This is Duke's home finale.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Donovan Varner -- He'll play his first game as Duke's career leader in receptions with 194. He's a senior with two games remaining to build on that number, so a 200-catch mark is a milestone in sight.

QB Sean Renfree -- He ranks second in the ACC with 248.8 passing yards per game, though he's more than 50 yards per game behind league leader Tajh Boyd of Clemson. Yet Renfree's eight touchdown passes are the lowest mark for any full-time starter in the ACC.

S Matt Daniels -- He's in the second-leading tackler in the ACC with 10.2 tackles per game. He'll be extra concerned with run support against Georgia Tech and that could make him involved in more plays.

ROSTER REPORT
--QB Sean Renfree has thrown for 300 or more yards eight times in his career. He reached that mark against Virginia, but Georgia Tech's pass defense tends to be stingier, allowing only 187.7 yards per game in the air.

--LB David Helton has returned to a bigger role in the defense with injuries striking the linebackers. He had a few key plays in spot duty earlier in the season.

--OT Kyle Hill will miss the last two games of the season after sustaining a shoulder fracture against Virginia. Surgery was needed. The fifth-year senior is a team captain with 46 career starts.


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