Sep 18, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Gunnar Holmberg (12) runs between Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Chris Bergin (28) and linebacker Bryce Gallagher (32) during the third quarter at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

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Duke aims for consistency, Kansas some offense in Power Five clash

Consistency is a trait any football coach will emphasize, but Duke’s David Cutcliffe can talk about uneven performances while preparing for a matchup Saturday against Kansas at Durham, N.C.

“If you’re going to do anything and be considered special, you’re going to be consistently good at something,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve had a major emphasis of working good against good at practice. I think that pays off. Stay healthy and it’ll pay off and continue to pay off.”

The Blue Devils (2-1) overcame a season-opening loss to Charlotte to win back-to-back games against North Carolina A&T and Northwestern.

In Kansas (1-2), Duke faces a moribund Power Five program attempting to gain footing under new coach Lance Leipold, though the Jayhawks are coming off a 45-7 setback in their conference opener against Baylor.

A complete game eluded Duke in each of its wins, including last week when it mounted a 27-0 lead against Northwestern before winning 30-23. The Blue Devils committed three turnovers and drew 10 penalties for 104 yards.

Obviously, better execution must be achieved, though Duke did force five turnovers and can lean on defensive playmakers. DeWayne Carter and Lummie Young were named ACC players of the week after each caused fumbles by Northwestern. Young also grabbed an interception.

“He’s always been an extremely aware and savvy football player,” Cutcliffe said of Young, “but you got to play fast and he’s going to continue, hopefully, to practice that way.”

That could spell trouble for Kansas, which has struggled to click despite seeing encouraging promise from Jason Bean, a North Texas transfer Leipold chose to engineer the offense. In terms of any positives, the Jayhawks have surrendered just one turnover.

The Jayhawks grew thinner in the offensive backfield early this week after Velton Gardner entered his name in the transfer portal. Gardner averaged just 1.9 yards per rush on 29 carries.

Devin Neal, the Jayhawks’ prize 2021 recruit, likely will become the starter after averaging 3.4 yards on 22 rushes. He will run behind a line that will be without starter Colin Grunhard the next two weeks, who is battling through an ankle injury.

The Jayhawks have struggled defensively, allowing 518 yards on average in its defeats after needing a late score to beat an FCS opponent, South Dakota, 17-14 in Leipold’s debut. In losses to No. 17 Coastal Carolina and Baylor, the Jayhawks have been outscored 94-29.

“There’s continued progress,” Leipold said. “It’s not showing up on the scoreboard or on the stat sheet, but we’re still trying to figure out what we can do offensively.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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