Sep 3, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils running back Mataeo Durant (21) is tackled by Charlotte 49ers linebacker Luke Martin (17) during the second quarter at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

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Duke aims for rebound performance vs. North Carolina A&T

There’s lots for Duke to do going into its second game of the season after a surprising setback.

The upcoming task comes against visiting North Carolina A&T on Friday night in Durham, N.C.

“The spirit of this team is not broken by any means,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “The team is not broken. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we got a lot of capable people to do it with.”

Duke is trying to recover after a wild finishing stretch produced a 31-28 loss at Charlotte in the opener last Friday. Charlotte scored the winning touchdown with 33 seconds to play.

This outcome came despite a single-game, school-record 255 rushing yards for Duke running back Mataeo Durant. He did this with 29 carries, scoring three touchdowns.

“I’m a very big ‘team first’ guy, so anything the team needs me to do, I’ll do it whenever,” Durant said.

The Blue Devils also were encouraged by quarterback Gunnar Holmberg, who made his first collegiate start in the Charlotte game.

“He’s going to grow quickly from all of these circumstances he was in,” Cutcliffe said.

Meanwhile, N.C. A&T needs a bounceback outing as well. The Aggies fell 29-18 at Furman in Saturday’s opener.

It was a rude welcome for the former Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference power. The Aggies, who had their 2020 season canceled because of the pandemic, are first-year members of the Big South Conference.

“There are not many bright sides to a loss,” Aggies coach Sam Washington said. “But if there is a bright side, it is that our guys played hard. … What I am most proud of is that we didn’t quit. We found a way for somebody to get lined up, so we can play.”

It was a reduced lineup for N.C. A&T, which was depleted on defense by injuries, including to cornerback D.J. Crossen on the game’s third play, and a couple of targeting ejections.

The Aggies, who dropped their opener for the first time since 2012, also unveiled a new starting quarterback with Jalen Fowler. Washington said the team can improve around Fowler in many ways.

“We did a terrible job getting the plays in on time,” Washington said. “We were always under the gun. That part of it irritated me to no end.”

N.C. A&T’s 71 rushing yards were the program’s fewest since a 2018 game vs. Alcorn State.

Defensively, linebacker Joseph Stuckey notched 13 for his second career double-figure tackle outing. The other came two years ago at Duke.

This will be the second-ever meeting between the Aggies and Blue Devils. Duke won 45-13 in 2019 at home, also the second game of that season for both teams. Durant scored a touchdown in that game on one of his nine carries.

N.C. A&T had only 10 first downs in that matchup with the Blue Devils. Still, the Aggies held a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter that night before three Duke touchdowns in the last 3:10 of the first half.

Duke has dropped its season opener for the third year in a row.

“I wouldn’t count this team out by any means,” Cutcliffe said.

–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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