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Pitt Football vs. Duke Preview

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Duke Blog
SEPTEMBER 21, 2013 - TBA
WALLACE WADE STADIUM - DURHAM, N.C.
Buy Season Tickets - 2013 Pitt Football

By Pat Bostick

Founded 1838
Location Durham, N.C.
Location Durham, N.C.
Nickname Blue Devils
Mascot Blue Devil
Traditions The Duke Band
National Championships 0
Consensus All-Americans 3
College Football Hall of Famers 12
Pro Football Hall of Famers 3
First Round Draft Picks 6

Series History
The Panthers lead the all-time series with nine wins to Duke's eight.

The Last Time
Pitt and Duke last met on October 2, 1976, the year the Panthers were crowned National Champions. Pitt won that contest 44-31 in Durham, as quarterback Matt Cavanaugh threw for five touchdowns in the victory.

Interesting ACC Note
The Panthers and Blue Devils are the only two ACC schools with all 12 of their opponents having won at least four games in 2012.

2012-13 Duke Season Review
Head Coach: David Cutcliffe (5th season)

2012-13 Record: 6-7 (3-5, 5th in Coastal Division)
Pitt Bullet Made first bowl game appearance since 1994
Pitt Bullet Three Blue Devils earned first team All-ACC honors
Pitt Bullet Cutcliffe was named ACC Coach of the Year

Marquee wins
Pitt Bullet Beat rival North Carolina 33-30 in dramatic fashion, scoring the game winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Notable Stats
Pitt Bullet The Blue Devils scored a school record 410 points last season.

Cutcliffe's Connections
Cutcliffe

For the second consecutive week, the Panthers will be facing an opponent coached by a well-respected college football veteran. David Cutcliffe, entering his sixth season at Duke, has built an impressive resume over the course of his 30-year career. Known for his offensive acumen and his ability to coach the quarterback position, his career stops have included programs like Tennessee, where he was instrumental in the development of NFL star signal-caller Peyton Manning, and Mississippi, where he served as head coach and tutored Peyton's talented younger brother, Eli. Though his primary focus has clearly been the rejuvenation of the Blue Devils' football program - as was evident with their improvements last season - Cutcliffe continues to work with the Manning Brothers to this day. Take a look at this video of Peyton and Eli working out on Duke's campus this April.

Looking at the Blue Devils
Offense: 4 starters lost, 9 return (includes two players that started on defense in 2012)
1. Filling Voids - Duke's passing attack in 2012 was potent, averaging 284 yards per game and producing 27 touchdowns, but the Blue Devils will have to replace two key parts of that unit in 2013. Gone is Sean Renfree, a three-year starter at quarterback who threw for 3,113 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Renfree set or matched 30 school records during his career. Connor Vernon, Duke's leading pass catcher last season, has also graduated. A first team All-ACC selection who finished his career as the ACC's all-time leader in pass receptions and receiving yardage, Vernon hauled in 85 passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. The Blue Devils do have some experience returning on the offensive side of the ball, however. Probable starting quarterback Anthony Boone played in nearly every game last season, throwing for 531 yards and five touchdowns. The redshirt junior threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns in his only career start, a 42-17 win against Virginia last season. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder also returns after a spectacular 2012. Crowder tallied 76 catches, amassing 1,074 yards and scoring eight touchdowns

2. Run game needs work - Though their passing game helped make up for a lackluster run attack in 2012, Duke surely would like to see their ground game improve in 2013. The Blue Devils averaged a meager 125 yards per game on the ground last year. Duke should be able to improve that number this season, as they return four-of-five starting offensive lineman and their top three rushers from last year. Look for the Blue Devils to divide carries between Jela Duncan (109 att., 553 yards, 4 TD), Josh Snead (99 att., 496 yards, 2 TD) and Juwan Thompson (75 att., 352 yards, 1 TD). Also be wary of reserve quarterback Brandon Connette, a strong runner that scored eight touchdowns last season in situational duties.

Defense: 4 starters lost, 5 returning (2 starters moved from defense to offense)
1. Relying on defensive front - Duke finished second to last in the ACC in Total Defense last season, but the Blue Devils will hope to rely on the return of three starting defensive lineman for an improved 2013. Defensive ends Kenny Anunike, who led Duke with five sacks in 2012, and Justin Foxx will combine to provide what the Blue Devils hope will be an improved pass rush (Duke only registered 25 sacks last year). Improving their play against the run will also be vital, as the Blue Devils allowed over 200 yards rushing per game last season.

2. Fresh start for the secondary - After allowing 267 yards per game through the air last season, the Blue Devils are revamping their secondary in preparation for their 2013 campaign. Duke will only return one starter from that unit - first team All-ACC corner Ross Cockrell. In addition to having lost two starting safeties to graduation, Cutcliffe and his staff moved another starter, Brandon Braxton, to wide receiver this spring, leaving three secondary positions open for competition heading into the 2013 season.

Keys to Victory
1. Win the battle up front - The Panthers will need to run the football effectively in this contest. Doing so will keep Duke's offense off the field and wear down their defense down over time. Defensively, Aaron Donald and company need to get after quarterback Anthony Boone early and often. Disrupting the timing of Duke's passing game, with pass rush and coverage variation, will go a long way in stopping Cutcliffe's offensive arsenal.

2. Keep Crowder in check - Pitt's secondary will be strong in 2013, with corner's K'Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts returning as well as safety Jason Hendricks. But they will have their hands full with Duke's Jamison Crowder. The 5'9", 175 pound speedster averaged 14 yards per catch last season. The Blue Devils may very well line him up in the slot, in an effort to gain matchup advantages. Pitt must be aware of his whereabouts and have a plan to contain him, as he has big play potential whenever he touches the rock.

Check back next week for a preview of Pitt's week 4 Opponent, Virginia.

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