DURHAM — The long wait is over for Duke safety Jeremy Cash.
Cash, a redshirt sophomore from Plantation, Fla., transferred to Duke from Ohio State a year ago, hoping to play immediately. With Ohio State facing NCAA problems, Cash appealed to the NCAA but was turned down and forced to sit out the 2012 season.
On Saturday, Cash took the field for the first time against N.C. Central. He got his first hit. He contributed to a 45-0 victory.
"It felt good. It's been a long time," Cash said, smiling. "I just tried to play my hardest."
And to be a part of Duke's first defensive shutout since 1989?
"It felt good. It's a statement for all the teams we play this year," he said. "The scoreboard said it all -- 45-zip. We've got a new defensive scheme and good players coming in. It's a statement we're trying to make this year."
Cash, who had six tackles, noted the Devils had implemented a 4-2-5 scheme but simplified it by adding. "We're just trying to make plays."
Cash could have played in the Belk Bowl last year but would have used up an entire season of eligibility to do it. He decided against it, which made his wait even longer and added to his anxiousness leading up to the game.
BIG-PLAY GUY: Jamison Crowder almost broke the first one. He did break it the second time around.
After a 25-yard punt return early in the game, the 5-9 junior jetted 76 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter as Duke took a 14-0 lead. He also finished with six catches for 62 yards.
"Jamison is something else," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "I don't think I remember a guy who has accomplished what he has accomplished that worked like he did this August in camp. He's at another level in conditioning, at another level in strength. I thought he had a great camp and it showed out there."
READY TO PLAY: Some coaches worry about their teams in openers. So much can go wrong. Teams can be flat.
Cutcliffe said he sensed Friday that the Devils were ready.
"Last night I felt like I needed a lasso. And to be honest with you, I liked it," Cutcliffe said.
Cutcliffe said he meets alone with the team without the other assistants but liked seeing the players in the room 25 minutes early. When he walked in, he said, "They got stirred up."
What did he say to the players?
"The best thing is to keep your mouth shut," he said, smiling.
OF NOTE: Tight end Braxton Deaver, a redshirt junior from Charlotte, scored the first touchdown of the season for the Devils on a 3-yard pass from Brandon Connette. "I love Braxton's energy," Cutcliffe said. ...
The Blue Devils had five true freshmen play in the game -- wide receivers Ryan Smith and Johnell Barnes, cornerbacks Breon Borders and Byron Fields, and safety Deondre Singleton. Smith's 39-yard reception in the second quarter was Duke's longest pass play.
Making their first starts for Duke were Cash, wide receiver Max McCaffrey, center Matt Skura, safety Corbin McCarthy and cornerback Garett Patterson.
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