This story incorrectly reported the Duke football team's record as 9-3. The Blue Devils are 10-3.
DURHAM -- Duke is facing a rare challenge as it heads into yet another huge football game.
The No. 22 Blue Devils (10-3) will be in their second straight bowl game when they take on No. 20 Texas A&M (8-4) in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on New Years Eve.
And after losing to this years Heisman Trophy winner in the ACC title game, Duke will go up against last years winner.
The Blue Devils didnt fare well when they took on Jameis Winston and No. 1 Florida State in a 45-7 shellacking in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte two weeks ago. Theyll face 2012 winner Johnny Manziel in the Georgia Dome in two weeks.
Duke returned to regular practices starting on Monday after exams were finished. The players arent working against A&M schemes and formations yet, but its hard for any of them looking at game footage not to notice the Aggies charismatic quarterback.
The amount of time since the Florida State game has been good for us, because we almost had to forget about it while we focused on exams, Dukes junior linebacker Kelby Brown said Tuesday at a press luncheon. By the time we got back to football wed all moved on from the game. But A&M will present a similar challenge to us with a Heisman quarterback.
Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe couldnt avoid talking about Manziel.
When you watch tape of all three phases, you see athletes in every area with a lot of speed and a lot of size, Cutcliffe said. Obviously, its hard to get away from Johnny Manziel once youre watching tape as far as extending plays and ad-libbing and making plays, I know in my time hes the best Ive ever seen in that regard. Theyve only given up nine sacks, and people cant hardly touch him much less tackle him.
Dukes redshirt freshman safety DeVon Edwards, whose kickoff returns and interceptions were huge factors in the Blue Devils wins against N.C. State and UNC, said Winston and Manziel are similar in key ways.
The thing is that they both try to stay behind the line of scrimmage and scramble and wait for their receivers to come open and let them fight for it, said Edwards, a native of Covington, Ga., who said hes hoping 15 family members can get tickets. They believe their receivers are better than the defensive backs. (Manziel) is a great quarterback.
Most of the work until Thursday, Cutcliffe said, will be one-vs.-ones drills, etc., to shore up fundamentals before the team focuses on the Aggies. Dukes last practice in Durham will be on Sunday, and the players will gather again the night of Dec. 25 in Atlanta to get serious about A&M.
Practice is going really well, quarterback Anthony Boone said. Were just emphasizing getting back to the speed of the game, going against the defense. Were just kind of sharpening the tools weve been working on all year.
Duke is practicing without backup quarterback Brandon Connette, in California with his mother, Nancy, who is recovering from surgery from a brain tumor.
Cutcliffe said that there is no timetable for Connette to return and that freshman Parker Boehme is taking snaps with the second team.
Senior tackle Perry Simmons, who started 50 straight games but suffered a torn ACL against Florida State, is out, and sophomore Lucas Patrick will get his first career start in Simmons place.
(Patrick is) ready for this challenge, Cutcliffe said. I told him yesterday: Ive already named the position youre starting at. Its not going to be called right tackle any more.
Hes starting at Simmons.