The Duke Blue Devils went through their final walkthrough in Durham Friday morning before boarding a plane and heading to Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl.
Duke (7-5) will face Temple (8-4) of the American Athletic Conference. The game, 1:30 pm on Dec. 27, is still days away, but Blue Devils’ head coach David Cutcliffe wanted to get his team in town early.
The departure from Durham means the seniors on the Duke roster went through the paces for the final time on campus. That doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but Cutcliffe has been around long enough to know as the week comes closer to an end, so will the realization to the seniors that their college careers are over.
CUTCLIFFE ON SENIORS
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“I don’t even know if it’s dawned on those seniors that’s their last practice at Duke University in this facility,” Cutcliffe said. “A huge day for them. As the week winds down it will get a little bit more emotional. I’ve seen seniors for years and years (at) bowl games how emotional they are before a game and certainly after. Makes a heck of a difference when you can go out a winner. That’s where the focus needs to be for all of us.”
Joe Giles-Harris, a redshirt junior, said it was bittersweet to see the guys who have been around four or five years jog onto the field for the final time.
“You think it’s a long time before you’re leaving,” Giles-Harris said. “Then the day finally comes and you don’t know how to react.”
Quarterback Daniel Jones, also a redshirt junior, said the team is playing for the senior group.
“We’re going to try to honor them in everything we do,” Jones said. “Today was their last chance to practice here, but we have a week ahead of us and I think the guys and the team are more significant than the building here.”
Cutcliffe, who has coached in the Independence Bowl three times, was asked what the team could expect in Shreveport.
Cutcliffe took time out to praise the host, and said his players will see a lot of things during their stay. But he also had a mild warning for them when it comes to local cuisine.
“They players are in for a treat if they like spicy food,” Cutcliffe said. “A lot of Louisiana flavor there.”
ED FOLEY, INTERNET SENSATION?
Speaking of spice, Temple interim head coach Ed Foley stirred up some attention a press conference on Dec. 11. Foley, who has served as an assistant coach for the Owls for 11 years, became an instant internet star for the enthusiasm he put on display at the podium, so much so you could hear people in the room chuckling during the video.
“I don’t know Ed Foley, he was a lot of fun in that press conference,” Cutcliffe said. “You can tell by the way specials teams play that this guy coaches with energy.”
Giles-Harris missed the last three games of the season with an injury. With the extra time off for bowl preparation, Giles-Harris said he has enjoyed the extra time in the training room.
Giles-Harris, who collected 80 tackles and one sack this season, practiced on Friday, but Cutcliffe said he was unsure of the status of his star linebacker. Even Giles-Harris wasn’t ready to commit to playing in Shreveport.
“I feel good, physically, but we are day-to-day,” Giles-Harris said. “I’m in with the trainers everyday just trying to get better everyday. I’m working so that I can play.”
MOVING ON FROM WAKE FOREST
The Independence Bowl will be the first time Duke takes the field since a 52-point season ending loss to Wake Forest. Asked what’s been the best way to move from that game and Cutcliffe said the best medicine has been practice.
“We kind of settled in and realized that it happened and we were going to learn from it and grow from it,” Jones said. “We approached our practices as our chances to bounce back. I think we did that.”
To Giles-Harris, that was a bad representation of the team.
“That’s not who we are, that’s not how we want to be known,” Giles-Harris said. “That’s not how we play football. We’re excited about this game, we get to play a very good team and we have to show up. We know what happens when we don’t show up.”