After starting left guard Lucas Patrick and starting defensive end Dezmond Johnson had been helped off the field and shared a cart ride to the locker room, both of their playing futures looked bleak.
But by Tuesday, coach David Cutcliffe was optimistic that neither leg injury was as serious as they first seemed.
“We did get good MRI results on both of them,” Cutcliffe said. “So, I know enough to tell you that. I don’t know enough to give you timetables.
“Dezmond is probably behind Lucas. We’re still letting treatment settle in.”
Representatives from both lines – defensive end Britton Grier and center Matt Skura – both said their respective units were preparing to play without both players.
Redshirt junior Cody Robinson will fill in at left guard, and classmate Kyler Brown will step in at defensive end. Brown, who made the switch from linebacker this offseason, dealt with his own injuries during the preseason but now his level of play has left him deserving more snaps.
Brown and his now-primary backup, Grier, actually have both played more snaps (104 and 109, respectively) than Johnson (81). Grier also can help back up at the other end spot, which is split between Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (99 snaps) and Jonathan Jones (90).
The rotation of the interior defensive linemen is five-deep, too (starters Jamal Bruce and Carlos Wray, with backups Jamal Wallace, A.J. Wolf and Mike Ramsay, each of whom has played at least 63 snaps).
• Cutcliffe continues to try to impress upon starting quarterback Anthony Boone the importance of making good decisions and not trying to do too much. He told Boone as the two were walking out of the tunnel from halftime Saturday, ‘Don’t try to be a great person on a good team, be a good person on a great team.’
“The beauty of what we have, and I think Anthony understands this,” Cutcliffe said Tuesday, “is let the playmakers make the plays. You make good decisions. You don’t have to go win the game at quarterback. That’s a misnomer. Everybody immediately says, well, this quarterback has won five Super Bowls. Well, let’s go back and study why Super Bowls were won. When quarterbacks get too carried away with being the playmaker, you have the risk of being a high-turnover team when it comes to interceptions and ball handling.”
Cutcliffe was asked about Boone’s winning percentage as a starter (.867, a 13-2 mark) – the best in Duke history. How much of that is attributable to him?
“I don’t know if I can answer the question,” Cutclffe started, “other than that, if we had a bad quarterback, I bet we wouldn’t be 13-2.”
• Throughout training camp and the early part of the season, Cutcliffe has said that freshman Shaun Wilson – who set a Duke rushing record Saturday with 245 yards on just 12 carries – is different than any other running back he has had at Duke.
“He is, obviously, smaller (5-foot-9, 180 pounds), probably a little bit different with quick feet, short-space quickness through the roof,” Cutcliffe said. “His ability to change directions is as good as I’ve been around. And then he has some extreme top-end speed.”