Even if nobody knew what to expect from the ACC’s Coastal Division, and no one did, this all seemed a little wild for Week 3.
No. 17 Virginia Tech gave up a late touchdown to lose at home to East Carolina. Georgia Tech needed a late touchdown to get past Georgia Southern. Pittsburgh was life-and-death to beat Florida International before pulling away late.
And if there was one constant, it was Virginia ticketed for the basement, but the Cavaliers knocked off No. 21 Louisville with authority.
North Carolina, with an open date on the schedule, presumably was very happy to be above this particular fray on this particular Saturday. (Not for long: The Tar Heels will have to travel to Greenville to face the high-flying Pirates next Saturday.)
Undaunted, Duke took care of business as Kansas posed little threat in a 41-3 Blue Devils win, the score an apt representation of the way Duke has easily dismissed less-talented opponents this season. It’s one thing against teams from the Colonial and Sun Belt, another against a team from the Big 12.
“Anytime you can win one of those games, particularly when you win it in a dominating fashion, that’s a good thing,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.
The defense intercepted its first passes of the season and Duke utterly dominated both sides of the line, but the biggest news was the emergence of freshman running back Shaun Wilson as a big-play threat. His three touchdowns and a school-record 245 yards on only 12 carries is as promising a development as the Duke offense has seen in a long time.
The only contribution to the general Coastal Division wackiness was when the teams came out for the kickoff after Duke’s final touchdown … and both took up positions on the wrong side of the field. While a very fired-up Hud Mellencamp – making his college debut while his father was getting ready to play Farm Aid in Raleigh – did his best to pump up 10 other walk-ons, the officials did their best to usher each team across the 50-yard line to take their proper places.
Amid the general jubilation, there were nevertheless some disconcerting aspects for Duke, most notably the inaccuracy of quarterback Anthony Boone, who continues to battle sporadic bouts of erratic throws. Usually, they only final a series or two. Saturday, his sights were off for most, if not all, of the first half.
“That’s just me, personal adjustments I had to make,” Boone said. “I figured it out, just getting the ball out of time and being more accurate.”
Despite the plethora of underthrows and overthrows, Boone still finished with two touchdown passes and completed 57 percent of his throws, but opportunities were squandered that need to be converted against better teams – especially deep balls to open receivers.
“It was really just throwing the football, the mechanics of throwing the football,” Cutcliffe said. “There’s times, the first half, it’s highly humid, highly wet, you know? You never really know. I would like to think that it’s not going to happen, but you saw what he did. I told him, ‘Sometimes you’re trying to make every play. Just have fun.’ ”
Still, how much can you nitpick a 38-point win? Even on a day when the Blue Devils weren’t at their best, they made it look easy. That’s never a bad thing.
Miami had much the same outcome against Arkansas State, which left the two lukewarm preseason favorites in the Coastal holding serve on a day when very little else went as planned. The Blue Devils travel to Miami in two weeks, a day when the Coastal Division picture will unavoidably become clearer than it was Saturday.