Duke-Miami: Opportunites Dwindling for Blue Devil Seniors in Last Trip To Miami

Mike KlineAnalyst INovember 20, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  Thaddeus Lewis #9 of the Duke Blue Devils passes the football against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When seniors go to Miami, they tend to retire there, but when Duke's seniors head to Miami Saturday, they will be hoping to extend their football careers.

The Blue Devils' current group of seniors has seen a lot of ups and downs in Durham—mostly downs, as the team was arguably the worst team in the FBS just a few seasons ago.

However, under second-year coach David Cutcliffe, Duke football has seen a resurgence of sorts.

They are no longer the conference pushovers, and they are playing a much more exciting brand of football than any time since Steve Spurrier wandered the sidelines in the late '80s.

The results haven't always been positive, as Cutcliffe has only posted a 9-13 record so far, but believe it or not, that is a step in the right direction.

For the senior class, many whom are from Florida, it will be fitting that Duke makes its first attempt at a last stab at a bowl appearance on Saturday in the Sunshine State.

For quarterback Thad Lewis, he had the talent to probably go anywhere but was deemed too small—a common characteristic for some of Duke's other top players.

Vince Oghobaase was more of a high-profile recruit but will be unavailable due to an injury to his leg.

Duke's odds against a very skilled Miami team seemed much better a couple of weeks ago before a difficult loss to North Carolina. Prior to that game, the Blue Devils were relatively healthy and had won three straight games.

Now they are banged up, including Lewis, and going against probably an angry Miami team that started strong but has since faded.

Duke has played the Hurricanes close in the past, but the Blue Devils have seemed to deflate over the last two weeks. It is questionable at this point if Cutcliffe can re-inflate the team.

This may amount to the Blue Devils' last stand, as a loss will eliminate them from bowl eligibility even with one game remaining.

A win and Duke will head into the last game of the year, senior day, against Wake Forest with a bowl at stake. If by some miracle the Blue Devils can pull off two wins in their last two games, a 7-5 season and a potential bowl will be the best retirement gift for the outgoing seniors.

For now, though, they best focus on the first game, because unfortunately it is likely to be the beginning of the end.

Prediction: Duke 17, Miami 45

This game may be close for a quarter, but I'd expect a similar outcome to last week's Georgia Tech game.

Duke is too banged up to run with the Hurricanes. With a key injury to a starting offensive lineman, as well as Duke's backup quarterback, Cutcliffe doesn't want to potentially burn a redshirt year if Lewis goes down.

Keys for Duke

The Blue Devils' backs are up against it. They will have to throw everything they have and the kitchen sink to beat a more athletic Miami squad.

If Duke can keep it close, then they may have enough courage and guts to grind out a win if the passing game is clicking. If not, it might be best to do all they can to protect Lewis, who is already banged up.

Any significant injury to Lewis may cause Cutcliffe to burn the redshirt year of quarterback Sean Schroeder. The only other option would be for a backup punter to play quarterback, and I don't like Duke's chances against a high school team if that happens.

Keys for Miami

The real key, at least for coach Randy Shannon, is to win the game.

After the quick start the fire was off Shannon, who hasn't helped bring the Miami program back to prominence. But the Hurricanes have dissipated down the stretch, and the heat is back on.

A loss to Duke might put Shannon in the same hot water where Virginia coach Al Groh now sits. There's something about a loss to Duke that stirs that pot.

However, if Jacory Harris can be efficient with the ball and the Miami defense can limit Lewis and Duke's passing attack, this could end up being an easy win for the Hurricanes.


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