Ahead of Kansas football’s non-conference contest with the Duke Blue Devils, associate sports editor Andrew Lind discussed the upcoming game with Jake Piazza, sports editor of the Duke Chronicle.
Lind: Although Duke lost its first game, it rebounded to win its next two. What have been the primary reasons for the turnaround?
“Well, I think it goes to something that [coach] David Cutcliffe has preached his entire time in Durham and it's about taking the football away and taking care of the football,” Piazza said. “I think the consistency of quarterback play from [graduate student] Gunnar Holmberg has kind of been under-appreciated, even at times I think he's had or he's been over 70 percent in [completion] every week. Maybe it was I think it was 69 [percent] against Charlotte, but he's, he's taking care of the football for the most part. He's completing his passes and, and making smart decisions with that. And I think between his consistent plan, the turnovers, that's something that's going to take care of Duke this season.”
Lind: Senior running back Mataeo Durant has been a force to be reckoned with this season, is there any way to slow him down?
“Slowing him down is tough, but I will say the North Carolina A&T Aggies had some success with that,” Piazza said. “I believe he only had 41 rushing yards against them and I mean [he] still had the three rushing touchdowns. But I think if you want to stop Durant you have to pack the box and you know kind of pressure Holmberg to beat you over the top.”
Lind: And if the Jayhawks do pack the box, who are some deep threats in the wide receiving core to watch out for?
“I would say Duke’s best downfield deep threat is their slot receiver Jalon Calhoun,” Piazza said. “He’s a junior this year and we've seen games where he can just do some really special things on the football field, [an] extremely versatile receiver -- he can really run any route you need.”
Lind: What do you feel is the Blue Devils’ biggest weakness that the Jayhawks could exploit?
“I think if you're looking at the DBs [defensive backs] play...it just has left something to be desired,” Piazza said. “There have been too many PI [pass interference] calls, they've got gotten grabby at times. I think kind of planning on taking deep shots I think is a good way to get on top of the Blue Devils. And this is probably going to play right into your guys’ strengths is in [redshirt junior quarterback] Jason Bean and using his legs to not just run the ball but even to extend plays.”
Lind: What under-the-radar player do you feel could be impactful against Kansas?
“I think a guy that's maybe not getting quite as many eyeballs just because of the superstar of Mataeo Durant is [redshirt sophomore] Jordan Waters, the backup running back,” Piazza said. “I mean he runs hard and against Charlotte he had a couple of explosive little dump passes that he you know he took for 20 plus yards.”
Lind: What’s your score prediction?
“I've been impressed with what I've seen from Cliff and his squad the past two weeks and I'll admit I picked wrong against him like last week and the Wildcats beating up on the Blue Devils pretty good, but this week I'm gonna have to go the flip side I'm gonna stick with Duke,” Piazza said. “And I'm going to say 45-13 Blue Devils -- kind of ride it out fashion and their last home game before ACC play starts. I really just think the ability of Gunnar to do the little football things the right way is is gonna lead to it and last week we definitely saw this offensive explosion.”
Kansas takes on Duke at 3 p.m. Saturday in Durham, North Carolina.