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DURHAM — “Be quick but don’t hurry.”
Duke football coach David Cutcliffe invoked a popular teaching phrase from John Wooden, the late and iconic UCLA basketball coach, to describe improvement he expects to see from quarterback Quentin Harris the remainder of the season.
Duke seeks another “Wooden performance” from Harris to remain atop the ACC Coastal standings heading into November after they play preseason favorite Virginia at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers were ranked as high as No. 18 with a 4-0 start before back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Miami dropped the Cavaliers out of the Top 25. Virginia (4-2, 2-1), Duke (4-2, 2-1) and North Carolina (4-2, 2-1) are tied atop the Coastal standings. UNC plays at Virginia Tech (4-2, 1-2).
Two weeks ago, Harris struggled in a 33-30 loss to Pitt. He was 18-of-43 passing (.419) for 163 yards in a defeat that cost the Blue Devils their momentum from an impressive win over Virginia Tech.
But against Georgia Tech, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound redshirt senior was 11-of-20 (.550) for 176 yards in a 41-23 victory.
The flip-flop was not as drastic as it appears, Cutcliffe said. He says Harris has a streak of six strong quarters entering the Virginia game, blaming himself for the first half of the Pitt game.
Pitt led 26-3 at halftime before Harris rallied the Blue Devils to a 30-26 lead with 1:29 to play. The defense subsequently squandered the victory, allowing an 82-yard drive in just four plays to score with 38 seconds remaining.
“I think it occurred in the Pittsburgh game,” Cutcliffe said of Harris’ comeback. “There was never a panic. When you have as bad of a half as he had and not an easy start in the second half, you have to keep your composure.”
Cutcliffe cited a game plan with too many wrinkles.The first-year starter was thinking too much and as a result “hurrying to be quick.” At halftime, Cutcliffe told Harris they were going back to the basics of the offense.
“We’re going to put you where you’re doing what you do and what you know,” said Cutcliffe, recapping earlier this week his words to Harris. “And he didn’t panic. So, I think what we saw was a continuation of him growing as a player, a person. He’s built to handle adversity.”
NOTRE DAME CROWD BUMP
Duke drew only 21,741 fans in last week’s win over Georgia Tech, but the Blue Devils will enjoy a bump for their next home game against Notre Dame game on Nov. 9a t 40,004-seat Wallace Wade Stadium. There are only about 100 single tickets remaining.
COACH K SEES CLOSE ACC RACE
We’re not only 18 days from the start of basketball season, this year that includes the opening ACC competition. With the ACC expanding from 18 conference games to 20, there are three ACC games on Nov. 5 and four more on Nov. 6.
That accounts for every school but preseason favorite Duke, which is again a participant in the revolving four-team Champions Classic. On Nov. 5, the Blue Devils play Kansas, while Michigan State faces Kentucky at Madison Square Garden in New York. Duke’s conference opener is Dec. 6 at Virginia Tech.
“As a result there will be some great basketball throughout,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of what views as a balanced race. “There aren’t veteran teams that we had last year. I think for us staying healthy and how our young guys develop will be two keys.”
Tom Shanahan is a freelance writer based in Cary and author of "Raye of Light," a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback for College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s.