|Duke braces for No. 14 Miami in battle of unbeaten teams|
Duke coach David Cutcliffe doesn't like that his Blue Devils are playing a Friday night home game against No. 14 Miami, even issuing an apology to that effect.
"I don't like the fact that Friday night football exists because it should be for high schools," Cutcliffe said to the Raleigh News & Observer. "I apologize to all of the high school programs. But if we are going to do it, and do it contractually, we need to do it right."
The Friday night game is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference's television package, which earlier this season featured Boston College defeating Northern Illinois, Syracuse beating Central Connecticut State, and Virginia notching a big win at Boise State.
Duke-Miami is the first ACC game of the season on a Friday night, and it features two undefeated teams in the Blue Devils (4-0, 1-0 ACC) and the Hurricanes (2-0, 0-0).
Miami is coming off a 52-30 victory over Toledo in its first game in three weeks following the cancellation of one game (Sept. 9 at Arkansas State) and postponement of another (Sept. 16 at Florida State) because of the threat of Hurricane Irma.
The unranked Blue Devils gave Cutcliffe the 100th victory of his coaching career last week, 27-17 at North Carolina.
"Well, you remember a whole lot of players, a whole lot of coaches and a lot of families," Cutcliffe said when asked to reflect on reaching that achievement. "It mostly makes me think about my wife, Karen, who has won a hundred games. She has done a heck of a lot better job than I have.
"But 101 is going to be a lot harder to get than No. 1."
The last time these teams met at Durham, in 2015, the game produced one of the wildest finishes in college football history. Miami, which had fired Al Golden earlier in the week, was playing its first game under interim coach Larry Scott, and the Hurricanes won 30-27 on a 91-yard kickoff return that featured eight laterals as time ran out.
With starter Brad Kaaya out with a concussion that week, junior quarterback Malik Rosier made his first start for Miami and passed for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Last year, Miami topped Duke 40-21 in Miami Garden, Fla., behind 396 passing yards and four touchdown passes from Kaaya.
Rosier returns for the 2017 rematch. He has passed for 550 yards in two starts this season, with 333 coming last week against Toledo. In that one, he had only 50 yards passing in the first half.
"He was rushing himself too much in the first half," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "He was throwing it sooner than he had to. We were protecting extremely well.
"I thought his decision-making was excellent, but sometimes his feet were too fast and his brain was going a little too fast."
Duke sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones is in his second season as the starter. He has passed for 904 yards this season, completing 61.9 percent of his 139 attempts with only two interceptions.
Cutcliffe, who coached Peyton Manning as an assistant at Tennessee and Eli Manning as the head coach at Ole Miss, sees an NFL future for Jones.
"He's got the size (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), he's got the arm strength, he's got the mentality, he's got the toughness," Cutcliffe said before the season. "And this guy can run."
Cutcliffe said Jones, who has rushed for 141 yards, has the ability to put the ball where he wants it and when it needs to be there.
"Whether it's touch or velocity or timing," the coach said, "he's got that kind of accuracy. Almost scary."
Jones has found a nice target in junior T.J. Rahming, who has 24 receptions for 248 yards.
Rosier has been without his potential No. 1 target because sophomore Ahmmon Richards, who set a Miami freshman receiving record last year, has been out with a hamstring injury. Richards could return this week.
Rosier also has a huge weapon in running back Mark Walton, who ran for a career-high 204 yards last week. He has rushed for 352 yards on 27 carries in Miami's two games.
"He's a very good instinctive runner," Richt said. "The thing that he can do, when you set a play to go a certain way and they're defending it, he just has a great instinct to hit the brakes and find the best place to go, I guess. It's something you can't coach or teach."