Duke’s players and coach don’t sound like a beaten team despite disappointing season

Duke’s players and coach don’t sound like a beaten team despite disappointing season

PHOTO (Duke Athletics): Mataeo Durant ran for 102 yards and a touchdown in the win over Northwestern. He needs 64 yards to set a school single-season rushing record.

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By TOM SHANAHAN

DURHAM – On the final week of practice of a lost season, Duke sophomore defensive tackle DeWayne Carter spoke about the Blue Devils wanting senior running back Mataeo Durant to get the school single-season rushing record.

“Taeo is not very vocal, but he’s a workhorse,” Carter said. “That’s in workouts, in the weight room on the field, off the field. He is intentional about what he does. He loves the game, he loves us. He just works hard all the time. Even if he’s not a 100 percent healthy, no matter what the circumstances he’s always going to give you his best effort. That’s how I feel he leads on our team.”

Durant, with 1,173 yards through 11 games, needs 64 against Miami (6-5, 4-3 ACC Coastal) when Duke (3-8, 0-7 ACC Coastal) and the Hurricanes meet at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.5.55

“I’ve done OK throughout the season,” Durant said “I’ve just tried to take advantage of opportunities prevented me. Getting the record would be kind of big.”

Durant was more expansive when talking about his career at Duke, even though the Blue Devils are about to finish their third straight losing season.

“I feel I would do it all again,” he said. “My experience at Duke has been great. I met a lot of great people and a lot of coaches that have helped mentor me to become a better man and better player. Duke has given me a lot of things a lot of other schools couldn’t offer anyone. I’m grateful for the opportunity to come here.”

Carter also didn’t sound like a player with buyer’s remorse as questions arise about Duke coach David Cutcliffe returning for what would be his 15th season in 2022.

“We’re behind him 100 percent,” Carter said. “As long as he’s the head coach – God forbid he’s not the head coach – we’re still behind him for everything he’s done for us as individuals and as a team. The opportunity he gives us day in and day out and the energy he brings day in and day out, it’s hard not to play for him.”

Players graduating and leaving school feeling they’ve grown as people was supposed to be what college sports was about at one time, but the high-stakes of Division I football is measured by Ws. That’s the conundrum facing Duke athletic director Nina King and the administration entering 2022.

Cutcliffe will turn 68 in the first month of next season, but he has given no indication retirement is on the horizon.

“That’s what everybody’s speculating,” Cutcliffe said earlier in the week. “I got more. I don’t know if I look worn out or look all that bad, but I got a lot of fire in me. I’m a young football coach. I love doing what I’m doing. Has this been fun? No. Has it been rewarding? Yes, because you find out more about yourself during these times. Here is the test. I’ve had to fight adversity all my life, and you don’t run from it. I mean, you just get better. It pays.

“I’m a firm believer in Galatians 6:9, “don’t grow weary of doing good for at a proper time you will reap a great harvest.” I’m not going to back down from that mentality. I appreciate the question, I do. You get reports like this, and I don’t read anything, but I get prospects and people saying, ‘Hey, is this true? Is this true?’ I’ll speak to that when I want to speak to that, make no mistake about that. But I want to invite anybody that wants to keep up with me to try to keep up with me. Come on.”

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