Duke seek­ing its own team iden­tity as it pre­pares to play Cincin­nati in Belk Bowl,

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Steve Reed

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — Duke wide re­ceiver Con­ner Ver­non sees Thurs­day night’s Belk Bowl against Cincin­nati (9-3) as a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to help the Blue Devils’ foot­ball team emerge from bas­ket­ball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s shadow.

This is Duke’s first bowl game in 18 sea­sons, and the Blue Devils have their 5:30 p.m. time slot to them­selves on a day with two other bowl games.

“Any­body who fol­lows col­lege foot­ball will be watch­ing, so this is our chance in the na­tional spot­light to take a big step for­ward with this pro­gram and let peo­ple know about us,” said Ver­non, the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence’s ca­reer leader in re­cep­tions and yards re­ceiv­ing.

Duke (6-6) hasn’t won a bowl game since 1961.

“Is there a lot of pres­sure on us? Ab­so­lutely,” said quar­ter­back Sean Ren­free. “But good play­ers like added pres­sure, and they thrive on it.”

Coach David Cut­cliffe called this game the next step in try­ing to build a win­ning tra­di­tion and raise the level of ex­pec­ta­tions of the play­ers, sim­i­lar to what his friend Krzyzewski has done on the hard­wood.

“This is na­tional ex­po­sure for us,” Cut­cliffe said. “The NFL is not play­ing. We’re it. We’re the game. So peo­ple across the coun­try who maybe heard a lit­tle bit about Duke foot­ball, if they see us play as well as we can play, I think they will be a lit­tle shocked. We have a lot of speed and a lot of skill. So this can have a huge im­pact for us.”

And Cut­cliffe said the Blue Devils are on the verge of some­thing spe­cial.

“I don’t plan on not mak­ing a bowl again. When I talked to coach Krzyzewski, there is no ques­tion what the ex­pec­ta­tions of a Duke bas­ket­ball player are,” Cut­cliffe said. “And that’s the op­por­tu­nity we have — to cre­ate big ex­pec­ta­tions.”

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