The Quick Lane Bowl is almost here - Duke plays Northern Illinois in the Motor City on Tuesday.
Duke went through a dreary stretch this season, losing six straight. No one outside the locker knew that quarterback Daniel Jones was playing through injuries. They were discussed recently by David Cutcliffe but he didn’t get into specifics.
It’s worth wondering how things might have gone if he had been healthy. Duke lost to Virginia, Florida State and Pitt by seven and Army by six.
Duke’s opponent, Northern Illinois, is a strong football program - Dave Doeren coached there before moving to NC State and they’ve made a bowl game nine of the last 10 seasons - but they come to Detroit a bit banged up.
NIU is missing their two best offensive players, tailback Jordan Huff and tight end Shane Wimann.
Huff is out with an ankle injury and Wimann with turf toe. Safety Shawun Lurry is out with a broken wrist.
Northern Illinois does have a superb asset in defensive end Sutton Smith who leads the NCAA in tackles for loss with 28.5 and 41b sacks.
David Cutcliffe praised the Husky defense, saying that “[t]hey have one of the more aggressive defenses we’ll play. They have such a knack for attacking the ball. They play great team defense, that’s why they have so many tackles for losses.”’
Sutton is obviously a huge part of that.
While Jones is close to 100%, Duke will not have kicker Austin Parker who is out of school for academic reasons. If you’ll remember, last season the kicking game was wretched. Parker did a nice job for Duke with both kicks and punts and will be missed.
Grad student transfer William Holmquist will take over his duties.
Holmquist, who is nearly completely deaf, has some challenges but managed them well at Tufts, where he started with lacrosse and then walked on to the football team.
His last two years he was all-NESCAC and he hit a couple of field goals of more than 40 yards and at least one with the game on the line.
We’re not sure how much it will matter but it’s bound to matter some that Duke has vastly better training resources than D-III Tufts.
Incidentally, the nickname for is the Jumbos, the coolest nickname we’ve come across the the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys came through Cameron a few years ago.
The Wonder Boys handle came from a brilliant performance in 1919 which led a newspaper to call the players Wonder Boys.
As for Tufts, the Jumbos is for a fairly straightforward reason: the legendary PT Barnum was a benefactor of the school. One of his legendary assets as a promoter was Jumbo the Elephant. Jumbo was struck and killed by a train in 1885. Barnum had him stuffed and ultimately gave that to Tufts, where it was only display until a fire destroyed it in 1975.
It’d be a great story if Holmquist ended up being a key to a Duke win.
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