Duke has a chance to put together its first 2020 winning streak with a win this Saturday at North Carolina State. Defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo and running back Mataeo Durant spoke with the media after Tuesday’s practice and discussed what needs to happen.
“Being able to get over that hump really feels good,” Tangelo said of this week’s practices. “You put in a lot of work over the week just to enjoy game day.”
State? “They do a lot of things to try to get you out of your space. We have to do what we do. Just be physical, run to the ball, follow fundamentals, just believe in the game plan.”
That game plan works a lot better when the 310-pound Tangelo blows up the blocking. Tangelo had three tackles-for-loss against Syracuse. That’s one more than he had all of last season. David Cutcliffe made it clear yesterday that Tangelo can continue that, even do better.
What does Tangelo think?
“I feel like being a disrupter is a part of the game you have to work on every day, day in and day out. My coach always says you never know when a play is going to come but when it comes you have to be ready to make them. Really focused in practice on the game plan and executing, just making plays. It’s a team thing, We’re really preaching just finishing, finishing our tackles, finishing our blocks, finishing our assignments. You don’t want to leave anything up to chance.”
You also don’t want to leave anything on the field, especially when you’re a senior like Tangelo, entering the stretch run of your college career.
“I want to go out leaving a statement. I want to go out with no what-ifs. I don’t want to think back 10 years from now and be like ‘man, if I had would have done this differently.’ I just want to go out and leave it all out on the field and show my teammates how you work hard.”
Durant has been a key to an offense that suddenly is finishing drives and putting points on the board. Duke has scored 62 points in its last three halves.
“We’ve just been clicking more. We’ve been building that team chemistry. We didn’t have much of an off-season to work out together as a team. As we’ve played, we’ve gotten better and better every quarter about sustaining and being consistent overall.”
Durant and Deon Jackson both had career-rushing highs in Saturday’s win over Syracuse. It’s easy to look at the 220-pound Jackson as the bruiser and the 195-pound Durant as the sprinter, a contrast in styles.
But Jackson can run away from defenders; we all remember him blowing by the Miami secondary back in 2018. And Durant is strong enough to run through tackles on his way to open water.
“We’re very much pretty similar,” Durant says. “He’s just a bigger back than I am. We both have a lot of speed. We’re both very powerful. From first look people people don’t think I’m as strong as I am. But I feel like I run with a lot of power. I just feel like we’re a great 1-2 punch overall. There’s not a drop-off when either of us comes in. We both believe in each other.”
“They’re a very good, very physical team. It will be very physical between our offense and their defense. We just have to play harder and work harder than them overall. As long as we clean up on our turnovers we’ll be very hard to beat.”
Under normal circumstances Carter-Finley Stadium can be a difficult place for visiting teams. Of course normal left the station seven months ago. But 4,000 fans will be allowed in Saturday’s game and both Tangelo and Durant say that’s enough to notice.
“I would like fans to be able to enjoy the game of football,” Tangelo says. “We work hard to put on a performance for fans . . . I’m definitely excited to see fans.”
“It’s very exciting just to have fans there, hopefully safely. We love having fans at the games.”
Duke also would love to send those fans home mourning a loss by the home team.
“That first win is just part of a big season we can have going forward,” Durant says.
Wheels up at 3:30.