Duke defensive tackle Aeneas Peebles met with the media Tuesday and discussed one of Duke’s biggest off-season imperatives, over-coming adversity.
Duke didn’t do that very well last season, which is how a bad play or bad series could spiral into a bad loss.
The Blue Devils’ defense faced some big-time adversity early in last week’s game against North Carolina A&T. The Aggies went 86 yards on 20 plays in 12 soul-sapping minutes on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead.
Peebles said Duke responded well to the off-season message.
“Things might not always go your way. But you always put on more steam, never look back, never down your head. After that 20-play drive, we just came together on the sidelines, the whole defense, and we just talked about our standard and how we play football. It was good, actually, kind of a wake-up call.”
Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg had to respond to a different kind of adversity, a lost fumble in the season-opening loss to Charlotte, a crucial fumble only yards from the end zone.
Holmberg said he and Coach David Cutcliffe got back to basics.
“Moving on from something like that is something you never want to have happen to you. Just something to emphasize, ball security, whenever you’re in the red zone, keep two hands on the ball, just something that Coach Cut talked about a lot this week, just making sure you’re finishing your runs and keeping your pads down and making everything game like. I’m looking forward to keeping it that way.”
The Duke offense had a turnover free game against A&T, a game in which Duke punched the ball across the goal line six times.
None were more important than the tie-breaking final drive of the first half, when Holmberg orchestrated a TD drive that included 10 plays in 58 seconds.
“That was something the coaching staff was most excited about,” Holmberg said, “for the whole offense in general. To be able to go out there with confidence and use it well, to get it to the receivers quick and be able to see what the defense is giving you, while also playing fast and know what you’re looking for, whether first down or clock stoppers, is really good, a big step forward for all of us.”