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Blue Devils await shades of green against Notre Dame

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DURHAM — Notre Dame football’s fan base “travels.” 

For Irish partisans, tickets — the metaphorical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow — are easier to find on the road than in South Bend.

Meanwhile, Duke is one of those schools with available seats, although the Blue Devils have their passionate fans. They’re just not as rabid as for the elite basketball program or enough of them to fill 40,004-seat Wallace Wade Stadium.

The above equation equals a full stadium when No.15-ranked Notre Dame (6-2) visits the Blue Devils (4-4) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Blue Devils’ turf.

Duke’s players understand the “green” they’ll see when they emerge from the tunnel won’t be limited to the lushly manicured turf. After all, these players committed to a school with more weight based on academics than playing before capacity crowds.

“We’re excited for the atmosphere we’ll have here playing a great opponent,” said quarterback Quentin Harris. “It will be electric at Wallace Wade. We’re looking forward to a home atmosphere here and to feed off the energy of the fans.”

When reminded of Notre Dame’s colors that will be plenty evident, the adaptable quarterback with the deportment of a future U.S. Senator was nonplussed.

“That’s fine,” he said. “The more noise the better. If there is more green we’ll feed off that, too.”

The timing of Notre Dame’s visit offers another contrast, this one involving ACC scores.

Duke opened ACC Coastal play routing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, 45-10, but last week Virginia Tech nearly won at Notre Dame. The Irish needed a touchdown and an extra-point with 29 seconds to play to escape with a 21-20 victory.

Another ACC head scratcher was defending national champion Clemson needing to stop a two-point conversion to beat North Carolina.

Despite such results, the nation views the ACC Coastal as weak for its teams hovering around .500. As a result, Clemson has tumbled from preseason No. 1 to No. 5 in the first College Football Playoff rankings released this week.

But Duke head coach David Cutcliffe argues the Coastal has balance. The Blue Devils are two plays from a 6-2 overall record or 4-1 Coastal mark, having allowed Pitt a game-winning touchdown in the final moments of a 33-30 loss and failing to score a TD in the last seconds of a 20-17 defeat to North Carolina.

Instead, Duke’s 2-3 division record trails Virginia (6-3, 4-2), Pitt (6-3, 2-2), North Carolina (4-5, 3-3), Miami (5-4, 3-3) and Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2). Cutcliffe says consistency is the issue for teams outside the nation’s top 10 or so with “gifted talent” to overcome issues.

“I think it’s the best the Coastal has been, to be honest with you,” said Cutcliffe, who is not one to blow smoke.

HOOP BALANCE AND DEFENSE

Duke basketball’s home opener against Colorado State is at 7 p.m. Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The No. 4 Blue Devils (1-0) opened by beating No. 3 Kansas 66-64 in the Champions Classic on Tuesday in New York. The Rams (1-0) defeated Denver 74-63 in their opener.

Duke sophomore point guard Tre Jones finished with a team-high 15 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals.

“I think the difference maker for us was Tre,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have a lot of young guys. We’ve really tried to play good defense in our first 30 practices and it paid off. We played really good defense and it starts with that kid and the poise he had on offense. I’m really happy with my team.”

Duke forced 28 turnovers, although it committed 16.

Tom Shanahan is a freelance writer based in Cary and author of “Raye of Light,” a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback forCollege Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s.

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