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Alabama, Duke to open 2019 season in Atlanta


Alabama will kick off its quest to win five consecutive College Football Playoff titles against Duke in 2019 in Atlanta, the Crimson Tide and Blue Devils announced Monday morning.

(Mostly kidding about that five-peat. Mostly.)

It will be Alabama’s sixth appearance in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff, which included the first Atlanta-based neutral site game in 2008 (against Clemson) and will include 2017’s curtain-lifter against Florida State. The Tide have also played Virginia Tech (2009, 2013) and West Virginia (2014) in Atlanta to begin various seasons, and opened the 2016 season against USC at AT&T Stadium.

There is, of course, a ton of money to be made off these neutral-site games. And that’s fine, but how much more fun would it have been to see Alabama travel to Lane Stadium and face a raucous, Enter Sandman-energized crowd at Virginia Tech instead of doing one of these games? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

But alas, we’ll just have to settle for these big neutral-site games, though Alabama-Duke might not exactly qualify as one of those. It’s not a bad consolation, of course.

Duke upsets No. 17 North Carolina for first ACC win of the season

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It’s been a miserable season on the gridiron for Duke, which held such promise after beating Notre Dame earlier in the year but saw injuries put hopes of another bowl game in jeopardy.

On Thursday night however, the Blue Devils gave their fans one last highlight from the football field before attention on campus turned to the school’s basketball team by upsetting rival North Carolina 28-27 and causing a minor shakeup in the ACC standings.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones’ first action in the rivalry game was a memorable one, throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown while also extending drives with his legs (94 rushing, two scores). He did a good job spreading things out in the passing game, finding seven different receivers and helping T.J. Rahming hit the 100 yard receiving mark for the game.

With tailback Shaun Wilson also adding 107 yards on the ground, the Blue Devils went a remarkable 10-of-16 on third down and recorded a nearly seven minute drive in the fourth quarter to help salt away the win.

UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky had an efficient first half but didn’t come out as accurate in the second. He finished with 297 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed two interceptions, the latter of which was right into the arms of a Duke defender with the time winding down to end any hope of a comeback.

The victory is the Blue Devils’ first in ACC play and keeps their slim bowl hopes alive at 4-6 on the season. The team is on the road for their final two games of the year but could be in position to earn a postseason invite at 5-7 depending on how many teams become eligible.

As for North Carolina, the loss takes a return trip to the ACC title game even further out of reach. Virginia Tech owns the head-to-head between the two and only needs to beat Georgia Tech on Saturday or Virginia to end the regular season to clinch the ACC Coastal.

Jela Duncan, Duke’s leading rusher, ruled out of Virginia game

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A significant piece of Duke offensive puzzle won’t be available to the Blue Devils in Week 5.

On its weekly injury report released Thursday, Duke announced that Jela Duncan will not play against Virginia Saturday because of an unspecified leg injury. The running back sustained the injury in the 38-35 win over Notre Dame last weekend.

With 314 yards, Duncan is far and away the Blue Devils’ leading rusher.  Next closest is Shaun Wilson‘s 122 yards.

Duncan, a senior who’s endured a rocky career thus far, also leads the team with four rushing touchdowns, while his 5.6 yards per carry is tops amongst Blue Devils with 10 or more carries.

The football program also confirmed that defensive end Dominic McDonald will miss a second straight game because of what’s described as an upper-body injury.  McDonald started the first three games of the season before missing the Notre Dame game with the same injury.

And, finally, the school announced that linebacker Tinashe Bere will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a leg injury.  While he didn’t start any of the four games in which he played this season after starting six last year, he’s sixth on the team in tackles with 13.

Duke’s DeVon Edwards out for season with torn ACL, MCL

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Duke may have beat Notre Dame over the weekend, but it lost one of its very best players for the season in the process.

Redshirt senior safety and kick returner DeVon Edwards suffered a torn ACL and torn MCL in his left leg Saturday, an injury that will end his college career.

In 44 games for the Blue Devils, Edwards returned six kicks for touchdowns and totaled 327 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 10 1/2 sacks, five interceptions, six forced fumbles, 21 pass breakups and eight quarterback pressures. Edwards also ran track for Duke in 2014 and 2015.

Duke has reached a bowl game every year since 2012, and will have to make it five in a row now without Edwards as well as quarterback Thomas Sirk, who’s out for the season due to a torn Achilles’.

On the bright side for Duke, running back Shaun Wilson picked up where Edwards left off and returned a kick 96 yards for a touchdown against Notre Dame.

Thomas Sirk one of three season-ending surgeries announced by Duke

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It was already known that Thomas Sirk would be going under the knife because of yet another injury.  Now, the Duke quarterback will be joined by a pair of teammates.

Duke announced Thursday that Sirk (partial Achilles tear), freshman safety Javon Jackson (fractured left foot) and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Zach Morris (right knee) will undergo surgeries Friday.  As a result, the seasons for all three players have come to an end before they even got started.

Sirk can apply for a waiver from the NCAA that would give him a sixth season of eligibility, although it’s unclear that’s the tack he’ll take.  The fifth-year senior would seemingly be a lock for the waiver as he missed the entire 2013 season with an Achilles injury as well.  This was actually the third Achilles issue for Sirk, with the second coming this past February,

Morris is no stranger to serious injury, either, as he sustained a torn ACL in his right knee last June and missed his entire true freshman season.  H was  three-star member of the Blue Devils’ class last year.

A three-star member of the Blue Devils’ 2016 recruiting class, Jackson was rated as the No. 68 cornerback in the country.