Duke hosts Kansas hoping for rare 3-0 start
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) For all of Duke's accomplishments during its recent rise to relevance, it's still been 20 years since the Blue Devils started a season with three straight victories.
Duke is looking to check that off its to-do list when the Blue Devils host rebuilding Kansas on Saturday.
The Blue Devils' 1994 team had been the most recent standard of success for a program that had been near the bottom of the Bowl Subdivision before starting its climb in 2012.
Since then, Duke has earned a winning season, bowl berths and national rankings - all were firsts since '94. But each of the last two seasons also included early slip-ups.
A win over Kansas (1-0) will give the Blue Devils (2-0) their best start since the 1994 team opened with seven victories.
Kansas coach Charlie Weis was talking about Duke's offense but could have been referring to the program as a whole when he said, ''They've been on a roll now for over a year and it doesn't look like they're going to slow down.''
If the Jayhawks can find a way to stop them, they'll earn a bit of history of their own: Kansas hasn't won a road game since 2009 and has yet to start 2-0 under Weis.
''They had a lot of work to do - that's obvious - but their personnel is starting to come into play,'' Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. ''This team looks more like a Charlie Weis football team, for obvious reasons. ... Their personnel is starting to show up.''
And perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks believe they can win. Duke learned to clear that mental hurdle during its recent revival and now that's something Kansas is starting to figure out, Weis said.
''I think that our players have visual evidence on tape that they have a legitimate chance of winning,'' Weis said. ''Based off of what they've seen last year and what they've seen these first two games ... they should go down there with the anticipation of winning the game, not just hoping to win.''
Some things to know about Duke's first visit from Kansas:
MEETING HIS FORMER BOSS: Cutcliffe was supposed to be Weis' associate head coach at Notre Dame in 2005 but had to resign the position without ever coaching a game because of complications from open heart surgery. Cutcliffe calls that decision ''one of the toughest things I've had to do, by far, in the business.'' He sat out that season while he recovered, returned to Tennessee as an assistant in 2006 and was hired by Duke after the 2007 season.
KANSAS' FIREPOWER: The Blue Devils are especially wary of sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart, who threw for three touchdowns in the opening victory over Southeast Missouri State, and receiver Nick Harwell, a transfer from Miami of Ohio who caught two of those scores.
STRENGTH ON STRENGTH: The reason for Weis' optimism is that he feels his secondary is best equipped to handle the deepest position on Duke's depth chart - its receiving corps. Jamison Crowder and Issac Blakeney have combined for five touchdowns while the Jayhawks' secondary - led by senior Dexter McDonald's two interceptions - picked off three passes last week.
STEADY BOONE: Duke quarterback Anthony Boone has started this season by throwing 74 straight passes without an interception. Last year he was picked off 13 times in 11 games - including one that was returned 55 yards for the winning touchdown in the final minutes of the Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Texas A&M. Cutcliffe says Boone has ''worked really hard ... understanding when he can pull the trigger and when he can't.''
IT'S BEEN A WHILE: This marks the second game of a home-and-home series that started in 2009 - when Kansas wasn't far removed from its Orange Bowl victory and Duke's rebuilding project was still in its infancy. The Jayhawks won 44-16. ''They were a good football team and we weren't there yet,'' Cutcliffe said. ''Athletically, there's a significant difference (in Duke now). No offense to any of our good folk from 2009, but it's just a fact.''
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Lawrence, Kansas, contributed to this report.
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