Pinstripe Bowl Q&A with Chris Brown of Ball Durham


Chris Brown of Ball Durham answers our questions about Duke football (yes, we snuck one basketball question in) before the Pinstripe Bowl.

1. Both Duke and Indiana have always been labeled as “basketball schools”, but David Cutcliffe has developed quite a strong football program at Duke (as this is the Blue Devils’ fourth bowl appearance in a row). How impressive is the work Cutcliffe has done to build a winning program at a school where football can sometimes be an afterthought?


David Cutcliffe has done an amazing job turning around the Duke football program and making it relevant again. He’s led the Blue Devils to four straight bowl game appearances and an ACC Coastal Division championship in 2013 where he led the team to their first 10-win season ever. He’s not only done a great job coaching but also recruiting talented players to join the Blue Devils and making it a place where highly-rated high school players want to come play football. Duke will bring in their top recruiting class in school history next year, and it’s ranked in the Top 25 freshman classes by most college football recruiting outlets. Add those with the recent major upgrades and improvements made to the football stadium and it’s easy to see the impact that Cutcliffe has had on the football program and how much he has transformed it since arriving at Duke.

2. Indiana has had trouble stopping anyone this year, and dual-threat quarterback Thomas Sirk has amassed over 3,100 yards of offense in just 11 games for Duke. Do you expect Sirk to have a huge day against Indiana’s struggling secondary?

I think the Blue Devils can get a huge performance from QB Thomas Sirk and the offense against the Hoosiers as long as they can avoid turning the ball over. The wide receiving corps has really stepped up as the season has gone on with Max McCaffrey, T.J. Rahming, and Anthony Nash all playing at a high level, and Sirk will always be a factor as a dual threat QB who can attack opposing defenses in the passing game and as a runner. The only issue is that Sirk was benched for backup quarterback Parker Boehme due to an injury and bad performances, but if he is able to complete plays and protect the ball then he should be able to help the Duke offense keep up with the Hoosiers in scoring.

3. With All-American safety Jeremy Cash set to miss the Pinstripe Bowl after undergoing wrist surgery, who should we expect to step up and give Nate Sudfeld and the Hoosier offense trouble?

Jeremy Cash’s injury was a huge blow to the Duke defense, but Cutcliffe has maintained that other players will be ready to step up. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Corbin McCarthy at strike safety and will also have All-ACC safety DeVon Edwards in the secondary, but expect junior cornerback Breon Borders to have a much larger impact on the defense against Nate Sudfeld’s offense. Borders is the best cover defensive back on the team and led the Blue Devils with 11 pass deflections and 3 interceptions during the regular season.


4. After starting 6-1, Duke struggled down the stretch, losing four in a row before beating Wake Forest in the season finale. Does a bowl victory sort of salvage this season, or is it too late for that? 

Even though the ultimate goal for the Blue Devils was to win the ACC Coastal Division title this season, I do think that a bowl game victory can save the season in this case. The four-game conference losing streak was very disappointing, but if Duke is able to pull out a win in the Pinstripe Bowl it will still be a positive season if the Blue Devils can win their first bowl game since 1961 after appearing in the postseason all of the last three years but losing each game. A bowl game victory is the next big thing for the program to accomplish to take the next step forward so a win this postseason could still salvage the season. Additionally injuries have unfortunately taken a hit on the Blue Devils this season, especially on defense, and the team wasn’t completely healthy throughout the year which kept the team from reaching its full potential this year.

5. Let’s move to basketball for a moment. I know all too well just how good Duke is this year, and I was a little surprised. I expected some sort of drop-off after last year, but Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram in particular have been phenomenal. What do you think is the ceiling for this team, and where do you expect them to finish in the ACC, as well as nationally?

Allen and Ingram have shown flashes of greatness for the Blue Devils, but the team just took a huge hit with Amile Jefferson’s recent foot injury. While not having as much flash, Jefferson played a major role for Duke as a starter at power forward and averaging a double-double so far this year. We’re still unsure of the extent of his injury but he will have it re-evaluated after Christmas and the team relying on freshman Chase Jeter until then. With Jefferson the Blue Devils definitely have the potential to finish on top of the ACC and compete for their second straight national title depending on how his recovery goes, but without him I could see the Blue Devils struggling against bigger teams in conference such as UNC, Virginia, and Miami and probably won’t have the depth to advance back to the Final Four.

6. Finally, what’s your Pinstripe Bowl score prediction?

I think that it will be a tight game throughout with Duke coming away with the 37-35 victory.