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WACO, Texas — Duke has had to make a lot of adjustments while getting ready to play Baylor.
Before leaving North Carolina a day early for Texas to get out ahead of Hurricane Florence, and changing their final preparations for Saturday’s game, the Blue Devils were already getting quarterback Quentin Harris ready for his first career start in place of injured Daniel Jones . They also will be without all-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert, whose season is done because of a hip injury.
The Blue Devils (2-0) arrived in Waco on Thursday morning, two days before the game, and practiced at a local high school.
“That’s highly unusual,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose team generally travels the day before the game and returns home afterward just like most schools.
Cutcliffe said there is also a contingency plan if the team has to alter its return to Durham in the aftermath of the hurricane. That could include staying in Waco an extra night.
On the field, the Blue Devils will try to improve to 3-0 for the second consecutive season. They haven’t had back-to-back 3-0 starts since 1987-88.
Baylor (2-0) has already doubled its win total from coach Matt Rhule’s first season. The Bears lost their first eight games last year, including a 34-20 loss at Duke in Week 3.
“We’ve played two good football teams that gave us a good game, put us in unique situations and gave us a lot of things to prepare for, have exposed our issues and we’re working hard to fix those issues,” Rhule said.
Harris and Jones, who both will have Duke-high streaks of 27 consecutive starts snapped, had surgery this week after getting hurt in a 21-7 win at Northwestern. Jones will miss at least four weeks with a broken left collarbone, so junior backup Harris is getting his first start after attempting only 15 passes and running 39 times in his 13 career games.
“What he’s done best is he’s not trying to be something he’s not. He hasn’t changed his approach, preparation to practice,” Cutcliffe said. “First, he’s a veteran. Secondly, he’s already had the instant ‘I’m the quarterback’ thrust into a game last week, a close game he had to close out, and we won it. It’s not like he’s just finding out he’s starting. He’s known that.”
BEEN A DECADE
Baylor is playing its first non-conference home game against an opponent from a Power Five conference since Sept. 12, 2008, against Washington State in a game that was also affected by a hurricane. That game, when the Bears had freshman starting quarterback Robert Griffin III, was moved up a day to avoid deteriorating weather with Hurricane Ike approaching the Texas coast about 230 miles away. Washington State had to travel and play on the same day. When the Bears hosted TCU in the 2011 opener, the Horned Frogs were still in the Mountain West Conference before moving to the Big 12 the next season.
NOT MANY SCORES
Duke has allowed a total of 21 points in its first two games, the lowest combined total to open a season against FBS competition since 1971 when holding Florida and South Carolina to 18 combined points. The Blue Devils haven’t allowed a point in the fourth quarter in their last seven games.
Jalen Hurd, the former Tennessee running back, has 12 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games as a receiver for the Bears. The returning starting receivers are Chris Platt and Denzel Mims. Platt had TD catches of 73 and 79 yards against Duke last year, when Mims had a 44-yard score.
“Baylor has tall, fast receivers. They’re really talented there. They were a year ago,” Cutcliffe said. “Now they’re playing at a higher level at quarterback. It’s always a concern. It would be a concern if Mark Gilbert were in the game.”
Duke and Stanford are the only teams nationally who opened the 2018 season with two wins over teams that won 10 games last year. The Blue Devils opened the season with a 34-14 win over Army before beating Northwestern.
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