NCAA

Duke looks to end bowl drought vs. Cincinnati

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Duke looks to end bowl drought vs. Cincinnati

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon sees Thursday night's Belk Bowl against Cincinnati as a perfect opportunity to help the Blue Devils' football team emerge from basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski's shadow.

This is Duke's first bowl game in 18 seasons, and the Blue Devils have their 6:30 p.m. time slot to themselves on a day with two other bowl games.

``Anybody who follows college football will be watching, so this is our chance in the national spotlight to take a big step forward with this program and let people know about us,'' said Vernon, the Atlantic Coast Conference's career leader in receptions and yards receiving.

Duke (6-6) hasn't won a bowl game since 1961.

``Is there a lot of pressure on us? Absolutely,'' said quarterback Sean Renfree. ``But good players like added pressure, and they thrive on it.''

Coach David Cutcliffe called this game the next step in trying to build a winning tradition and raise the level of expectations of the players, similar to what his friend Krzyzewski has done on the hardwood.

``This is national exposure for us,'' Cutcliffe said. ``The NFL is not playing. We're it. We're the game. So people across the country who maybe heard a little bit about Duke football, if they see us play as well as we can play, I think they will be a little shocked. We have a lot of speed and a lot of skill. So this can have a huge impact for us.''

And Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils are on the verge of something special.

``I don't plan on not making a bowl again - and that's the mentality I want every player to have. ... When I talked to coach Krzyzewski, there is no question what the expectations of a Duke basketball player are,'' Cutcliffe said. ``And that's the opportunity we have - to create really big expectations.''

Duke faces a Cincinnati team in transition after the departure earlier this month of coach Butch Jones and both coordinators.

Jones left to take the job at Tennessee, so defensive line coach Steve Stripling will serve as interim head coach Thursday night. Incoming coach Tommy Tuberville will also be on hand to watch but won't have any input on game day.

Jones went 23-14 at Cincinnati the last three years.

The Bearcats (9-3) finished tied for the best record in the Big East Conference but are left with only five full-time coaches from Jones' staff to work the game. They'll have new coordinators calling the shots on both sides of the ball.

Stripling led Central Michigan to a 44-41 win over Troy in the 2010 GMAC Bowl before joining Jones' staff. Stripling, who'll call the plays on defense, said his biggest concern had been keeping his team focused through adversity.

He said the play calls won't change.

``What we've tried to do from the beginning, because this is such a different situation for them, is try to find some normalcy,'' Stripling said. ``You try to keep them in their comfort zone and keep them focused.''

Despite the changes, the Bearcats come in as 7-point favorites. That's largely because they have a high-powered offense that'll be facing a Blue Devils defense that collapsed down the stretch.

After a rare win over rival North Carolina to go 6-2, the Blue Devils lost their final four games to Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami. During that stretch, Duke's defense surrendered a whopping 51 points and 294.5 yards rushing per game.

That should play into Cincinnati's hands.

Led by senior tailback George Winn, the Bearcats enter the game ranked 31st in the country in rushing. After serving as a backup for most of his career at Cincinnati, Winn has emerged as a leader on offense, running for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Cutcliffe said Winn reminds him of Cadillac Williams, a guy who can put the team on his back and carry 25 to 30 times per game.

``I've had a chance to carry this offense and step up and take on a big role,'' Winn said. ``I think that has meant a lot to this team, and that's meant a lot to this team which wasn't given a chance, at least offensively, do anything special this year.''

Duke will need its offense to be in high gear.

Renfree completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,760 yards with 18 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. His favorite targets are Vernon and Jamison Crowder, who combined for 145 receptions and 15 touchdowns. Desmond Scott also caught 60 passes.

Cincinnati features a bend-but-don't-break defense.

``We kept teams off the scoreboard, which is big,'' Stripling said. ``I think that's going to be the key.''

Stripling laughed when asked if he foresees a high-scoring affair.

``Well, I'm a defensive guy, so I don't think that way,'' he said. ``Ultimately I think this game will be about which defense steps up to the challenge.''

Virginia Tech survives marathon 6OT game thanks to a two-point conversion

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Virginia Tech survives marathon 6OT game thanks to a two-point conversion

In a vacuum, the final play wasn’t anything to write home about. But the journey to get there sure was.

The Hokies needed a whopping six(!) overtimes to complete the task, but they were in fact able to record a win over the visiting UNC Tar Heels Saturday evening in Blacksburg.

There was an amazing one-handed catch to help keep their hopes alive, a missed field goal to shatter them in the fourth overtime period, and everything in between. 

The fact that it ended on such a simple two-point conversion almost seems anticlimactic.

The marathon game itself was anything but anticlimactic, however. The two programs traded great plays and failed opportunities all afternoon long, but ultimately it was Virginia Tech who managed to come away with a big win.

It was an instant classic, and something students and fans alike in attendance won’t soon forget.

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Virginia Tech requires 6 OT periods to take down visiting UNC in wild finish

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Virginia Tech requires 6 OT periods to take down visiting UNC in wild finish

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Quincy Patterson's two-point conversion run in the sixth overtime lifted Virginia Tech a wild 43-41 victory over North Carolina on Saturday in the longest game in ACC history.

Both teams squandered opportunities to win the game in earlier overtime periods, as Virginia Tech kicker Brian Johnson missed game-winning attempts from 41 and 42 yards and North Carolina kicker Noah Ruggles missed from 35 yards and had a 44-yard attempt blocked.

The game marked the debut of college football's new overtime rules, which now call for going for two points after the fourth overtime. In the fifth overtime, Virginia Tech (5-2, 2-2 ACC) had the ball first, but Patterson's pass to Damon Hazelton was broken up by the Tar Heels' Storm Duck, giving the Tar Heels an opportunity to win the game.

North Carolina (3-4, 2-2 ACC), though, couldn't convert. Virginia Tech's Khalil Ladler read an option play perfectly and tackled Michael Carter for a loss, sending the game into a sixth overtime. The Tar Heels received the ball first, but quarterback Sam Howell was tackled for a loss, setting up Patterson's game-winning conversion.

The loss spoiled an outstanding game by Howell, who completed 26 of 49 for 348 yards and five touchdowns.

Patterson played the majority of the second half for the Hokies after starting quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with an injury late in the first half. He rushed for 122 yards on 21 carries and threw for 54 yards to pace the Hokies.

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