DURHAM, N.C. – In what should amount to a tune-up for a pivotal ACC Coastal showdown next week, Duke will take on instate rival North Central Central on Saturday in non-conference action. Backup quarterback Quentin Harris should be able to gain some valuable experience for the Blue Devils, who can start 4-0 for the sixth time by continuing their domination of the Eagles of the FCS.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Extra. LINE: None
Harris played in place of injured starter Daniel Jones in last week's 40-27 victory at Baylor and mostly acquitted himself well by throwing for 174 yards and three touchdowns and running for 83 yards on 14 carries. "I prepare each week to be the starter to be ready for these kinds of scenarios," the junior Harris, who attempted 13 passes total in his freshman and sophomore seasons, told the media. "The biggest adjustment was getting reps with the guys who were going with the 1s. Getting that timing down. I think we handled it very nicely." Harris formed an instant connection with receivers Johnathan Lloyd and T.J. Rahming, hitting the duo for eight receptions, 148 yards and three touchdowns, including one covering 66 yards. Chauncey Caldwell and Naiil Ramadan have split time at quarterback, combining for 547 passing yards and seven touchdowns for the Eagles, who have not played in two weeks after last week's game against South Carolina State was postponed because of Hurricane Florence.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (1-1)
While he has yet to face offensive lineman of the caliber of Duke, defensive lineman Darius Royster has racked up nine tackles for loss this season for the Eagles, which is tops in the FCS. First-year interim coach Granville Eastman also has the preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in senior safety Davanta Reynolds, who had six interceptions a season ago. On offense, six players have caught touchdown passes, including E.J. Hicks, Sonnie Richardson and Sherman McLeod.
ABOUT DUKE (3-0)
While Harris, Lloyd, Rahming and some of the other starters may not need to play much in this game, it remains important for preparations for next week's home game against No. 10 Virginia Tech. "We just have to lock in on all the things we are doing right and wrong right now," Rahming, a senior who has 191 career receptions, told the media. "We have to fix the small things so that later on in ACC play, those things don't come up again." Chris Katrenick, the backup quarterback with Jones sidelined, will likely get to attempt his first career passes while fellow freshmen running back Mataeo Durant and receivers Dennis Smith and Jarett Garner could also see time for 11th-year coach David Cutcliffe.
1. Rahming (191) is close to joining Jamison Crowder (283), Conner Vernon (283) and Donovan Varner (207) as the only Duke players with 200 career catches.
2. The Blue Devils have won 16 of their last 19 games against teams from North Carolina, including five wins over the Eagles.
3. Duke has outscored North Carolina Central 312-42 in taking the six prior meetings of the Bull City Classic, including its most recent shutout 55-0 in 2015.
PREDICTION: Duke 49, North Carolina Central 6