Duke’s David Cutcliffe won’t return after ‘mutual’ separation

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
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David Cutcliffe won’t return for a 15th season as Duke’s coach after the school announced a “mutual agreement for separation” following the Blue Devils’ winless Atlantic Coast Conference record.

The school’s announcement came a day after the Blue Devils (3-9, 0-8) closed a three-win season with a 47-10 home loss to Miami. That marked the first winless slate for Duke in league play under Cutcliffe, who transformed the Blue Devils from one of the nation’s worst performers into a regular bowl contender and even claimed a division title in the ACC in 2013 before the program slid badly in the past two seasons.

In a statement, Cutcliffe, 67, said the decision came after “some detailed and amiable discussions” with new athletic director Nina King, who took over earlier this year but has worked at Duke since 2008 and handled primary administrative duties for the football program.

“I’m not sure just yet what the future will look like, but I am looking forward to some family time to reflect a bit on the past and see what the future holds,” Cutcliffe said.

Associate head coach Trooper Taylor will serve as interim coach while Duke searches for Cutcliffe’s permanent successor. Cutcliffe had one year left on his contract.

The Blue Devils were adrift when they turned in December 2007 to Cutcliffe, the former Mississippi coach and Tennessee offensive coordinator who tutored both Peyton and Eli Manning at the college level. The Blue Devils had just completed a 13-year run with four or fewer wins each season, including Ted Roof going 2-33 over the three seasons that preceded Cutcliffe. And the Blue Devils had gone 19-117 with just eight ACC wins over 12 seasons.

By Cutcliffe’s fifth year, Duke had reached its first bowl game since 1994. A year later, the Blue Devils completed a stunning climb to a 10-win season that included an AP Top 25 ranking, the ACC’s Coastal Division title and a berth in the league championship game.

That 2013 season started a three-year run that saw Duke go 27-13, including 15-9 in ACC play, and was part of a run of six bowl games in seven seasons – most recently an Independence Bowl victory over Temple in 2018 behind quarterback Daniel Jones, who later became the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft.

Duke won 77 games in Cutcliffe’s 14 seasons with six bowl appearances and three postseason wins, the program’s first since 1961.

“We are extremely grateful for David’s leadership over the past 14 seasons,” King said in a statement. “He lifted our program to unprecedented heights, both on and off the field, while maintaining the core values of the university and we could not be more appreciative of his mentorship of every student-athlete who played for Duke during his tenure.”

The Blue Devils lost momentum after a 4-2 start to the 2019 season and failed to reach six wins for bowl eligibility. Things then came apart amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with Duke committing 39 turnovers – at least 14 more than any other Bowl Subdivision team – during a 2-9 season in 2020.

This year, Duke started 3-1, only to lose all eight ACC games. Seven of those came by at least 25 points, a rare example under Cutcliffe of the Blue Devils being consistently unable to play competitively. The Blue Devils have lost 23 of 29 games, including 21 of 23 in the league.

Still, Cutcliffe spoke about making sure the Blue Devils ran toward, not away, from their problems and shrugged off a question about his future earlier this month.

“I don’t think about job security,” Cutcliffe said. “How can I do that and do justice to the players that I’m coaching right now?”

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.