With revenge on its mind, Charlotte opens slate vs. Duke

National Sports

Something good should happen for either Duke or Charlotte when the teams open the season Friday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Neither team has won a game since they faced off on Halloween night last year. So the new season is a chance to return to better places for both squads.

“We have a lot of good athletes on this team,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “A lot of youth. A lot of enthusiasm. A lot of speed.”

Duke is coming off a two-win season. The last of those victories was a 53-19 home whipping of Charlotte in the first meeting between the programs.

Charlotte had a rough time in the pandemic-impacted season as well. The 49ers posted a 2-4 record, playing only once after October and falling in that outing.

Yet the outlook is brighter now.

“I feel really good about our football team,” Charlotte coach Will Healy said. “We have to get some guys who were learning and understanding to really dive in.”

Gunnar Holmberg will be the fourth opening-day starting quarterback for Duke in as many seasons.

“The number of snaps represented at that position isn’t very many and they’ve got to show they can do it in a game,” Cutcliffe said. “Gunnar is our starter and I think the work he’s getting is making a big difference. But you’ve got to go out and do it in a ball game.”

Cutcliffe took over play-calling duties last season, but he has relinquished that role.

Charlotte has experience at quarterback with redshirt senior Chris Reynolds, who has been the starter in 24 of his 25 career games. He became the first-string QB for six games in 2018.

He said it’s important to stick to the process.

“Can we not get too greedy? Take what the defense gives us,” Reynolds said. “Everything is not going to happen in one play. … Good things can happen, especially with the vets that we have.”

Reynolds is second in program history with 5,042 passing yards and 36 touchdown throws.

In last year’s matchup, Duke built a 24-0 lead in the game’s first 18 minutes. That type of success was otherwise rare for the Blue Devils in 2020.

Cutcliffe said there are numerous areas that have been addressed. He said he hopes the defensive front can hold steady with a mix of younger players.

“It’s an interesting team,” Cutcliffe said. “There’s a lot of people who are working hard to earn some playing time. I think we’re going to play a higher number of people than we normally have played.”

–Field Level Media

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