By: Caleb Odom
Troy football takes another step towards strengthening its schedule with a home and home series against the Duke Blue Devils.
This fall, in the first half of the home and home series, the Trojans will make the trip up to Durham, N.C. to face the ACC program better known for their basketball team.
The Duke football program has been revitalized under Coach David Cutcliffe, who led the Blue Devils to their first bowl game since 1994.
Although Cutcliffe’s record stands at 21-40 with Duke, in the eight years prior to his arrival the Duke football team only won 10 games.
Cutcliffe brings SEC experience to the Blue Devils after coaching both Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss.
“Duke is a great institution,” head coach Larry Blakeney said. “They have a guy who is a great friend David Cutcliffe who is the head coach there. He has done a fabulous job.”
Next season is only half of the excitement involved with facing the Blue Devils because in the 2014 season, Duke will be the first ACC team to take the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium to take on the Trojans.
“I think it is really great because we don’t really get many opportunities to play against big schools,” Troy wide receiver Eric Thomas said. “It was good when Mississippi State came in and now we get the chance to go out and play them, but I think I should have the opportunity to come watch the game in here.”
This upcoming season will feature road games against the SEC schools Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Adding Duke into the 2013 out of conference mix adds to the excitement for a Troy team looking to capture a bowl berth this coming season.
“I want those types of games to become standard on our schedule because for us to elevate our program which is what the vision is,” Athletic Director John Hartwell said. “We have to have an expectation of competing in those games and winning in those games.”
Last season Duke went (6-7) in the regular season and lost 48-34 to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl but making it to a bowl was something that some Trojan players felt they should have been able to experience last year.
“I was at home watching a couple of teams playing and I was just thinking ‘We should have been there, we just came up short,’” Thomas said. “I think if we could have cut down on turnovers and missed assignments we would have been in a bowl game.”
Looking to improve is what Troy is doing right now as the program tries to sign new players.
Hartwell feels that big games like Duke help with recruiting and ticket sells.
But the Troy Athletic Director hasn’t stopped with just football; Hartwell has also gotten Ole Miss basketball to come to Trojan Arena next year.
Hartwell is even working on getting ACC school North Carolina State University to come face Troy in basketball next season.
“Mark Gottfried, who is the coach at N.C. State, and I were high school teammates and remain best of friends, so we are trying to work out scheduling with them.” Hartwell said.
As the offseason progresses, the news of the home and home against Duke, the hiring of Wayne Bolt, and the hiring of Dustin Landry, shows that Troy football is right on schedule to having a successful 2013 season.