Duke looks for consistency amid encouraging start

Associated Press Modified: September 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm •  Published: September 18, 2012

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — At times, Duke looks plenty capable of snapping the nation's longest bowl drought and finally winning more often than it loses.

And then there are those other times when they look like those same old Blue Devils.

They're preparing to face struggling Memphis this week and appear on track to open 3-1 for only the second time since 1994.

But one question persists: Which is the real Duke team?

The one that averaged 50 points and 414 total yards in routs of Florida International and North Carolina Central? Or the one that couldn't get out of its own way in a blowout loss at Stanford?

"We have a whole season to find out," cornerback Ross Cockrell said Tuesday.

If the Blue Devils have learned nothing else over nearly two decades of futility, they know not to take anything for granted and not to count victories prematurely — not even against the Tigers (0-3), who are breaking in a new coach and have lost 34 of 39 games since 2009.

Duke knows how that feels. The Blue Devils' last winning season — and last bowl appearance — came in 1994, and since then they've endured seven 10-loss seasons. Only once in that span — in 2008, coach David Cutcliffe's first season — have they won three of their first four.

"When you're in the shoes we're in," Cutcliffe said, "I hadn't seen one yet that's not a must-win for us."

Duke sandwiched two of its most impressive performances around arguably the worst of the Cutcliffe era.

The Blue Devils certainly looked like a bowl team in a 46-26 romp against FIU, a game they led 44-14 in the final 2 minutes. They had little trouble dispatching crosstown foe N.C. Central of the Championship Subdivision last week, rolling up 54 points — the second-highest total under Cutcliffe.

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