Printed on: December 27, 2012

Duke after respect, Cincy leadership in Belk Bowl

By Steve Reed
AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon sees tonight's Belk Bowl against Cincinnati as a perfect opportunity to help the Blue Devils' football team emerge from basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski's shadow.

This is Duke's first bowl game in 18 seasons, and the Blue Devils have their 4:30 p.m. time slot to themselves on a day with two other bowl games.

Duke (6-6) hasn't won a bowl game since 1961.

"Is there a lot of pressure on us? Absolutely," said quarterback Sean Renfree. "But good players like added pressure, and they thrive on it."

Coach David Cutcliffe called this game the next step in trying to build a winning tradition and raise the level of expectations of the players, similar to what his friend Krzyzewski has done on the hardwood.

Duke faces a Cincinnati team in transition after the departure earlier this month of coach Butch Jones.

Jones left to take the job at Tennessee, so defensive line coach Steve Stripling will serve as interim head coach tonight. Incoming coach Tommy Tuberville will also be on hand to watch but won't have any input on game day.

Jones went 23-14 at Cincinnati the last three years.

The Bearcats (9-3) finished tied for the best record in the Big East Conference but are left with only five full-time coaches.

Belk Bowl Glance

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Duke (6-6)

Time: 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Cincinnati by 7

Series Record: First meeting

WHAT'S AT STAKE

This is Duke's first bowl game in 18 seasons and the Blue Devils haven't won one since 1961. Cincinnati is a bowl-tested team; this is the Bearcats' sixth postseason appearance in the last seven years.

Players to watch

Cincinnati RB George Winn vs. Duke's porous run defense. Winn has emerged as a playmaker for the Bearcats, rushing for 1,204 yards and 12 TDs.