The college football season officially ended last Monday night with Alabama defeating Clemson for the National Championship. Teams, coaches, and fans have already started to look towards next season. Early Top 25 rankings have already been released, as well as discussion over who the 2016 Heisman favorites will be. National Signing Day is just a couple weeks away and before long teams will be starting spring practice. Before we get too ahead of ourselves with our predictions and expectations for the next season of college football lets take a look back on some of the highlights and memorable moments from the 2015 Duke Football season.
Debut of Brooks Field
The Blue Devils uncharacteristically opened the 2015 season away from Wallace Wade Stadium. So when Duke hosted NC Central for Week 2 it offered most of us the chance to see the newly renovated Brooks Field for the first time. While construction on the new luxury and press boxes and concourse was and still is ongoing, the updates and improvements to the stadium itself were a sight to behold. The infamous track around the field had been removed and the field had been lowered to accommodate more seating that was added closer to field level, giving the stadium a more intimate feel. The most jaw dropping addition was the new LED video board in the open end zone. The new video board was more than twice the size of the previous installment and closer to the field of play, further enlarging its appearance. The best thing about the renovations is getting to keep the historical stadium. Despite all the upgrades, Wallace Wade Stadium still feels like home.
4OT Thriller in Blacksburg
Duke and Virginia Tech have managed to put together some of the tighter ACC games over the last few seasons. The Blue Devils broke through in 2013 with a win in Blacksburg over the nationally ranked Hokies. Last season it was Virginia Tech who came into Durham and won on a disastrous afternoon for Duke. This year’s game was the best between the these two teams and one of the best ACC games this season. The Blue Devils took control of the game early, but could never pull away, and held the lead until the fourth quarter. Michael Brewer, in his first full game back from injury, led the Hokies on a comeback drive to tie the game with just over two minutes remaining. Ross Martin uncharacteristically missed a field goal that could have ended the game in regulation. Duke and Virginia Tech traded scores through the first three overtimes. The Hokies couldn’t convert the required two point conversion after their touchdown run in the fourth OT period. After Thomas Sirk hit Eric Schneider for a 25 yard touchdown on the first play of Duke’s possession, Sirk kept the ball and ran in for the game winning conversion. Sirk finished the day with 270 passing yards and 4 touchdowns to go along with 109 rushing yards and game winning two points.
Duke’s star Swiss army knife of a defender completed a decorated collegiate football career. The safety, in his third year Durham after transferring from Ohio State, became a household name this season. Cash was a consensus First Team All American and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. His abilities were already well known in the ACC, but the 2015 season saw Cash receive national attention was his play. His best game came against Georgia Tech on a rainy Saturday. That afternoon Cash willed a Duke defense to one of its most memorable performances in recent memory in a victory over the 20th ranked Yellow Jackets. Cash totaled 12 tackles, 3 for a loss, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles and that only tells part of the story. He was all over the field creating headaches for the usually efficient Georgia Tech offense. Cash found himself playing safety and linebacker this season depending on Duke’s opponent. He finished his career with 335 total tackles, hitting the century mark in each of his three seasons at Duke, 38 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, 5 interceptions, 14 passes defended, 9 forced fumbles, and 5 recoveries. He projects to be a potential first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Pinstripe Bowl Victory
The Blue Devils ended a 54 year drought with their bowl win over Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Duke defense got off to a good start, limiting the high scoring Hoosier offense. The second half was a different story, but Duke made plays when they needed them. A Shaun Wilson kickoff return for a touchdown to tie the game gave Duke a much needed boost. Thomas Sirk struggled passing most of the day, but with Duke’s back against the wall he led a clutch drive to to tie the game late in the fourth. Sirk would be injured during the overtime period before Ross Martin gave Duke the lead with a field goal. The defense would hold Indiana to a field goal attempt. The kick sailed high over the post and was ruled no good. The play wasn’t reviewable and just like that, the Blue Devils had finally won a bowl game. Wilson and Sirk shared MVP honors for their timely play.
What did we miss? What was your favorite moment from the 2015 season?