It has been a long time coming for the few, the proud, the loyal Duke Football fans out there who have stuck with a team that hasn’t been relevant from nearly 50 years.
Aside from a couple blips on the national radar in 1989 and 1994, Duke Football has been the biggest of after thoughts, but with their victory over Virginia on Saturday, they are one step away from completing what many felt was an improbable comeback to the world of college football.
At 5-1 (2-0 ACC) Duke is just one win away from getting the required six wins to become bowl eligible. David Cutcliffe has been the architect of this rebirth and he has done it with recruiting and player development. The Blue Devils managed to garner 3 votes in the most recent Associate Press Top 25 poll. Granted all of those votes came from one writer, it is a step in the right direction.
I’ll be a bit honest though, I’m a little surprised that they didn’t get more votes but lets not put the cart before the horse. Rankings mean nothing and until the Blue Devils get one more win to insure they reach bowl eligibility, 5 wins is still one win too few.
The Blue Devils have been a different team this year. At one point or another in nearly every game there has been a situation where we were thinking, “Here we go again,” but unlike the Duke teams of the past the Blue Devils have found a way to stay in games, take leads and pull away.
The victory against Virginia is the most recent example. Trailing 17-14 at halftime and seemingly being dominated upfront, many Duke fans were restless and anticipating an end to the early excitement. And when the Blue Devils failed to do anything with the ball on their first drive the head shaking began in earnest.
But then Duke’s defense stepped up and help the Cavaliers on their first possession. A good Conner Vernon punt return and a penalty set the Blue Devil’s offense in great field position and they capitalized. That would be the first of four second half touchdowns. All of those coming with Duke’s starting quarterback not playing.
Duke’s defense that has been banged up all season has only gotten better as the year has gone along and according to David Cutcliffe’s Sunday teleconference they could be getting Justin Foxx and Jamal Bruce, two very important pieces of the defensive line, back in the mix potentially sooner.
They didn’t need either against the Cavaliers as they held them scoreless in the second half and limited them to two: one-two yards in the entire second half.
It is that kind of play and the ability to bounce back from adversity whether it be injury or misfortune in a game, that has distinguished this Duke team from so many others in the past.
When Duke heads to Blacksburg they will go as underdogs but don’t tell them that. The confidence that this team has is off the charts right now and don’t be shocked if when they arrive back in Durham next Saturday night that they come back with one more win.