At the beginning of the year perhaps the only people who believed in Duke Football were the Duke Football players and coaches.
The media certainly didn’t have much faith in the Blue Devils as they picked them to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division despite coming off its first bowl game since 1994. When asked during the first media event of the season quarterback Anthony Boone simply said that the team plays for the program not the media.
Now at 10-2 (6-2 ACC) with a national ranking and a spot in the ACC Championship after winning the same division they were projected to finish dead last in, the Blue Devil players can see that their hard work is paying off.
“I think we have. There are still a lot of people that still doubt us. Our job is to go out there and make sure we win ball games, ” said Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder.
Crowder caught two touchdown passes in the Blue Devils 27-25 victory that clinched the outright ACC Coastal Division Championship, a fact that still hadn’t sunk in after the game. It is, however, something the team had set as a goal.
“Right now it hasn’t really hit me. I’m just enjoying this moment and tomorrow its back to business.You always want to envision yourself going with big goals. That was something we talked about all off season, getting to Charlotte.”
Linebacker Kelby Brown who had a big interception to start the half also reflected on what it means and how hard the team has worked since the beginning to get to this point.
“Coastal Champs, we’ve got one more goal and that’s to be ACC Champs,” Brown said. “Our goal was to go 12 and 0 and end up here.”
“Its so rewarding because we’ve been working hard, super hard for years and years. Ups and downs, bad seasons believing in the vision and what we wanted to do. We are really blessed to be here.”
Another of Brown’s defensive teammates, safety Jeremy Cash whose path to Duke started at a known football power house in Ohio State, talked about the importance of fan support and the team’s determination to prove the doubters wrong.
“We have a great fanbase that has been with us from the start and we are just going to continue to shock the world. Its an amazing feeling, but we’ve known this was going to happen from the get go,” Cash said. “We’ve believed in one another and put a lot into this program and it just shows off when we win.”
Cash was frank when asked whether he saw this coming when he transferred to Duke from Ohio State following then coach Jim Tressels’ leaving amid scandal– he didn’t.
“When I got here, coach (David Cutcliffe) told me what was going to be and its came to fruition right now, you can see it.,” Cash said.
Just about every aspect of this team has been surprising. This isn’t a team filled with four and five star talent. It is a team compromised of mostly three star and less as determined by the recruiting services. But this program and its coaches has shown the knack for turning those undervalued players into good football players, winners and now champions.
One of the more surprising stories has been DeVon Edwards who in two big rivalry games, NC State and North Carolina, has had key returns for touchdowns as well as key interceptions. Edwards talked about his knack for showing up big in the big games as well as the team’s determination to win.
“I’m just playing football. Every team that we play against we try to bring our best. I’m just excited to be able to play,” Edwards said. “I’m happy that everyone has some faith in me to step up and do things.”
As far as the adversity that the Blue Devils have faced Edwards was pretty confident with how they’ve been able to deal with that as a team.
“The Duke Blue Devils are not scared of no dog fight. We said on the sideline we were made for this. We can fight all the way to the end no matter who we go against. We’re going to bring it every time.”
When asked if Duke was a football school now his answer was pretty short but it was certainly music to a lot of Duke fan’s ears.
“We’re making some noise now,” Edwards said.
They will certainly need him and everyone else when the Blue Devils take on Florida State next Saturday in the ACC Championship game. the No. 1 team in the nation has certainly made a bit of noise all year, but don’t expect Duke to back down now.