In the words of the great Bob Harris, “How sweet it is!”
Duke did what they haven’t done since 1994 and that is going to a bowl. This was Duke’s first victory at home vs UNC since 1988 and it couldn’t have ended any more dramatic.
Starting with the botched fumble recovery. In that sequence, Eric Highsmith caught the ball awkwardly over the middle then he misstepped and went off balance and Jordon Byas swiped for the ball and knocked it out of his hands. The ball starting rolling 20 yards down the field towards the end zone and Ross Cockrell jumped on the ball at the ten and it popped out at the five yard line where Gio Bernard for UNC picked it up and ran it in. Being a Duke fan you have always been on the wrong end of a crazy play like that and knowing for sure that Duke will fold in the end.
Not this team. This team drove down the throat of UNC’s defense, making big time plays on third downs to get the ball closer and closer to the endzone. After a questionable run play on third and four inside the ten, Duke called a timeout. With 19 seconds left, Duke faced a fourth and two at the four. The result of that fourth down would show everyone if Duke had turned not only a corner to compete, but to win when the pressure is on. Sure enough, Sean Renfree dropped back looking for a receiver to get open and he found Jamison Crowder between two defenders. When the ball initially was thrown, I had no idea if he caught it or not based on the camera angle. But when Crowder popped up celebrating, so did all the Duke fans in the stadium and watching at home.
The words said by Re’quan Boyette were probably said by multiple fans from both teams. He yelled in shock “Oh my (explicit) God!!” And Duke fans can relate to how Renfree celebrated. When Renfree got back to the sidelines he broke down into tears with a teammate around him. The emotion that Renfree let out after the game-winning touchdown was what all of us Duke fans felt deep down. “Finally! The monkey is off our back!”
Being a believer in Cutcliffe since he first took the Duke job and seeing them make little strides into becoming relevant in only four years has been joyful and stressful. But this being his fifth year and he has ended long droughts like starting out the season undefeated at home, beating Wake Forest, beating UNC, and becoming bowl eligible. It was well worth the wait. David Cutcliffe is a good coach, but even better man. He shows love towards his players like no other coach and you can see the feedback from his players on the field.
Lastly, Duke controls their own destiny. If Virginia Tech loses one more game and Duke finishes 2-2 in the next four games (wins vs GT and MIA) Duke may win the Coastal. What a story that would/could be.