Loss to rival hurt, but Duke Football made strides

[private]Duke had an opportunity to tie UNC in the games closing minutes, but once again came up short.  It's becoming a bit painful for the Blue Devil faithful in that while Duke plays the Heels close, it's become a tradition that they fall just short.

This is evidenced by the fact that UNC holds a dominating 17 of 18 edge in the series.  Still, Duke had their opportunities while playing true freshman in several key roles, especially on the offensive side of the ball with Johnny Williams, Donovan Varner and Jay Hollingsworth.

The bottom line is that UNC had more talent, size and speed but Duke had enough heart to make them sweat in Cutcliffe's first season.   Duke played a schedule which included 10 bowl teams and James Madison, the top ranked team in the country in Division I.  As good as that schedule was, Duke competed with all but two teams, Georgia Tech and Clemson.

Duke was forced to play more freshman than they wanted to this season, but several kids were able to redshirt - much more so than there has been in the past.  In short, Duke is building a football program, but patience is needed.

So, while the November losses sting, there was improvement both on and off the field.  With the new found support, Cutcliffe has already made sure his staff is on the recruiting trail.  There were over 100 high school prospects at Saturday's season finale, many of them from North Carolina, where Duke has struggled to recruit until recently.

If you think practice and conditioning is over, think again.  Duke was running this morning and lifting in the afternoon.  Cutcliffe hasn't lost his focus and he wants to make sure the team knows that it will take more hard work to build on four wins.

The Blue Devil Nation will be covering the first season in an overview in the coming days, but until then here are some kids we wan to recognize -

Michael Tauliliili - I can't remember a player having this good of a senior season.  His 20 tackle against UNC cemented him as an ACC DPOY candidate.  This kid worked hard and set forth a wonderful example of what it takes to be the best you can be.  He will be missed in a big way and is sure to make some All American teams.

Vinnie Rey - Tauliliili can thank Rey for making him a better player.  The duo was the best in the ACC and Rey will no doubt be the leader of the defense next season and an All American candidate.

Cameron Goldberg- This young man anchored the offensive line and became a selfless leader in his senior season.  There will be some big shoes to fill with his departure.

Eron Riley - Was a little know recruit who made him self and All ACC receiver.  Duke will need for a new go to wide out to step up in the off season.

The Seniors - They helped to develop a new work ethic in their final season.  Many of them played key roles in this seasons turnabout.  The BDN wished all of them the best of luck in their future endeavors.

There are many more, but those came to mind first.  Check back for more coverage on recruiting and what to expect next year.

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