As a long-suffering Duke football fan, I want to write this article. More so, I want to believe this was a “moment.” Having said that, I am also very cognizant that when you want to believe something so strongly, it can also impair your ability to see things rationally. With that in mind, let me tell you about BDN’s live coverage in Chestnut Hill yesterday and my assessment about whether we witnessed a defining moment in Duke football.
For the first time in a long time, we saw the football Gods smile upon Duke. If I told you before the game started, that it would be decided on a missed field goal of extra-point length in the closing seconds, how confident would you have been that Duke was going to lose? 90-10? Even greater? But as these events unfolded in real-time on the gridiron, Duke emerged victorious. It’s difficult to even recall the last time Duke football was the benefactor of such a “lucky bounce.”
Additionally, the Duke passing game woke up for the first time this season. Despite taking devastating hit after devastating hit, Sean Renfree and the wide receiver corps gained nearly 400 yards through the air. Renfree even tied a Duke record with 40 completions. If we had half that much aerial success against Richmond, we’d all be making ourselves silly talking about Bowl games!
Now, having mentioned those positives, it’s vital to remember that overall this was not a well-played game…not even close. As I’m sure you’ve read in Patrick’s Rapid Response, Duke did everything they could to lose… allowing blocked punts on special teams, missing field goals, failing to capitalize on red zone opportunities, untimely tipped interceptions, etc., etc.
To me, herein lies the “moment.” For the longest time, Duke has had to play to nearly the best of their abilities to secure a victory. Yesterday, we won with a far less than optimal level of execution. This just may be enough to get the team past the “how are we going to lose this week?” mentality. Once on-field execution catches up to compliment a growing culture of expecting to win, the program can finally live up to the potential Cutcliffe envisions.
So, I ask: Is this the turning point? Is this the moment where all the hard work put in off the field begins to manifest itself with occasional “lucky breaks” on the field? In truth, I don’t know, and I’m so snake-bitten from prior experiences with Duke football that I’m hesitant to say that it is. But, I can tell you that for the first time in a LONG time, Duke football caught a break. And boy did it feel good!
Other live highlights:
- I saw MANY more yellow-clad BC students outside the arena than in the arena. Evidently, the “problem” of mixing tailgating and in-stadium student turnout is not unique to Duke.
- Many BC fans were vocal in expressing their disapproval of Coach Frank Spaziani, to the point of calling for his immediate dismissing
- Duke had a small, but very supportive, section of fan support among the BC faithful
- The crowd was very upset about the call on the Renfree sneak TD. From my angle, he barely broke the plane, but that’s all you need to do.
- The team, coaching staff, and fans were visibly relieved to have left BC with the victory. There was not an air of exuberance (as one might expect having won on last second play), but more a relief to have a W in the books.