Duke Football Notebook – Victory over UNC Big on Many Fronts

BDN Photo

The Duke football win over North Carolina was huge on many levels. Of course the team has to move forward, but before they do so, let's take a quick look back.

Wallace Wade was Close to Perfect

What a great crowd on Saturday night in Wallace Wade. Kudos to the Duke students, who created a long missed atmosphere that made the game so enjoyable in a most special way for all the fans. In years past, the UNC faithful have outnumbered Duke fans, even in Duke's own stadium, but not on this night. Every time the UNC crowd would get their chants going, the Duke fans came right back, waving their night glow pom-poms in unison; everyone seemed to sense that this game was more than a bit special. It's been awhile since I have seen this kind of atmosphere, and I was happy to see that the promotions all went off in such an impressive way. It was a solid football atmosphere and a very entertaining game.

No Shortage of Feel Good Moments

No matter which way you turned after the Duke victory, Wallace Wade was engulfed by emotion. I was trying to take in the atmosphere all at once, but my senses got overloaded as Sean Renfree connected on the winning 4th and 2 pass to Jamison Crowder with mere seconds left on the clock to lift Duke to the win. Although Duke fans and players alike erupted in joy, still the anticipation of the full celebration continued to build, as the Tar Heels had to run off two more plays before the game was in the books. As the Tar Heels' desperation plays failed, Duke players made their way towards the North Carolina crowd to grab the Victory Bell, and paint it a darker shade of blue. Other players just looked on, one praying, others just taking it all in as fans rolled over the sides of bleachers, turning the field into utter and glorious chaos. Coach Cutcliffe was drenched by a bucket of Gatorade; just before the ESPN cameras grabbed him, he was rescued from the mob by his North Carolina State Highway Patrolman guard. By this time, as the Bell made its way to the home side, fans had gathered around the team and the Bell like ants at a picnic, a swarm of sweaty and unbridled glee. As the celebration continued, I began to notice all the faces, from basketball players to the Duke Administration. Athletic Director Kevin White and many of the people who have worked hard and been patient as Duke Football has been rebuilt all had looks of sheer satisfaction. And Cutcliffe? He looked like a kid at times, knowing he had secured the biggest win around here in a long time. The win. A win over your rival North Carolina. A win that puts Duke on the map of true, legitimate football programs. A win that makes you bowl-eligible with four games yet to go. A win to remember.

The Look of Happiness

For me, the look on so many players' faces was priceless. So many emotions, so many smiles, so much elation for all of them. It's the happiest I had ever seen Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, and receiver Conner Vernon was right there as well. Vernon was mobbed by fans in a genuine love fest, and he posed for countless photos on the field as the celebration continued. Renfree and Vernon have been through a lot, and as seniors they are seeing the hard work and belief pay off, as Duke is now 6-2.

Bowl Eligible

It's one thing to beat your rival North Carolina and end a long losing streak, and paint the Victory Bell Duke Blue, but the Blue Devils are now bowl-eligible, becoming the third ACC team to attain that status this season. Their last bowl appearance was in 1995. It's a bit early to tell where Duke could be playing, as it is totally dependent upon the on-the-field results the rest of the way.

Special Teams

Don't look now but if Duke freshman kickers Ross Martin and Will Monday keep up their current level of success, both will be named to almost every Freshman All-American team there is. Martin showed off his range with a 42-yard field goal, the longest of his short career, and Monday continues to lead the ACC in punting. It's amazing how consistent the duo has been to date, especially in the eyes of fans who had in seasons past become accustomed to deflating misses or shanks. Make no mistake, the kicking game is now a strength at Duke.


Ask any coach and he'll tell you that recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. Coach Cutcliffe commented going into the game that Duke had closed the talent gap a bit on the Tar Heels, and his proclamation sure looked accurate after the Blue Devils' 33-30 win. Several prospects attended the game and witnessed a great win for Duke, and many of them will surely come away impressed by the strides that the program has made. When Cutcliffe and company came to Durham, they realized the importance of in-state recruiting, and they started to go head-to-head with the Tar Heels on the trail, and began to win some battles. That strategy is now paying off. Without a doubt, certain Blue Devils who hail from North Carolina, were extra pumped up. A win like this can go a long way on the recruiting trail, and as they build on their success on the field, the Blue Devils will continue to get their foot in the door more and more with stellar prospects, and more often kick that door in.

No Doubt

There is no more doubt about the fact that Duke Football is headed in the right direction under David Cutcliffe, and this signature win for the program will pay off in more ways than one.  There have been no shortcuts taken under Coach Cut in implementing his blueprint for rebuilding Duke Football.  Instead, he is winning with disciplined, true student-athletes. You can be more than just a little proud of these kids too, for they have true character as individuals, and are a genuinely good bunch of young men.

A Win for All

In the end, this was more than just a program win. This was a win for all. This was a win for the fans, the players and the administration, and it is one that has all involved on Cloud Nine as we head into the new week. It was quite simply the biggest win in the Coach Cutcliffe era, and it was the kind of win where we all can feel that the growing pains are starting to subside, and instead of talking about problem areas we are now talking about strengths.


Sean Renfree, Jamison Crowder and Perry Simmons were all named ACC Players of the Week.

Clemson Game Prime Time

Duke will play Clemson at home in two weeks on ESPN at 7:00.  Tickets are still available at GoDuke.com, so be sure to secure yours now and support the bowl bound Blue Devils.

Blue Devils’ win was years in the making

Jamison Crowder's game-winning TD catch already is solidified in Duke lore. - GoDuke Photo

Monday, July 12, 2010 is a day that few Duke or North Carolina fans recall. Early that morning, the Blue Devil coaching staff received a phone call from a little-known athlete from Monroe, North Carolina. At 5'9" and 175 pounds, most schools were recruiting Jamison Crowder as a cornerback, but the Duke staff had seen something on film and worked him out at wide receiver at camp earlier that summer. For most of his recruitment, the speedy athlete favored both North Carolina and Duke, but on the morning of July 12th, it was the Duke staff who received his verbal pledge. "With Duke, the coaches really out-worked everyone. They stayed in touch and I was always comfortable when I visited there," Crowder said at the time of his commitment.

Fast forward to October 20, 2012. Duke trails North Carolina, 30-26 with 19 seconds to play. The Blue Devils face 4th and 2 from the 5 yard line. Sean Renfree takes the snap and looks for an open receiver with the game, the Victory Bell, and bowl eligibility all on the line. "I just went through my progression and threw it up for Jamison and he made a fantastic play," Renfree said after the game, "it doesn’t get any sweeter.”

Crowder had just one thing on his mind as he made his cut across the goal line. "Once I saw Sean [Renfree] saw me and he threw me the ball, the only thing on my mind was, ‘Catch the ball and come down with it.’ And everything worked out."

For a player who many thought would line up at cornerback at the college level, Crowder has certainly proven the doubters wrong as a receiver. Last week, he was added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List and this week ranks 6th in the ACC in receiving yards. He also added a prestigious ESPN College Gameday Helmet Sticker from legendary coach Lou Holtz after his game-winning touchdown catch.

“That’s just something that you dream about since you were a little kid. Watching a lot of ball games and you see players catch game-winning touchdowns or hit game-winners in basketball," Crowder said. "It’s just a dream come true for me. I always think about that, scoring the last touchdown to win the game. It couldn’t have come better against Carolina.”

That play is now solidified in Duke Football lore. The throw, the catch, and the resulting victory earned the Blue Devils bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994 and the Victory Bell for the first time since 2003. But it all began several years ago, when the Duke coaching staff outworked the competition on the recruiting trail.

Former QB Thad Lewis was among the Blue Devil alumni who laid the foundation for Duke's bowl eligible 2012 season - BDN Photo

Of course, a lot more went into the Blue Devils' win than just a single recruitment, which is why the victory is all the more sweet. Dozens of great Duke players have gone through the program since the last win over UNC or the last bowl game. QB Thad Lewis, who mentored a young Sean Renfree as a freshman, was on hand to ring the bell himself on Saturday night. A number of former Blue Devils have returned to Durham as coaches: Re'quan Boyette, Jeff Faris, Ben Loebner, Vince Oghobaase, Jomar Wright, and Leon Wright. The dramatic win on Saturday was a direct result of their tireless work and leadership, both as players and as coaches.

And finally, the atmosphere in Wallace Wade Stadium was deserving of a thrilling Duke victory. Blue Devil fans, both young and old, have suffered heart-breaking losses, far too many to list, for years. David Cutcliffe's arrival on December 14, 2007 is another date that few may remember. When Coach Cut came to Durham, he had a vision of bowl games and ACC championships that only a few truly believed could happen. Yet he and his staff put in the hours and remained true to their vision of revitalizing a once proud football program. The process of rebuilding Duke football and re-energizing its fan base didn't happen overnight, and it's not even complete; but when the moment arrived on Saturday night for the Blue Devils to seize victory, to earn bowl eligibility, and to reclaim the Victory Bell, Wallace Wade was sold-out, loud, and every bit as exciting as its neighboring arena.

So few may remember dates like December 14, 2007 or July 12, 2010, but without the events on those days, October 20, 2012 would never have happened. And of course, October 20, 2012 is a date that Duke fans will not soon forget, until say, December 1, 2012?

Duke commits take in Blue Devils’ victory over rival North Carolina

Wallace Wade had a terrific sold out atmosphere on Saturday as Duke defeated UNC to reclaim the Victory Bell - BDN Photo

The Blue Devils are going bowling for the first time since 1994, and the Victory Bell resides in Durham for the first time since 2003. Wallace Wade Stadium was sold out on Saturday night for Duke's thrilling 33-30 victory over rival North Carolina. Duke now sits at 6-2 on the season and in sole possession of first place in the ACC Coastal Division.

Among the over 100 prospects on campus were a number of 2013 Blue Devil verbal commits. The class of 2013 is shaping up to be one of Coach Cutcliffe's best during his time in Durham, and the atmosphere and victory Saturday night only helped to solidify the class. [private]

Mike Ramsay, of the Walker School in Marietta, Georgia, traveled the furthest to take in the Blue Devils' win. Ramsay has helped Walker get off to a 7-0 start for the first time in school history, and has been a force on defense. He gave BDN a quick recap of his visit to Durham: "I love it! It definitely felt like a place I want to be every Saturday. I enjoyed the visit!" Ramsay will likely take an official visit later this year.

Gabe Brandner is a tight end/offensive line prospect from South Carolina. Despite picking up an offer from in-state Clemson, Brandner has remained solid in his commitment to the Blue Devils. He had the following reaction to his recent visit: "That was an awesome game. We brought grandma up. The atmosphere was tremendous. I got a chance to meet some teammates also. It was a great trip!"

Quay Mann, a defensive back from Southern Nash High School, has been a frequent visitor to Durham over the past few months. Still, he was impressed with what he saw on Saturday."The atmosphere was crazy! I loved it. Jake Kite and I were sitting together the last seconds of the game and we were blown away by the way the fans reacted. Duke football is back!"

Hard-hitting safety Jake Kite, from Roanoke, Virginia, was also on hand for the big rivalry game. "It was obviously a great game. Both teams played hard. Duke just fought until the end and had an impressive will to get that W, which is a huge win for the team and everyone who supports it. The atmosphere reminded me of the Duke-Carolina basketball game - packed house and a lot of energy in the stadium."

Duke has 16 verbal commitments in the class of 2013. Be sure to check out our Friday Night Lights feature, which gives a weekly update on the 2013 Blue Devil commits.


Josh Snead has a career night against rival North Carolina

RB Josh Snead had a career high 99 yards against UNC - BDN Photo

DURHAM - Duke redshirt-sophomore RB Josh Snead had a career high 99 yards rushing on 15 carries against North Carolina on Saturday night. After struggling on the ground last week at Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils dominated the line of scrimmage Saturday night and rushed for a new Cutcliffe-era record 234 yards. With the win, the Blue Devils are now bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, and have reclaimed the Victory Bell for the first time since 2003. BDN spoke with the Blue Devils' leading rusher shortly after the big win.

QB Sean Renfree finally gets a win against rival UNC, and leads Duke to a bowl game

QB Sean Renfree has led the Blue Devils to a 6-2 record and their first bowl since 1994. - BDN Photo

DURHAM - Duke redshirt-senior QB Sean Renfree had watched the Blue Devils fall to the rival North Carolina Tar Heels in each of his first four seasons in Durham. In his final game against UNC, however, Renfree led the Blue Devils on a game-winning drive in the final minutes to capture the 33-30 victory. Renfree finished the night 23/36 for 276 yards, and 1 big touchdown to Jamison Crowder in the closing seconds. BDN spoke with the Blue Devils' captain after the game to get his thoughts on the catch, the win, and bowl eligibility.