Duke football getting past 'respectable' moniker
Posted August 30
Updated August 31
Durham, N.C. — What a difference a few years makes. Three years ago I sat in the Duke press box as the Blue Devils struggled with Richmond of the (then or now or whatever college football calls their divisions) FCS to open the 2011 season.
It was a Duke team that was starting to turn the corner, but a few missed field goals and few more missed opportunities and the Blue Devils were beat by the Spiders 23-21. That night, the difference between the two programs was not as clear as it should have been. The first week of the college season, it should be easy to notice the separation between the ACC team and a non D-I opponent.
Fast forward to 2014. This edition of David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils were better than their I-AA counterpart -- Elon -- in every way. The 52-13 final score didn't even tell the full story.
Duke is coming off a Coastal division title and looked every bit the team that should handle their opponent. It wasn’t a perfect game, but the Blue Devils had the advantage at every position, had the better athletes and had the better of play all night against the over-matched Phoenix.
The starters dictated play and Duke was clearly the more physical of the two teams. Duke’s back-ups were aggressive and the Blue Devils didn’t miss too much of a step as the reserves entered the game. Duke had talent three years ago, but the depth wasn’t there. Saturday night, there was no drop in play when the second, and even some cases third, string entered the game.
Duke has become more than respectable, they have become viable. That doesn’t mean that this team will reach the ACC title game again, but there is no reason not to doubt the Blue Devils reaching another bowl game and being one of the teams that has a hand in the Coastal Division race. Some might want to write-off last season as just an ACC thing, but that would be foolish.
Yes, this is only a game against Elon, but it has been less than a decade since Duke football couldn’t win a game against anyone. Now they are favored to beat teams by almost five touchdowns.
While the Vegas line is not a “true” measuring stick, we are talking about Duke football -- an entity that hadn’t been relevant to the college scene in almost 20 years.
Three years ago, Duke fans were hoping that they wouldn’t have to worry about a loss against a I-AA opponent. It has taken time, and David Cutcliffe will tell you it started on Day 1, seven years ago when he arrived in Durham. Duke has become a football program: Not a school with a team, but an honest-to-goodness football program.
A demolition of Elon is generally something that most football fans wouldn’t even blink at, it is something that good teams are supposed to do. Saturday night, that is exactly what Duke did.