More impressive streak: Duke or Panthers?
Posted November 12, 2013
During my Monday radio hit on 99.9 FM The Fan, Adam Gold tossed out the question: Which five-game winning streak is more impressive – Duke or the Panthers? I chose the Blue Devils for the streak but credit the Panthers with the single most impressive win at San Francisco.
The Panthers have reeled off wins over the Vikings, Rams, Bucs, Falcons and Niners. Only San Francisco has a winning record and combined the five teams the Panthers beat are 15-31. Duke's schedule during the five-game winning streak features wins over Troy, Navy, Virginia, Virginia Tech and NC State. Two teams have winning records, and Troy is an even 5-5. Add it up and the combined record of Duke's opponents during the streak is 22-26.
Hands down, the Panthers have one of the most productive defenses in the NFL. They have allowed the second-fewest points in the league, 12.8 per game. That's the kind of football their head coach and former linebacker Ron Rivera likes to see. Remember when many were calling for Rivera to be fired two games into the season? Let's complete the sentence before putting the punctuation mark on it.
Remember when Duke football was the laughingstock in all of football? From 1999-2002 the Blue Devils lost 23 in a row. In a three-year span beginning in 2005, Duke dropped 22 straight. Those numbers get you placed in the category of worst in America.
In comes David Cutcliffe, who, along with his staff, has changed the culture of Duke football. They hit the recruiting trail with a list of high-profile targets. They didn't always get them, but they have been able to find talent where others didn't see it. I'm not talking location. I'm talking about the player. All you have to do is look at the career of lightly recruited wide receiver Conner Vernon.
Duke expects to win now, not hopes to. It's a cultural transformation that has taken time. You need talented players, a good coaching staff and a lucky bounce of that odd-shaped football here and there.
The second game of this season, Duke lost starting quarterback Anthony Boone but underappreciated Brandon Connette stepped right in and kept the train on the tracks. Connette has passed for 1128 yards with 12 TD tosses and added 8 more scores on the ground.
How do you explain an offense that has completed seven passes to the OTHER team in the last two weeks BUT WON BOTH GAMES? It's because this group has taken many knocks before but continued to get up and go back to work. Football scar tissue if you will.
This Saturday, Duke will host Miami in their final regular season home game. It's a chance for Coach Cut and the fellas to remain in the race for the Coastal Division championship. It's certainly the biggest game since Cutcliffe arrived and one of the most important in the last 25 years.
The last time Duke won a football title was 1989 under the direction of Steve Spurrier. That year, Duke hosted and beat a Clemson team that was ranked 7th in the nation. That game was in September and kickstarted a seven-game winning streak. The Miami game is in the critical month of November with a chance to extend the winning streak to six games.
The Blue Devils are finding ways to win when in years past they found ways to stumble into loss after loss after loss.