A 23-game losing streak and a week of rain can create a devil of a celebration.
With nine seconds remaining in Duke's first football win since 1999, students rushed the field at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday night, waited impatiently for the official end of the game and then tore down both goal posts amidst a downpour of rain.
A portion of the nearly 1,000 student fans at the game congregated at midfield to meet their victorious Blue Devils, who outpaced the East Carolina Pirates 23-16 in the season opener. Purple and yellow-clad ECU fans quietly filed out of the stadium they mostly filled at game's start--by halftime, however, they were balanced out by a sea of blue and white.
With cheers of "undefeated" bellowing, the west upright was the first to go, although it took several minutes and the weight of about a dozen students to make the 30-foot yellow structure give way. The second goal post came crashing to the muddy turf minutes later.
Legions of students then carried pieces of the posts out of the stadium in various directions--some up and over the stands towards the Blue Zone and others out the far end of the stadium.
The posts made their way to the heart of Main West Campus, the first piece finally nestling between James B. Duke's cigar and his tweed jacket on the Chapel Quadrangle. A second piece was carried down Chapel Drive and toward East Campus, complete with a police escort.
More pieces of the posts then arrived, with the two crossbars finding initial homes on the steps of the Chapel and two more uprights leaning on the facade of the Chapel. Shortly thereafter, the pieces were carted off to other points on campus.
New uprights--costing $2,500 each--have already been ordered and should be back in the ground by Friday, said Mitch Moser, business manager of the athletics department.
"I never thought I would see this, but now that I have, it's amazing," said senior Michael Desimone.
"It's awesome," said freshman Laura Serwer. "It's just my first game, but my sister went here, too, and I had to suffer through it with her.... I had a bet with my friend from [Michigan State University] about who was going to riot first, and I guess we won."
Some juniors and seniors compared the post-game festivities--which yielded only one reported injury--to those following the 2001 men's basketball national championship. The most notable difference between the two celebrations was the lack of bonfires--impossible because of the heavy rain that fell over the past week, making benches as inflammable as the goal posts.
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Other upperclassmen said younger students who have not yet experienced an early April bonfire or a complete football season still have much to learn. Freshmen, however, were reeling from their first big win as Duke students.
"We made a decision before the game to go to all the games this year, but I think now we're going to have to go to every game, all four years," said freshman Russ Ferguson.
Added fellow Class of 2006 member Shawn Donilon, "It is probably the greatest sporting event I've ever been to. We're just ready for a 12-0 season."
As the rain continued to pour, students made their ways to their dorms to continue celebrating the victory--for the first time in a long time, one not captured on the hardcourt.
Dave Ingram and Amir Mokari contributed to this story.