Normalcy in the college football world seems to mutate when Rice (0-1) and Duke (1-1) face each other.
Two years ago in Rice's 15-13 win over the Blue Devils, the game began with Rice's fans walking out of the stands through Duke's bench onto the field to greet the Owls. Perhaps under the influence of alcohol, the students tried to disrupt the Blue Devils' warm up. One drunkard was heard saying, "Where's Krzyzewski now?"
"That and the fireworks going off at Virginia [Aug. 30, 2003] were two of the most amazing things I've ever seen," Duke head football coach Carl Franks said.
The Rice band was worth remembering, as well. The uniform of the band was as follows: Suit pants, dress shirt, classy vest, and the weirdest tie one could possibly fathom. The band had no unity in foot apparel, either, as some musicians wore sandals, while others upped the ante to Chuck Taylor's. Every member of the band also wore a brimmed hat, but each topper was unique--one hat had feathers duct taped to it, another had a stuffed animal duct taped to it, and a third just had duct tape all over it.
Just when the situation could not seem to get weirder two years ago, according to members of the Duke football program, the PA system blared at halftime something to the effect of: "Jealous of Rice's higher average SAT score, endowment, and better football program Duke has tried to invade the Owls' field."
In a near fascist-like response, the crowd screamed relentlessly. Then people dressed as smurfs ran onto the field, supposedly serving as metaphors for the Duke team. Individuals representing the Rice team stole basketballs from the smurfs, alleging that they had conquered the basketball-oriented school. Another person, perhaps maybe the same drunkard as before, was heard saying, "Where's Krzyzewski now?" So what is the oddity for the rematch to be held at Wallace Wade Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday? The Blue Devils are a 10-point favorite, the first double-digit spread Duke has been on the positive side of in recent memory.
Who knows what other abnormalities will occur during the game, but the fact remains that the team that scores the most points in conventional football will win.
The 2001 loss to Rice was perhaps the most heartbreaking of Duke's 0-11 season, as the team fumbled snaps just feet away from the endzone on both an impressive drive and a potential game-tying two-point conversion.
"You can't dwell on it, it's been two years though," offensive lineman Rusty Wilson said. "We probably should have won. It's tough to lose those games."
It is still unknown who will start at quarterback for the Blue Devils this week. Mike Schneider, who started last week, has recovered from his concussion, and Adam Smith, last year's starter, is still riding the momentum of his 120-yard, two-touchdown performance off the bench last week.
Still, it seems to be the perfect time for the Blue Devils to exact revenge with Rice coming off a 48-14 loss to Houston. In addition to its struggles against the Cougars, Rice will be without its starting quarterback Kyle Herm, who has damaged ribs.
But personnel is not quite as important for a team like Rice, whose triple-option offensive scheme keeps them competitive.
"It's a variation of the wish-bone [offensive formation]," Rice head coach Ken Hatfield explained about his quirky offense. "It's kind of a flex-bone and spread option combined. The biggest thing people relate the wishbone to is that it is a triple-option attack."
Duke dealt with the option tremendously in its 43-17 win over Navy in 2002, but Franks feels the Owls' option is much different and will require a better effort by Duke to stop it.
Franks added that Chris Dukes, who is sitting out this season because of NCAA transfer rules, did a great job in practice this week preparing the defense, as Dukes ran the option every day as a member of the Nebraska football team last season.
On the other side of the ball, Franks felt that Rice's defense would be much stronger against Duke than against Houston.
"[Rice] played a lot of young guys [against Houston]," he said. "They are going to play a lot different than they played that week. I'm sure they feel this is a winnable game, and it's important to get their season started."
Hatfield was less confident about improvement.
"We're going to find out if we're the fast learners or the slow learners [Saturday]," Hatfield said.
Last week Franks was able to motivate his players for the game with the thought of avenging the embarrassing 27-0 loss to Virginia on the first week of the season. This week Duke came off a 29-3 win over Western Carolina, but the man with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Duke feels he's up to the task.
"We're all feeling good about ourselves," Franks said. "We had a good night Saturday, and it just feels different. You go around feeling too good about yourself you're not going to work as hard as you need to. We want to keep getting that feeling, and pay the price [of hard work] every week."
For Rice, though, it does not matter who starts, as they are just looking to salvage its reason.
"We need this game to have a competitive season," starting Rice wide receiver Marcus Battle said.
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