Wake Forest mastered in one drive Saturday what Duke has been working on for a decade-moving in the wrong direction.
Down 13-7 in the third quarter, Wake Forest's Riley Skinner connected downfield with his receiver, gaining 58 yards for first and goal at the one-yard line, not to mention a great chance to control the game. But three downs, a Vince Oghobaase sack and negative-20 yards later, the Demon Deacons were forced by a formidable Duke defense to take, and miss, a chip-shot field goal.
And just like that, for one blazing moment of glory, the Blue Devils looked like a real football team.
Then, the moment was over-about as fast as you can say, "60 days 'til basketball season."
"There are no magic words that are going to make this hurt go away," head coach Ted Roof said after the defeat.
I beg to differ.
Some could argue the magic words to cure the Blue Devil Blues would be, "Michael Videira to trade shin guards for helmet in quest to split uprights."
Others might suggest, "Alison Bales to anchor Duke offensive and defensive lines."
Alas, these are just pipedreams.
The real problem here, Coach, is that you're right on a technicality.
On this campus, there aren't magic words that make the football hurt go away. There's one magic word that does: basketball.
And unfortunately, Coach K doesn't prioritize making his kids into good people and good football players (leaving us no hope for Greg Paulus behind any center but Josh McRoberts on a give-and-go).
The sad truth is, while Duke possesses one of the richest and most vibrant basketball cultures in the country, the football culture at Duke is almost non-existent, making the task of rebuilding Duke football nearly impossible.
In the PSE (Post-Spurrier Era), one would be hard-pressed to find a Saturday when Wallace Wade was filled-excluding occasions when thousands of fans are drawn to Durham by the allure of big-name acts, like Virginia Tech or Florida State or the Rolling Stones.
Sitting in the stands of Wally Wade (which I have done for almost every game since arriving at Duke), I've often thought to myself, 'How can Roof possibly bring a big-time recruit to town, show him a half-empty stadium and really expect him to choose Duke over another school?'
Obviously-or at least judging by Saturday's 305-yard passing performance-he did something right in convincing Thaddeus Lewis that the beauty of the Gothic Wonderland cancels out the sterility of Wally's empty stands.
Yet, until those stands are filled, I fear there won't be enough big-time players who will want to play without the possibility of a big-time stage.
Here is probably where you'll feel compelled to interject, 'Fans would come to the games if the team were better.'
I'm saying the team would be better if fans came to the games.
But Duke is such a small school, you say, the 33, 941 seats at Wallace Wade couldn't be filled every week, even if the team were really good.
Again, I think the problem here is with attitude, not numbers. If the University were to build a giant basketball arena-and I am by no means suggesting it should-do you really believe there wouldn't be rich alumni buying up tickets? Do you really believe the Blue Devils wouldn't sell out most every night?
Even if these arguments hold true, even if there are the numbers within the Duke and Durham communities to fully support the football team, perhaps I am naive in assuming that people at Duke would go to football games. Comparing Duke football to Duke basketball at this juncture in time is like comparing apples to Krispy Kremes.
I usually hear a lot of, "At least there's basketball season," murmured around here at this time of year.
But last Saturday, I heard something else-something that, like Lewis' arm, gives a glimmer of hope for change, hope for a real football season in Durham.
With 1:28 left in the fourth, Lewis led the Blue Devils in a bonafide 2-minute drill, giving them a chance to come back and win the game. As Lewis hit receiver Jomar Wright in stride barreling toward the end-zone with 13 seconds left, I could hear screams from throughout the quad through my closed dorm windows-the quintessential "Go, Go, Go!" of college football.
People cared-it ended up being heartbreaking-but people cared.
If only the fans' "Go, Go, Go!" enthusiasm from last game could translate into them go, go, going to the stadium to support the team for home games.
Maybe then they'd have more to cheer for.
There is no doubt the football team is working hard to become a contender. But the road to developing a legitimate program is a long one, and the fans could expedite the process by meeting the team halfway.
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