Monday Musings, 11/17

You don't know what you've got till it's gone

In the Blue Devils' first drive of Saturday's contest against Clemson, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis went 3-for-3 for 24 yards, leading Duke to two first downs before a Tiger sack forced Duke to punt. On the next series, Lewis was hit as he threw on third down, straining his foot enough to sideline him for the rest of the game. Up to that point, the score was knotted at zero, and the two teams appeared fairly balanced and ready for an exhilarating back-and-forth game.

But then backup Zack Asack came in and the Duke offense stalled, failing to convert another first down until the third quarter and running only six plays in Clemson territory all afternoon. Now, in no way can a 31-7 loss be placed all on the shoulders of the backup quarterback—period, end of story, can't be done. It did create a tremendously difficult uphill battle for the Blue Devils, though, and, once the game started getting away from them, their problems snowballed exponentially.

As Asack worked to shake off the rust, the Blue Devils turned in three-and-outs on four straight drives to close out the first half. The placed the defense in a tough spot, remaining on the field for more than 20 minutes before the break as the Tigers worked up an insurmountable 17-0 lead.

It's way too early to tell if this offense can produce behind Asack—he has been successful in the past—but the importance of Lewis to this offense was made remarkably evident Saturday. We've known all along this season he was special, but his name was sometimes overshadowed by the likes of star wideout Eron Riley and up-and-comers Johnny Williams and Jay Hollingsworth. Now we see that, without the conductor at the helm, even the most well-oiled machine can break down.

Around The Horn: NCAA Tourney special

Field Hockey — After a 2-1 win over Connecticut earned No. 8 Duke a second-round berth, No. 1 Maryland bounced the Blue Devils from the NCAA's with an 8-5 victory Sunday. After a 14-3 start to the season that included a 3-2 road win over the same Terrapins, Duke dropped three of its last four games of the year. The Blue Devils got down early, but fought hard to overcome a 5-1 halftime deficit with four second-half goals. Nevertheless, Duke never closed the gap to less than three and is now forced to watch the Final Four, an event it had earned three straight trips to from 2004-2006.

Men's Soccer — The Blue Devils stumbled out of the gate somewhat this year, finding themselves 6-5-1 midway through October and an all-important matchup against undefeated No. 1 Wake Forest next on the ledger. A 0-0 tie, the Demon Deacons only non-win of the regular season, and Duke was on its way to a 4-0-1 run into November that earned the program a No. 25 national ranking. The screws have somewhat come loose, though, as the Blue Devils lost the season finale to N.C. State and then again in the ACC tournament opener to Virginia, which has since handed Wake Forest its first loss of the year in the ACC championship. Tonight, Duke gathered somewhere in high anticipation of the NCAA's unveiling of the national tournament field. The Blue Devils have an opening round home matchup against UNC-Greensboro, then would need to contend with the likes of Wake Forest, Loyola, Dartmouth and South Florida—the four teams receiving a bye in Duke's region—in order to advance to the College Cup Final Four. Those squads have a combined 61-11-5 record on the year.

Women's Soccer — The Blue Devils cruised past Radford 5-1 into the second round of the NCAA tournament, then had to fight off a feisty William & Mary squad for a 1-0 win and a Sweet 16 berth. KayAnne Gummersall led the effort over the weekend, notching the game-winners in each contest. Her team-leading 13th goal against the Tribe Sunday, a worm-burner buried into the net early on in the contest, proved the most crucial as the third-seeded Blue Devils attempt to continue their quest for a national championship. The road certainly gets harder, though, with the next matchup coming against second-seeded Virginia in Charlottesville. Duke played the Cavaliers tough in the two teams' regular season tilt, but the 0-0 tie belies how Virginia overwhelming controlled the pace of the game, outshooting the Blue Devils 22-6.

The Marketplace

As the country and indeed the world has its eyes on the volatile, limping stock markets, we thought it would be appropriate to give you some trading advice of our own—Duke Athletics style. As it turns out, the market on Chapel Drive may be just as unpredictable as on Wall Street, with many people trying to dump their shares of Duke Football while looking for that next surprise team to invest in. Have no fear, we're here to help.

Buy, Buy, Buy!: Women's Basketball — Not only did the Blue Devils come back in a game they might not have been able to last year, not only did they defeat a talented team they might not have beaten last year, but they also got great news out of Texas that one of their toughest rivals may be weaker than previously believed. The facts: No. 8 Duke overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to walk away winners against No. 14 Oklahoma State, 77-68. Head coach Joanne P. McCallie showed why she was hired last year with an intelligent halftime adjustment to a 3-2 zone that hindered the Cowgirls' offense. Senior Chante Black emerged as the leader she is expected to be all season with a team-leading 28 points and 10 rebounds. And, finally, No. 3 Maryland, picked as the preseason ACC favorite, fell to unranked Texs Christian by 12. After just one game for each squad, it appears a shuffling of the rankings and expectations is in order. The future of this stock is on the rise. Get on board.

Sell, Sell, Sell!: Football — For all those die-hards and risk-takers out there still holding on to some Duke Football shares, it's time to let them go. Fast. I'll admit, even I was on board with this stock after an unexpected upset win over Vanderbilt three weeks ago put Duke at 4-3 with five games left to play. But whatever small hope was left going into an already tough game against Clemson has now been dashed, and not only because of the 31-7 loss itself, but also because of the copious injuries that have no doubt been giving head coach David Cutcliffe headaches. Following the game, he revealed several players, including Lewis and team-leading running back Clifford Harris, who sustained a broken arm, would need X-rays.

"Tonight might be tougher than anything, just getting through these evaluations. And then, Sunday we'll have an idea of what's available to us," Cutcliffe said after the contest. "We play a week from today in Blacksburg [against Virginia Tech,] and that's going to happen. So, we've got to try to get some people ready, and find out who's going to be ready. And the ones we've got ready to practice, we certainly have to be more prepared than we were today."

With the season closing out against ACC front-runners Virginia Tech and North Carolina, Duke Football will most likely continue to tumble for the remainder of the fiscal calender.

Duke By the Numbers:

Here we throw out some arbitrary, and somewhat off-the-wall, betting lines for you to consider. Have a take one way or the other? Let us know in the comments section below.

Straight-Up Odds:

A Michigan-Southern Illinois 2K Sports Classic championship game, which would require respective victories over No. 4 UCLA and No. 10 Duke in the semifinals — 500:1

Duke Football at least ending the season on a positive note by ruining North Carolina's shot at the ACC title and stealing away the Victory Bell — 15:1

(This might be more generous than some people are willing to go, but the Blue Devils have played the Tar Heels so close recently, losing by a combined seven points in the last two years. Reason why Duke will pull it off: it wouldn't be the first thing Cutcliffe did for this team that former head coach Ted Roof couldn't. Reason why Duke won't pull it off: the Tar Heels are having one of their best seasons in the last several years, and playing in Wallace Wade when all the Duke students are home for Thanksgiving break is the next best thing to a home game for them.)


Number of times men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski kicked himself during the Blue Devils' closely contested win over Rhode Island, in which Jimmy Baron sunk eight threes after the Duke coaching staff had agreed to send him tapes in the offseason of former great J.J. Redick to improve his shot — 6

(We know it was at least once. "During one time stop in action I was thinking, ‘Why the hell did we do that?'" Krzyzewski said after the game.)

Number of times Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight, who was in attendance at the Rhode Island game, wanted to throw a chair onto the court just for ol' times' sake —1.5

Number of times Duke fans watching the Blue Devils' football game against Clemson Saturday asked themselves, "What the hell does IPTAY stand for?" — 12

(As someone who drove to South Carolina for this matchup, I can tell you I personally pondered this at least 25 times. It was everywhere—from 'IPTAY Parking This Way,' to IPTAY t-shirts, to the letters even being painted on the field at the 25-yard lines. There was even a special IPTAY entrance into the stadium.

After asking one Clemson student, I received a pretty cool answer. It stands for, 'I Pay Ten A Year,' as in, 'I donate ten dollars every year.' Originating 75 years ago, it's a program akin to the Iron Dukes, in which those who donate are awarded benefits like premium parking and special entrances.

Of course, the program has changed slightly with the times, though, as the Clemson student cynically added, "Nowadays, though, it's more like ten-thousand a year." I guess it takes a lot of green to fulfill the needs of those who bleed orange. But then, I'm sure plenty of Dukies can relate to that in their own way, too.)


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