'Everything school': Students excited to embrace Duke football culture after Clemson rout

Jalon Calhoun (5) and Jordan Waters (7) celebrate during Duke's win against Clemson.
Jalon Calhoun (5) and Jordan Waters (7) celebrate during Duke's win against Clemson.

Following an unexpected upset against then-No. 9 Clemson, perhaps Duke is a football school. At the very least, some students think it’s headed in that direction. 

Students crammed into Wallace Wade Stadium Monday to witness the Blue Devils’ season opener, which many expected to be yet another blowout loss against the Tigers. Instead, they witnessed Duke defeating a top-10 team for the first time since 1989. That win, over 30 years ago, was also against Clemson.

“You could really feel like this was our game,” said sophomore Camden Reeves. “It was almost incomprehensible and hard to describe because of how unexpected it was. I don’t think a lot of people went into that game last night expecting for us to be victorious, let alone competitive against a big program like that.”

How the unexpected became expected

Despite Duke’s 28 consecutive losses against the AP top 10, there was a different energy in the stadium Monday night. Cheerleader Olivia Scott, a sophomore, said it was the first time she and the rest of the her team felt nervous before a football game. 

Meanwhile, in the student section, sophomore Anna Rosenbloum, who attended every football game last season, also noticed a vibrant atmosphere unlike any she had experienced before. 

“You just would turn around, high-fiving and hugging everyone, even people you had never met before,” she said. “It felt very much like a community.”

Junior quarterback Riley Leonard ran into the end zone for the Blue Devils’ first touchdown. Clemson’s kicker, Robert Dunn III, missed his second field goal attempt of the night. The Tigers fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line, which was taken 55 yards the other way. The student section, witnessing history in the making, began to bubble over.

However, with Duke football not having achieved such a feat in 34 years, no one knew what to do, Reeves said. Except the security guards.

“One of the security officials came up to us in the front row and told us, ‘Hey, if we win, we’re expecting y’all to rush the field,’ and told us the procedures for how to do so.”

Even junior transfer student Cade Ferguson, who previously attended the University of Florida, said he was unsure about how to rush the field. Most seasons, Florida does not have the same incentives to storm the turf as Duke did against Clemson, Ferguson noted.

Reeves sat behind former Duke men’s basketball standout and current Dallas Mavericks player Dereck Lively II throughout the game. As the end neared and Duke was sure to pull out the victory, Reeves said that Lively told him and other surrounding students, “y’all better be rushing 

the field when this happens.”

Security began ushering students onto the sidelines. Some climbed over barriers, some stood side-by-side with Clemson coaches and players. And then it was time for Leonard to take his final knee.

Pandemonium struck. History had been written. And students were on the field for the first time in 10 years.

A new era? 

In 2021, following a devastating three-season losing streak under former head coach David Cutcliffe, Duke announced Mike Elko as the team’s new head coach, an inflection point in the program’s history.

Loey Allen, a junior, recalls this sharp change in energy between Cutcliffe’s tenure and Elko’s.

“Freshman year, nobody showed up to the games and it was really easy to get the front row and have it all to yourself,” she said. “But it was just tough to always be there and watch us lose, so last season being able to say ‘Wow, the new coaches are paying off and we have a new winning program,’ was really incredible.”

Elko, in an effort to rejuvenate the Blue Devils, created incentives for students to attend games such as giving away cash prizes and personalized jerseys. Despite these efforts, Allen noted how traditions and cheers, like those seen at Cameron Indoor, would better elevate the experience. Reeves also thinks that improved tailgating can attract even more people to the game.

Neel Mehra, a freshman, provides a freshly optimistic perspective of Duke football, having entered in at the beginning of the ‘Elko Era.’

“As the youngest class, we started with thinking this might be a new era,” Mehra said. “Hopefully this is something we can get used to as the new standard of Duke football.”

Basking in the leftover limelight from the game, students are left wondering, has Duke become a football school? Who knows? However, many agree this win has the potential to change the way students and the sports world view Duke football.

Despite the newfound optimism, Rosenbloum doubts football will ever eclipse basketball as Duke’s main sport. But men’s basketball sophomore Mark Mitchell might’ve said it best on Twitter — with the win over the Tigers, Duke could be on its way to becoming an “everything school.”

“Cameron [Indoor Stadium] is so small and intimate. I don’t think that Wallace Wade could ever necessarily get to that point,” Rosenbloum said. “It probably will never be completely full of Duke fans, so it would be hard to create a culture in that sense of excitement around the game. But I think you can get to a point where people are excited to go to the [football] games and students actually show up.” 

Duke will undoubtedly retain its basketball fervor, but Monday’s game points to a future where football isn’t too far behind.

Rosenbloum described a feeling of extreme adrenaline and excitement as she rushed the field — one she “hasn’t felt at many Duke sporting events ever, even basketball.”

Olivia Schramkowski

Olivia Schramkowski is a Trinity sophomore and a staff reporter for the news department.       

Abby Spiller profile
Abby Spiller | Editor-in-Chief

Abby Spiller is a Trinity sophomore and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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