Less than a minute was left. A historic victory against then-No. 9 Clemson was just clinched for Duke. Thousands of fans were waiting on the sidelines at Wallace Wade Stadium for the first time since 2013, ready to burst onto Brooks Field.
As fireworks exploded above the cheers of the crowd, students leapt over the ledge and hoisted themselves onto each other’s shoulders. Parents carried their children down into the action, and football players found themselves surrounded by a sea of cameras, smiles and applause.
Photographs will always show that there was a crowd of thousands that rushed the field Monday. But thoughts, emotions, the feel of those photographs — those are harder to capture.
“I have goosebumps just remembering it,” said sophomore Gabriel Reis. “We were chanting and expecting for the moment we would be allowed to rush, and the moment we did was pure adrenaline.”
“It was honestly one of the best moments at Duke so far,” said sophomore Thomas Dean. “It [was] just a sea of people. But everyone was just so excited and celebrating it together. It felt like everyone on the field was friends.”
“I just started running, and I just didn’t want to fall,” said sophomore Ben Childress. “Nobody really knew what was happening, because nobody could believe that we had just beat Clemson.”
Childress, whose high school best friend, sophomore kicker Todd Pelino, scored two field goals and two extra points during Monday’s game, recalled Pelino telling him that it was “the first game he’s ever been nervous for.”
“We took a whole bunch of photos, everyone was cheering, every few seconds you would see a player walk by and congratulate them,” said junior Caitlin Dougherty. “Because as much as it was our moment, I can’t even imagine what it was like as their moment.”
This moment had been a long time coming. In 2013, Duke was an entirely different program. Former head coach David Cutcliffe had turned the Blue Devils around after a long down period. In many ways, this moment echoed what happened in 2013.
But none of the students at Wallace Wade would’ve remembered that — they were nine, 10, 11 years old at the time. For them, those final seconds solidified what students had hoped for since they arrived on campus: a renewed football program that could compete with teams of national prominence under head coach Mike Elko.
As Monday’s game entered its final minutes, crowds of students swarmed towards the field, ready to soak in the chance to charge into the heart of the stadium.
“In the middle of the fourth quarter, I looked over and I kind of got the feeling that people were going to rush the field,” said sophomore Hannah DiMaggio. “My first thought [was] ‘Wow, I never thought this would happen at Duke.’”
“It was just a matter of waiting those last five minutes of the game,” said senior Suraj Dhulipalla. “The anticipation was electric.”
But those last five minutes? No one was willing to wait. Students got out of their seats and crowded down as far as they could.
“The security staff came up to us and said ‘Make sure you don’t storm the field when there’s still time on the clock. Make sure you wait till the game’s completely over,’’’ Dean said.
The crowd became more and more congested as the clock wound down.
“My immediate thought was ‘Oh, my God, I might get stampeded,’” DiMaggio said. “We all just started sprinting and running. We jumped onto the field. I fell in the bush. It was so, so exciting.”
Dougherty compared Monday’s celebration to what students had hoped for during last season’s home game against North Carolina, when students anxiously hoped to storm the field only for the Blue Devils to fall agonizingly short in a nail-biting 38-35 battle against the Tar Heels.
“I have never stormed a college field before, and so to get to actually follow through with it, it felt like a full-circle moment,” Dougherty said.
Full circle, indeed.
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Holly Keegan is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Andrew Bae is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.