Nov 16, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Justin Renfrow (78) tackles Duke Blue Devils quarterback Brandon Connette (18) at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
In case you needed any reminder that Brandon Connette has been one of the most valuable players in all of the Atlantic Coast Conference this year, Connette made damn sure you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
The junior quarterback/phantom/whatever-you-want-to-call-him ran for four touchdowns and threw for another against #23 Miami (FL), lifting Duke to a 48-30 victory and complete control of their own destiny in the ACC.
I’m not sure what to say, really. The pessimistic taste Duke football left me with over the years is fading, and they continued their trend of impressing us all on a weekly basis. Against Virginia, they showed us the ability to fight back when all seemed lost. Against Virginia Tech, they showed us that the defense could grind out a win, even when the offense is at its worst. As for the North Carolina State game, they showed us that anyone, at anytime, can be a hero–in this case, DeVon Edwards.
So, what did this victory over Miami show us? Well, to be honest, I don’t think it showed us anything. We know this team has a play-making defense, so we weren’t surprised when freshman Deondre Singleton hauled in a tipped Stephen Morris pass for an interception and proceeded to twist and turn his way to midfield.
We know that this team is busting out the seams with capable runners, so watching the Blue Devils scramble and bulldoze their way to 358 rushing yards on the day was incredible, but not surprising.
And we knew that, despite their recent struggles, this offense can play with anyone, so the 48-point, 543-yard effort was more of the welcoming of an old friend, rather than a new arrival.
Everyone who has been paying attention to Duke football for the last few years has watched this team grow and reach previously unattainable heights. They’ve taken our expectations and shattered them over and over again, refusing to settle in as a middle of the pack team in the ACC. To put it simply, this team has made it so we Duke fans can’t be surprised anymore.
This game wasn’t about what it was showing us–they’re done showing us–this game was about taking the talk out of the confines of North Carolina and establishing themselves as one of the top teams in the entire country–top-25, to be exact.
Come the release of the newest AP Poll, Duke should have a shiny new number next to their name (Jerry Hinnen predicts #23), and they’ll be the cause of double takes all across the nation. I’ve looked at endless amounts of polls over the last few years, and every time a team that typically isn’t there pops up, they stick out like a sore thumb. Next week, Duke should have the pleasure of being that sore thumb.
And all of the college football world will flock to see what all the fuss is about.
They’ll find the best playmaker no one has heard of in Brandon Connette and they’ll see the young secondary and how they’ve held together and they’ll see Ross Martin and Jamison Crowder and Kelby Brown and everything that makes this team so special, and they’ll understand why we feel David Cutcliffe deserves the Coach of the Year award as much as anyone on the face of the Earth.
I promise you I’m going to analyze this game and pick it apart, but that can wait for tomorrow. Right now, I’m not interested in talking about what they did well and what they did poorly on and silly little interesting stats that accumulated over the course of the games. Right now, just know that Duke marched onto the same field as one of the best teams the ACC has to offer, a team that has been ranked as high as #7 this year, and beat them.
It wasn’t a matter of luck or fate or circumstance or any of that same old song and dance. No, Duke was simply the better team, and it was consistently evident.
So, here we are: Duke is two games away from a trip to the ACC Championship Game, games which they’ll be favored in. For the first time in years, the pressure is on the Blue Devils to perform.
And when they do, they’re going to have a much bigger audience.
Go, Blue Devils.