Oct 26, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone (7) celebrates after the game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
I won’t even make a half-hearted attempt at beating around the bush; last night was about as heartbreaking as a sporting event is capable of being.
Duke fans probably couldn’t put into words how ecstatic they were when the Blue Devils raced out to a 38-17 lead at halftime and they probably couldn’t properly put into the words how low they felt when Boone’s emergency dump off fell into the hands of the Aggies, sealing a victory for a Texas A&M team we were all sure we had beat.
The fall was like ripping off the most painful of band-aids, and I completely understand those who are too bummed out to consider the silver linings. I’ve been that overly emotional fan that has their day or week ruined by a loss; when Duke basketball lost to Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen a couple years back, I didn’t even watch the rest of the tournament, I was too angry. Hell, I still refuse to watch Sportscenter highlights whenever one of my teams lose a big game.
Thankfully, I’ve come to recognize that if you look hard enough, there are always silver linings to find, and last night’s loss, as brutal as it was, was filled with them.
1. All the returning talent
Oct 12, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Jamison Crowder (3) celebrates with wide receiver Issac Blakeney (17) after Blakeney scored against Navy Midshipmen at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t get me wrong, Duke will be without a lot of studs next year. Losing OT Perry Simmons, DEs Justin Foxx and Kenny Anunike, RB Juwan Thompson, and OG Dave Harding, amongst others, will hurt. When you look at everything Duke will be returning, however, it does plenty of easing to the pain.
Offensively, Duke will return all of their quarterbacks. Josh Snead and Shaquille Powell will still be manning the backfield. Braxton Deaver, Duke’s stellar tight end, has another year left. Jamison Crowder, who is arguably the best receiver in the ACC, has said he plans on coming back for his senior season. The reliable special teams duo of Ross Martin and Will Monday have two years left.
The defense, meanwhile, returns plenty of heavy hitters and playmakers. Three 100+ tackle guys come back in Jeremy Cash, Kelby Brown, and David Helton. This year’s freshman-heavy secondary has plenty of talent moving forward, with Deondre Singleton, Bryon Fields, and DeVon Edwards all having three years of eligibility remaining.
There will be no shortage of talent moving forward at Duke, and I have little doubt in my mind that this program will prove to be much more than a one-hit wonder.
2. More and more respect for the program is being earned by the week.
It used to be “We really respect Coach Cutcliffe.” Then it was “We really respect Coach Cutcliffe and what he is trying to do out there in Durham.” Then we got “We really respect Coach Cutcliffe. He has gotten together a nice little program. They have a couple solid guys.” Now that the rebuilding period is coming to a close, however, the general consensus is that Duke’s program is becoming very well respected as whole throughout the nation.
Respect can take you a lot of places in sports, and the way Duke has risen into relevance will put them on the radar of bigger recruits, more decorated coordinators (Duke alumni Steve Spurrier Jr. has recently expressed interest in taking over the now open OC vacancy), and so much more.
They also got these tweets from Manziel, which were pretty cool:
3. They made a lot of people look stupid last night.
Most sports fans think they know more about sports than most sports fans, and virtually every article/tweet/post/blog/whatever that picked Duke to not get completely and totally slaughtered by A&M was filled with responses of ‘idiot’, ‘moron’, or, if I remember correctly, ‘stick to hockey’.
I like when angry sports fans look like morons, so at least we got that.
4. Also, this was pretty cool and should make you smile a little
So, there you have it. Keep your head up, Duke fans. You have plenty to smile about after last night’s performance, and you will for a long time. This program will not be taking any steps back any time soon.
Now, put down the pity-gallon of ice cream and get happy.