Well that was fun while it lasted.
Duke Football, which looked like a completely different animal for four games and one quarter, found its way back into familiar territory this past Saturday, on the losing end of the ledger.
The Blue Devils took an early 20-0 start but failed to build on that lead, leaving the door wide open for a less than average Virginia Tech team to show them that before Duke can step into the light, they first have to find a way to put away the giants.
The inability to capitalize on the 20 point lead only goes to show you how far Duke has to go and perhaps too many of the fans, myself included, drank from the Kool Aid too soon.
But why not? Duke was off to its best start since 1994 and only one game away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since that same year. There was reason to believe that perhaps a surging Duke team could knock off a struggling Virginia Tech squad.
And for a quarter at least, it looked like it might just happen.
The problem was the Hokies weren’t going to lie down and die; not on their home field and not on their program’s Homecoming. At the end of the game David Cutcliffe said it best.
“It hurt today. It hurt a lot, particularly when you have a 20-point lead at one time. But in the end, I thought that Virginia Tech, as I told Coach (Frank) Beamer after the game, ‘your team responded like a champion today,’” Cutcliffe said.
And while the Hokies still have a lot of work to go and need a lot of help to be a champion, they certainly erased any ideas that Duke fans had about the Blue Devils potentially filling some kind of void with Virginia Tech being down this year.
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Duke isn’t ready for primetime and Saturday clearly showed that. If they were they would have made the plays when they needed to, and if they did blow a 20 point lead they would have found a way to still win the game.
That did not happen, and as a result once Virginia Tech cut the lead and then took it, and the Blue Devils had no response.
Going forward it doesn’t get any easier, and the pain of this loss could end up lingering for a while, and unfortunately the schedule just gets even more difficult.
This coming week they square off with their arch rivals North Carolina, whom they haven’t beaten since 2003 and lost 21 of the last 22 meetings. Beyond that they have Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami; not an easy road.
Duke can get a sixth win, but they will have to get much better than they were against the Hokies and that loss may have done more than grounded their spirit.
Only time will tell if we are looking at the same old Duke program or if this team can bounce back from adversity, something it has done this year, but not on this scale and not against this level of competition.
Mike Kline is the operator of DukeSportsBlog.com, a site dedicated to coverage and analysis of Duke Football and Basketball from a fan’s perspective. He is also a regular contributor for DukeReport.com. Mike does a monthly podcast with Jim Oliver of Duke Report focusing on Duke Basketball and occasionally football. Mike is a long time Duke football and basketball fan. A former journalist, Mike is now a mild mannered middle school teacher by day and blogger by night. Follow Mike on Twitter at @DukeBlogMKline