Duke Beat: Wallace Wade Provides Winning Atmosphere

It was easily the best crowd in Wallace Wade since the Rolling Stones came to town back in 2005.

Duke’s home field hasn’t been much of an advantage, as the Blue Devils have played in front of some very meager crowds over the years, including this one. Despite being off to one of their best starts in 18 years and being perfect at home this season prior to Saturday night, no one knew what to expect.

Coming into the game there were doubters, especially after last week’s meltdown in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech. People just didn’t know if the Duke students or the local Blue Devil community as a whole would turn out, even in a game versus their rival.

The rivalry had really failed to live up to the name over the years, with North Carolina having won 21 out of the last 22 games and Duke not having tasted victory in eight long years. Fans have been skeptical all year, and the Duke students have been slow to take notice, even though the team was 5-2 (2-1 ACC).

No one knew if they would respond to the challenge by Coach David Cutcliffe to show up. He even had a video presented at Duke Basketball’s Countdown to Craziness encouraging the Cameron Crazies to show up; and they responded.

The announced attendance of 33,941 was a virtual sell out. And it wasn’t just a number based on ticket sales. There were that many people there.

And believe it or not, there were more Duke fans than North Carolina fans in Wallace Wade.

The atmosphere from the opening kick to the very exciting end was electric. I’ve seen a lot of games inside Wallace Wade, and aside from when Alabama fans who brought their houses, err RVs, the crowd by far supplied the most football-like atmosphere I’ve ever seen in the old stadium.

In years past opposing fans would start cheers and there would scarcely be enough Duke fans to counter; not Saturday night.  Every time the Tar Heel faithful tried to muster their Tar-Heel chant, the Duke fans would counter with a “Let’s Go Duke” or just plain boos.

But it was more than that. The student section, usually empty, was full, and it stayed full all game. More importantly it was loud. Fans were given pom-poms prior to the game and as you looked across Wallace Wade, at times that was all you could see waving in the air.

The spirit of Wallace Wade seemed to course through the sea of Duke fans, and for at least one night Duke was a football school again.

The normal rivalry game was bumped up this season from its usual spot as the season finale for both teams, something that David Cutcliffe knew traditionalists might be upset about. But he defended the decision based on the students, who normally are on Thanksgiving break.

“I’m very appreciative of the crowd. Seeing our students respond,” Cutcliffe said. “How great was it going to be for our students to have this game as a home game when they’re here? I don’t think anyone will question me after this point. Great crowd, great atmosphere.”

I’m not sure what will happen in the next four games as the schedule gets exponentially more difficult for the Blue Devils, but for one night in late October the Duke Football team got a big win and they did it in front of one of the best crowds at Wallace Wade in two decades.

Duke Sports BlogMike 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

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