I was prepared to be hard on Duke if they lost the Pinstripe Bowl to Indiana. After moving to respectability a few years ago, and 19 wins the last years Duke started have the look of program that might have hit a wall. Even during the improvement of the last several, the Blue Devils still couldn’t point to a bowl win or a significant OOC victory that said Duke was ready to take their next step on the national scene.
The Pinstripe Bowl was a very a important game for Duke. No beating Indiana doesn’t mean the Blue Devils are ready to join Clemson and FSU fighting for ACC supremacy, but it would mean that Duke even in a slightly down year won 8 games, beat a decent team in a bowl game, and won their first bowl game in over 50 years. That’s a significant step for the developing program.
Playing without defensive star Jeremy Cash Duke’s defense was torched time and time again, and Duke looked to be headed towards another tough bowl game loss. Down 41-34 with 4 minutes left, Duke came back behind QB Thomas Sirk and tied the game and won in OT to finish the season 8-5.
Duke has won an average game of 9 games a year in the ACC the last 3 seasons. Only Florida State and Clemson have won more. That shows the consistency of the Blue Devils, and what David Cutcliffe has been able to accomplish at Duke.
Recruiting seems to be going well, and facilities have improved. David Cutcliffe is entrenched as head coach.
There isn’t any reason to think that Duke will slip back into mediocrity. The foundation is solid, and now the Blue Devils now have that elusive bowl victory. If Georgia Tech and UNC can put together recent 11 win seasons with time spent in the top 10, why can’t Duke? With each passing year Duke reaches a new goal – a bowl appearance, an ACC Coastal Title, and now a bowl win.
I think a a top 15 finish is a reasonable future goal. Duke has a good football program. That’s a fact, and now Duke fans go fill that stadium next year!