David Cutcliffe, Thad Lewis Give Duke Its First Signature Win

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 11, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 29: Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis #9 of the Duke Blue Devils looks to pass the ball during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Ladies and gentlemen of the college football world, please welcome back Duke University.

After a 30-plus year sabbatical from the realm of respectability, the Blue Devils have finally arrived.

And they did so in grand fashion on Saturday.

For the first time since Steve Spurrier and Fred Goldsmith's one glorious year, the Blue Devils put together a near-complete performance from start to finish to secure its first signature win in quite some time.

Aided by the eye-popping performance of quarterback Thad Lewis, Duke took what was a first half shoot-out in NC State's Carter-Finley Stadium and blew it open in the second on their way to a 49-28 victory.

Lewis looked more like Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson than did Wilson himself. Lewis ran and threw on his way to a record-setting performance. It was one that coach David Cutcliffe called the best he'd ever seen from a college quarterback.

For Duke, this game was more than beating a conference opponent.

It was more than beating a rival who they had not beaten away from home since 1984.

It was about establishing themselves as a team that the ACC, at the very least, can no longer overlook.

While the Blue Devils took steps toward that last year and had high expectations coming into this season, no one was expecting that kind of performance on Saturday.

It was a performance that every one in the program and every supporter can be proud of. And for once, Duke played in an empty stadium in the waning minutes a game and most of those still in the seats were Blue Devil fans.

Duke wasn't expected to win against State, whom many believe would contend for the Atlantic Division title. But most, including myself, expected another close loss.

We were all wrong on both counts.

Cutcliffe has got this team believing and performing like a team used to winning. The next step will be for the fans to believe and start showing up.

Duke heads into a bye week, one where they will look to rest, recuperate and get better for the remaining six games. All of which are against ACC opponents.

It could prove to be a difficult stretch for Duke. But with the way they've played in the last two games, it is conceivable that Saturday's win won't be their last.

With the win over NC State, Duke evens their record to 3-3 (1-1 ACC). Not an awe-inspiring record, but one that anyone familiar with Duke Football can be a little surprised  and pleased with.

In their improvement from last year to last week's narrow loss to No. 5 Virginia Tech, most experts were saying Duke is better than they used to be, but they still can't get over the hump and get that signature win.

I think after Saturday's victory, the Blue Devils were able to sign their names quite proudly.