Duke Football: Blue Devils Bad, But Far From Awful As David Cutcliffe Rebuilds

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 19, 2010

Cutcfliffe has done a lot for Duke but there is still much work to be done. Rome wasn't built in a day an neither will Duke Football.
Cutcfliffe has done a lot for Duke but there is still much work to be done. Rome wasn't built in a day an neither will Duke Football.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Make no mistake, Duke does not have a very good football team this season.

That being said, it would also be a mistake to believe that as bad as the Blue Devils seem to b,  that they are anything resembling the team that has been so woeful for multiple decades.

At 1-5, 0-3 ACC, Duke's chances of reaching its goal of a bowl seem all but gone, but the Blue Devils are clearly headed in the right direction.

Last Saturday's game shows just how far the Blue Devils still have to go though. The team had every opportunity to beat a superior Miami team but could not take advantage of the opportunities given to them.

Last year's Duke team would have won that game.

The game started with Miami fumbling the opening kick inside their own 10-yard line. Duke ran three plays and had to settle for a field goal, essentially waisting the first of what would be many opportunities.

The Blue Devils, who started the year strong on offense, have fizzled of late. Quarterback Sean Renfree threw five interceptions and lost a fumble on his way to possibly the worst game of his entire life against the Hurricanes.

Despite an improved running game, Renfree's struggles combined with the uncharacteristic inability of the receivers to hang on to some balls has derailed the offense of late.

Meanwhile, the defense, which began the year struggling, is starting to find its footing as it looked impressive at times against the Hurricanes. It was the second game it held a team under 30 points.

That in and of itself doesn't seem like much, but the defense was markedly better in all phases of the game.

But the Miami game is just one game among many. Duke could reasonably be 3-0 in the ACC and possibly even 5-1 overall had the defense been playing better or the offense could have limited its turnovers and executed. Yet success after all these years is not determined by would haves and could haves.

Those mistakes and missed opportunities are common of bad teams, but they are also common of young, inexperienced teams. Duke regularly starts seven players who are either freshmen or sophomores on both sides of the ball. Of the senior and junior starters, their replacements are typically freshmen or sophomores.

So Duke is young and that is a good thing.

David Cutcliffe has brought in better talent. The difference is that Duke's young talent is not as good as some of the elite or even very good teams' young talent.

Those players aren't always ready to play, like those young players from elite programs who seemingly are great from day one.

But the young guys Duke has are good enough that with time and experience they will become very good college players and help build a solid foundation of what will eventually be a winning program.

The problem is Duke has been down so long it is either hard to imagine them being successful or no one, including some fans, are patient enough to either wait for it, or believe it can happen.

The folly in that mindset is that it is already happening even if it isn't translating in the win column.

That isn't to say that Cutcliffe, his staff and players are happy, far from it. They are unlikely to want the fans to be satisfied with a 1-5 record, but if you take a step back and look, you can see things are clearly better than they were three years ago.

The Blue Devils lost a lot of veteran talent from last year's team that won five games, so a drop off is expected when you lose a lot of key players. Just ask Urban Meyer.

So the best suggestion for Duke fans is to be patient and support the team, as hard and as painful as it might be at times. Eventually the patience will pay off.