Duke is on what we call a winning streak.
After a 55-48 barn burner at home Saturday, the Blue Devils have something they haven't had much of this season—momentum.
The young Duke team grew up just a bit. After failing to hold off an aggressive comeback attempt, giving up the lead late in Saturday's game, the Blue Devils put together what would be a game-winning drive in the final minute.
After Virginia took a one-point lead late following a Duke turnover, many of the Blue Devil faithful were thinking, "here we go again." It certainly had all the makings of a typical blown opportunity.
Duke came out strong, failed to dodge a valiant comeback and didn't have enough left in the tank to pull off the win in the end.
Everything was setting up for such a finish, but Sean Renfree hit Donovan Varner on 4th-and-18 to keep Duke's final drive alive. It would culminate in a Desmond Scott scamper and a two point conversion from quarterback Brandon Connette.
With the win Duke improved to 3-6 (1-4 ACC) heading into its final three games. A sweep and the Blue Devils will be bowl eligible.
More importantly the win on Saturday is showing what David Cutcliffe has been saying—Duke is getting better. It just hadn't been showing on the field or in the record.
While 3-6 isn't causing anyone to make reservations for a bowl game, it does give fans, player and coaches a glimpse of the improvement the program is continuing to make.
Many experts predicted a bit of a down year considering how much Duke lost from last year's team and how many young guys were being forced into early action.
Defensively Duke still has a long way to go. The offense is finding its grove, but you can't give up 600 plus yards, 48 points and win very often. Duke's offense, following a middle season funk, is back to where it was pre-Alabama, scoring seemingly at will.
Duke can't be anything but optimistic moving forward this year and into next season. The Blue Devils will return a majority of their key players on both sides of the ball, and the rotation that Cutcliffe and his coordinators are using is getting many of the young guys playing time.
That combined with a full spring practice for some and continued improvement in recruiting only can mean good things for the Blue Devils in the long term.
While fans may have to wait another season for the fruits of their patience and the labor of the team to pay off, it isn't too early to predict that if Duke doesn't make a bowl this season, next year it will.
Take it to the bank.
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