Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sights and Sounds of Wally Wade

Highlights from Pre-game
- Driving down Towerview toward the parking lot, I notice an open space on the street. Free parking on Game Day? A good start to the Cutcliffe era!
- While walking the BC walkway, I noticed a parachuter flying through the air. This morning I learned that at six, two parachuters landed in Wally Wade with the game ball. The problem? They were supposed to land in UNC’s Keenan Stadium and missed their target by eight miles. Oops.
- The campus was incredibly festive. Inflatable games and a DJ blasting hits like “Celebration” and Ton Loc’s “Wild Thing” lined the main quads. The athletics area around K-Ville was packed with various parties, and the gate area was jammed full. Hopefully this is a tradition that can continue.

- The students came out in force. The student section was packed and I can think of no other time when it was as crowded as last night. Usually the first game is a freshman only thing, they learn that no one comes to these games, and then the student section remains bare for the rest of the year. But with so many students seeing a convincing win, I expect big things next week.

- Bad weather delayed kickoff for an hour and a half. We were told it was for the pre-game festivities, which turned out to by pyrotechnics as the team took the field. I like to think we didn’t wait 90 minutes just for that, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the stadium DJ was on his game, delighting us with old-school rap, Europe, and a stadium sing-along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”
- At one point toward the end of the delay, Coach Cut came out to massive cheers. He went straight toward the students, gave the crowd a few fist pumps, and fired everyone up.
- An announcement was made that a little boy named Dallas was missing his parents, and please find him in section 12. Twenty minutes passed and they had to make the same announcement again. Worst parents ever. We were half expecting them to announce in the 3rd quarter that they needed someone to adopt little Dallas.
- Duke also debuted a new leaner, meaner Blue Devil mascot. For a picture, click here. His signature move is throwing his pitchfork into the ground at center field while looking intimidating. This new Blue Devil truly doesn’t take crap from anyone. If you want your baby photographed with him, watch out, he looks like he eats babies. At one point while he was performing, the JMU band started up, and he marched right over there to stare them down. I half expected him to knock down the ladder holding the band’s conductor. Trust me, you don’t want to mess with this guy.

Game Highlights
- And speaking of guys you don’t want to mess with, last night saw the debut of “Crazy, Sweaty Guy.” CSG was a shirtless student standing in the student section whose antics simply cannot be described by mere words. Like Homer before me, I invoke the help of the Muses to help tell his story. CSG was shirtless, greased up, and very animated. He yelled, he jumped, he pushed down neighboring fans to get them fired up. He ended up on the stadium scoreboard a few times, which only encouraged him more. By the fourth quarter, while the student section remained packed, there was a huge circle of empty seats surrounding him, because no one dared stand too close. One student wanted his picture with him, and CSG proceeded to put him in a headlock and wrestle him. The fans started chanting “Crazy Sweaty Guy” to the tune of “Crazy Towel Guy,” and as Big Daddy pointed out, we could have used some of the towels to wipe this guy down. With seven minutes to go, CSG left the game, and another student attempted to mock him. He took off his shirt, poured water on himself, and started to nonsensically scream and shout and push and jump. But just how crazy was CSG? The kid who was mocking him looked back about every ten seconds, clearly fearing that the original Crazy Sweaty Guy would come back there and kick his ass. I don’t think anyone blamed him for his fear.

- And speaking of potential steroid users, someone should test punter Kevin Jones. The sophomore was a beast, averaging 53.5 yards per punt (including a 67 yarder), and an average new of 46.8. The 67-yarder was a touchback, and his other three punts led to a combined seven return yards. Last year Jones averaged 37.2 yards per punt. Simply awesome.
- The Dude was most missed during halftime. Duke had a ceremony honoring its Olympic athletes (though only Coach K, Wojo, and Collins showed up) and the crowd began a stirring U-S-A chant.
- You’ve probably read that the key was the third quarter, when Duke forced consecutive turnovers (including a HUGE interception by Jabari Marshall) and converted them into two touchdowns. That was the difference. The Duke of old probably would have turned those turnovers into two field goal tries, one of which would surely be missed.
- For the first time in my Duke career, fans flocked toward the exits early not because Duke was down, but because Duke was up so convincingly. Never thought I would see that.
- Coach Cut meant it when he said he would go for it on fourth downs. We were 3-for-3on 4th down conversions. Very late in the 2nd quarter, in a pretty makable field goal situation, Cut went for it, got the first down, which ultimately set up Riley’s beautiful diving touchdown grab to give us the 14-7 lead at the half.
- Duke’s D has always had troubles with large, running QBs and the option, and at times that was a problem tonight (something to worry about when Navy comes to town). But they came up with some huge turnovers, and were fantastic on third down. The Dukes were 0-for-8 on third down conversions.
- Thad missed a few open guys high, had some of his passes dropped, but for the most part looked sharp. He made only one bad decision (a pass that should have been picked off) and moved the ball well. The play calling did a nice job of mixing run and pass, and we were very successful at running many short passing routes. And while I don't know if JMU is the best test, our running game was much stronger than I would have thought, though we did have a couple of turnovers.
- But some people are hard to please. Down the row from us sat a very intense Duke fan, who simply wasn’t satisfied with a three TD lead. On a 2nd-and-10, Thad ran a draw for five yards and this guy nearly had an aneurysm he was so upset with the play call. I’m not sure if he has ever seen Duke play before, but if you’re not happy when up by three touchdowns, well, you’re going to have a very tough time being a fan of Duke football.
- Toward the end of the game, security lined the student section, and crewmembers were prepared to bring the posts down before students could charge. I didn’t see this, but while driving home I heard Cut on the radio say that he told the students to save the goal posts for something bigger. That is an attitude I can get on board with.

- The Riley for Heisman campaign begins. And I saw my first home win since 2005. As I said before, Bravo!


The Dude said...

that's change we can believe in!!

The Dude said...

although... i must say, airborne doesn't run as airtight of a ship as China... If bad weather would have threatened the Opening Ceremonies (and it did) the way it had delayed the launch of Airborne 2008, China would have launched thousands of weather rockets (and it did) to solve the problem - but Duke apparently did not.

ThadisRad said...

I assume by "weather rocket" you mean Thad's right arm. And believe me, it was launched!

ThadisRad said...
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Big Daddy said...

Actually the more I think about it, the more I'm not so sure if this wasn't as obsessively and finely planned as China and the Olympics. A way to fan the flames, whet the appetite feed the anticipation for the game. (and it definitely worked for me)

Consider this, if the game had started "on time"

1. There would have been no Coach C fist pumps to galvanize the students and the rest of the crowd

2. Crazy Sweaty Guy (who I know realize must almost certainly be a Cutcliffe plant) would not have been nearly as lathered up, needing that extra 1 1/2 hours to work himself into a frenzy.

3. True the second playing of Get Jiggy With It was a little much but the songs were a way to unite, bind and forge the crowd into one awesome 12th man. (heck even the little kids were hurling their insults like Mighty Zeus hurling thunderbolts at wayward mortals)

Undude a truly excellent account that gave the flavor of the experience. Besides song titles for the old school rap and hip-hop, the lovely adverts for some of the non revenue sports, I could really add nothing except that we did notice a critical design flaw in the Duke security forces.

So focused were they on the students and stopping a charge to the field by them, they left a huge gap in their forces, which we easily could have exploited had we desired to charge the field.

The last thing I will say is my profound sense of both joy and yet sadness at the same time by some play calling. That first series, 3 and 7, I asked Undude would there be an homage/shout-out to the good ole days of Duke football with the classic 3rd and long draw play. I admit, in my heart of hearts I had sorta hoped for it but it was not meant to be. A new attitude indeed.

The Franchise said...

I'd like to lead off by saying that the new Devil is awesome!

It was thrilling to go around bragging about a 31-7 Duke victory, and Undude's report was so detailed I felt like I was there. But the euphoria could be short-lived if Coach Cut doesn't have the run defense in good shape for the next two games. Northwestern put up a ton of offense that included 250+ rushing yards while they were destroying Syracuse. And Navy had one back go for nearly 350 - against Towson, granted, but it's already been pointed out that the option generally gives us fits.

A great start, but the defense has to be stout now...