Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Wade Report: Victory Bell, or another Saturday Hell?

In 1999, two young dudes traveled to Chapel Hill to see the 10th Airborne victory of their four-year college career. Optimism was high as UNC was suffering through a tough season filled with rumors that their head coach would soon be fired. Unfortunately, that 10th win did not happen, and the plucky young dudes graduated in the single digit win column. Sadly, had they returned for a Franchise-esque fifth year, they still wouldn’t have seen that 10th win. The Carl Franks era was not pretty.

Nine years later, the same two dudes were reunited, this time in Wally Wade, hoping to see Eron Riley and Michael Tauiliili ring the famed Victory Bell as they left Durham for the greener pastures of the NFL. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Things got off to an ominous start as parking goons forced me to leave my free (and legal) parking on Central to try to get me into their pay lots. I found street parking, but clearly everything would be a struggle on this cold, wet day.

Duke’s offense moved the ball well for much of the game, but struggled on third downs--three promising drives ended in field goal attempts. Defensively, Duke forced two turnovers and scored a TD, but too often gave up the third down conversion. While the Tar Heels converted on 80% of their third downs, Duke only converted on 20%. UNC made the plays, Duke did not.

In the fourth quarter, Duke had several chances to force what could have been an epic two-point conversion try, but found every drive stall. Dumb personal fouls hurt the cause, as did untimely turnovers. But ultimately the game came down to the final drive. Thad was let loose, and the team drove to the 16 before finally stalling. On 4th and 6, Thad was flushed out of the pocket and forced a throw, which was picked off by the Tar Heels. Travel, trip, championship. Or something like that.

I would like to salute a few seniors. To Joe Surgan, your name has been cursed many times in my home, but with two 50-yarders this year (including a 55-yarder Saturday), I hope you found some redemption. To Marcus Jones, three years ago, when you were named the new starting QB, I named my fantasy football team “The Marcus Jones Era?” One week later I changed it to Thad is Rad. But you made an impressive switch to defensive back, and for your flexibility and athleticism, I salute you. Eron, last year the bomb to you was our best play, and this season under a more disciplined offensive scheme, I missed it. You raised some big cash for the next president of the United States, and you provided me with more highlights over the last few years than any Blue Devil. And last, to Mr. Tauiliili, your 20 tackles Saturday was yet another impressive day at the stadium; Coach Cut said you are the best defensive player he has ever been around as a college coach, and called you the best in the ACC. I hope the Patriots draft you to replace all their old men in the middle.

But despite those sentiments, as I write this, the last “Wade Report” of the season, I find myself looking forward, not backwards. Sunday at noon, just hours after a 28-20 loss to UNC, the 2009 team met with Coach Cut. At 3:00, they ran. That’s the sort of no-nonsense approach we’ve come to expect from the new coach. Hopefully the hard work will be evident next year when I book my plane trip to the Orange Bowl.


Head Dude said...

I just looked at next year's schedule, and my first question is: how and why did we schedule a home-and-home with Kansas? I guess that's two questions, but how does an 8-win Big 12 team help? I understand the road game at Alabama in 2010, and the 2011-12 series with Stanford, but Kansas strikes me as random ... and difficult.
And thank you Undude, for another year of coverage. One day you'll be justly rewarded at the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

The Franchise said...

I think if we want to have aspirations of being a "real" football program in the near future, we need to start testing ourselves against the same. Kansas qualifies - they're good, but not that good.

Head Dude said...

But the counter to that would be let's first put together a schedule that ensures at least 2-3 non-conference wins, and then worry about scheduling the occasionally top-25 teams like Kansas after we've become a perennial 5-6 win program. The caveat is playing teams where it might help with recruiting; I'm just not sure if we're ready to exchange a Vanderbilt or ECU series for someone like Kansas.

Big Daddy said...

It is a little weird. You often hear about how schedules are made 5 years in advance, I wonder if this was one of those. 5 years ago Kansas was about as bad as we were (how long as the coach been there?) so it might have looked different than, than now.

But I do like the full-steam ahead approach. You're right Head Dude recruiting wise it doesn't make a whole lot of sense but assuming Kansas is in the top-25 there's at least a chance it'll be televised in Big 12 country which does give us more exposure.

Head Dude said...

You're right about Kansas at the time the schedule was made. Probably the same thing with Alabama in 2010. Ironic how the average power conference opponents we schedule turn into good teams in the meantime. I suspect Stanford will do the same before 2011.

Head Dude said...

It's also worth nothing that Duke's first target for head coach, Paul Johnson, knocked off Georgia in an upset this weekend and Tech finished with an impressive 9-3 record.
Not saying he would've done that at Duke, but he certainly has solidified himself as a great coach.

The Dude said...

If you don't have the faith that Airborne can compete with the Kansas's of the world, you don't have the audacity of hope! At the very least, the restaurants in the Durham area should be happy that Mark Mangino will be visiting the town in the not-too-distant future.