Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bring back that Old Duke feeling

I left my friend’s house (you know, the one with cable) after the UNC game and went to pick up burritos for dinner. As I walked through the parking lot, I was feeling that typical post-Duke football game depression feeling. And then I realized I hadn’t felt that way since the first week of the season. After the Richmond game there was an expected loss at Kansas, a “moral victory” against Virginia Tech, and five wins. Really, it was quite remarkable that I had gone that long feeling good about the state of the football team.

But the last two weeks have brought back those Old Duke feelings. I’m not going to pretend that I thought we would win today, but the absolute drubbing took me by surprise, and the walk to the car was a sad one, analyzing a season that is slipping away.

But on to the Wade Report…

-One group in Blue Devil Alley (the tailgating area of Cameron parking lot) placed tombstones in front of their tent marked with the name of each team we’ve beaten this year. Nice!

- The game could not have started any better. Thad was 5-for-5 on the opening drive, Duke marched down the field, and before you know it, the Devils are up seven and I’m fantasizing about a top-ten upset on ESPN2 as thousands of would-be recruits watch. Then we force a 3-and-out. Holy crap, could we pull this off?

- First huge missed opportunity: After a failed drive, Tech botches a punt snap and we get the ball in quick striking distance around the 20. But we quickly take losses and settle for a field goal. At the time I worried that we would look back at that moment as a big miss. In retrospect, I guess it didn’t matter. Still, 10-0 Duke.

-On the kickoff, the receiver muffs the ball, picks it up, and now the timing is disrupted. He charges all the way to the 2… 10-7. We couldn’t know it then, but everything shifted at this moment. The rout was on.

- Second huge missed opportunity: Now down 11, with something like four minutes left in the half, on third and two, Duke ran an unbelievably beautiful play. As the running back dove for the first down, I was straining my eyes to see if he got the first. And as I look, I see a ball float through my field of vision. Holy crap, it’s a pass! It fooled everyone, and streaking down the middle of the field is a wide-open Conner Vernon. No one was near him. Guaranteed touchdown. Every single person in that stadium who has ever thrown a football could hit him, that’s how open he is. Except Thad overthrows him. Crushing.

- The guy sitting next to me, who clearly watches a lot of Duke football, then proceeds to call Thad the most inaccurate passer in the ACC. He calls for Renfree. And while I argue this is Thad’s team and Thad’s time, my tattooed friend made a good point. Over the years, Thad has been prone to throw some inaccurate footballs. Riley once joked with him in an interview that their combo TD record would be higher if he hadn’t missed him a few times. I now wonder how joking he was. There’s no question Thad can get hot like he did against State, but there are times when his passing just isn’t sharp. Thad missed a handful of guys today, though none so glaring as this certain touchdown.

- I’m now losing chronological order, but speaking of Riley, there was a time when our only successful play was the streak to Riley. I acknowledge he’s no longer on the team, and I like that we can have success with some shorter routes and screens, but this was another one of those games where Duke simply refused to throw the ball down the field, instead only going side to side. Okay, back to the game…

- With the score 21-10, Tech drives down the field and connects on a longish TD in the back of the endzone. In real time, I didn’t think it was close to a completion, the ref made his signal late, but inexplicably the play was not reviewed. The big screen only showed it once (not slo-mo) so I never got a definitive look, but still, the booth has to review such an important play. After the extra point the refs huddled together as if to discuss it, but by then it was too late. I’ll leave comments up to those with HD televisions, but I was outraged, for this was the difference between a two-possession game and a three-possession game. But as I texted Head Dude later in the game, my anger subsided as the massacre continued and three-possession game became a six-possession game.

- Defensively, after the first quarter, everything was a mess. They simply ran over us. Even on plays where it seemed like we had the option covered they were getting five yards. The rest of the game is pretty much a blur, but they simply ran over us. There was a stretch where they scored TDs on five of six possessions, including a 75-yard touchdown bomb.

- Also, there were a LOT of missed tackles out there today.

- We have some guys banged up on D (Vince didn't play at all), so that certainly didn't help what we knew would be a difficult cause.

- Offensively, throughout the day we found ourselves in 3rd and longs. There were multiple 3rd and 20s, and we could only respond with same four-yard dump offs that are our bread and butter. Not bad on first down, but they won’t help you once you start moving backwards. Honestly, after that first drive, they did virtually nothing. And if you care to look up stats, you’ll see our running game set new standards of ineptitude, even for us (25 yards on 24 carries). Which is too bad, because we ran the ball well during that first drive.

- At the end of the game, Paul Johnson was doused with Gatorade. That’s how big opponents consider wins at Duke these days.

- Also, as we were leaving, two groups were selling $5 t-shirts labeled “ACC Showdown” with Tech and Duke helmets crashing into each other and today’s date. Almost as cool as those “I was on the quad…” for the NCAA Championship shirts. If my soul hadn’t been crushed and I was thinking more clearly, I would have bought a bunch to finish my Christmas shopping a little early this year.

- At one point Cut took out Thad and brought in Renfree, and he looked decent. Now, it’s hard to judge him accurately because at this point Tech was in full prevent mode. I turn to my friend and say, “Well, at least we’ll get a glimpse at the future.” And as I said that, on that very snap, Renfree fumbles and Tech recovered. The guy sitting in front of me turned around and stared incredulously at me. The future may look a lot like the past.

- As for the past? Well, just a few minutes into the third I struck the 1997 Wally Wade pose: feet stretched out on the bleacher in front of me, back and elbows leaning against the bleacher behind me. And as you can tell by the picture, the stadium quickly thinned to 1997 levels. Oh, and we had a field goal blocked, which brought back some mid-2000's memories, too.

- Earlier this week Snyderwine was named a Lou Groza semifinalist. So at least that’s a positive throwback to the Sims Lenhardt days.

- But we’re not here to talk about the past. After both the UNC game and today’s game, Thad said Duke needs to have a short-term memory. The dream is slipping away. Does the glass bowling shoe fit? We’ll find out next week at Miami…


Big Daddy said...

As usual, absolutely brilliant. My favorite line (among so many) had to be
"At the end of the game, Paul Johnson was doused with Gatorade. That’s how big opponents consider wins at Duke these days."

I'd been wondering if this game was as much old Duke as New GT. Seems like old Duke still refuses to completely die. Anyone have a wooden stake?

The Franchise said...

Miami has been one of the more fraudulent ranked teams this season based in large part on its hot start, but it's still going to be a tough task. As seen today, Harris can be pressured into mistakes, but that isn't exactly our strong suit on D.

We can beat them but we can't afford mistakes - dumb penalties, avoidable turnovers, missed kicks, etc.

HD said...

I was most embarrassed by the crowd -- kickoff on a sunny fall day where Duke is playing for something in mid-November ... and the bleachers behind the end zone are half empty. Very disappointing.
As Cut said after the game, he can't say we didn't show up to play, since we clearly did in taking the 10-0 lead. But from there, you'd like to think the athletic gap wouldn't be as big as it clearly was. I'm okay with us losing, but staying within 2-3 touchdowns doesn't seem too much to ask for at this point.
Interesting to see Johnson vs. Cutcliffe -- the guy we wanted, versus our second choice who still worked out well so far. At least maybe now Notre Dame may keep Cut off their short list after they fire Weis.
But I still believe -- we're due for one big upset this year, right?

HD said...

And that touchdown at the end of the first half certainly should've been reviewed, though ultimately I think it would've been upheld as the call was very close.

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