Duke looks for landmark 9th win today at Wake Forest

Nov. 22, 2013 @ 08:29 PM

Since David Cutcliffe arrived as Duke’s football coach, the Blue Devils have been chasing 1994.

Before last year, 1994 was the season of Duke’s most recent postseason bowl game appearance.

Until this season, it was the year of Duke’s previous appearances in the top 25 and of the Blue Devils’ last winning season.

All those milestones have been surpassed over the last 12 months.

When Duke plays an ACC game at Wake Forest today (noon, ESPN2), the Blue Devils are delving deeper into their history.

Duke’s current six-game winning streak has brought the Blue Devils (8-2, 4-2 in ACC) to the brink of something that hasn’t happened since 1941. That season, Duke went 9-1, marking the last time the Blue Devils have won that many games in a season.

Today, installed as a six-point favorite over the struggling Demon Deacons (4-6, 2-5), Duke shoots for its seventh consecutive win and ninth of the season.

Of course, this run of success hasn’t been easy for the Blue Devils. They’ve trailed in the second half in three of their last four wins — at Virginia and at home with N.C. State and Miami.

Duke eventually posted double-figure margins of victory in all of those games. That has impressed the coach who is charged with stopping their winning streak today.

“I think as much as anything, they are just finding ways to win,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “That’s what it’s all about. It really doesn’t matter, you know, how you get there. I think at the end of the game, if you’ve got more points than the other team, that’s the key, and that’s what they have been able to do.”

Cutcliffe looked at his team earlier in the year and thought it had the potential to be good. The team has played well and good luck has smiled on the Blue Devils.

“As you look at a team, you make an assessment,” Cutcliffe said. “Can we compete for a championship? Are we capable of competing for a championship if we do the right things? It takes a little bit of luck from an injury standpoint, which we haven’t been lucky at all in the past, but a little better off this year. All those things enter into it.”

Unlike previous seasons, Duke enters today’s game at Wake Forest with no starters listed on the injury report. The Blue Devils lost starting quarterback Anthony Boone to a broken collarbone he suffered on Sept. 7. But Boone returned four weeks later and Duke has yet to lose a game he’s started this season.

The Blue Devils talk often about finishing strong. That came from last season, when Duke lost its last five games after starting 6-2. That meant Duke missed out on a winning season as its final record was 6-7.

Grobe said Duke has succeeded in its goal this season.

“I think a big part of it is they have been able to finish games,” Grobe said. “They have been in a lot of close games and when they get to the fourth quarter, they find ways to win. That’s what good teams do.”

The winning streak has plenty of people around the country realizing Duke has a good football team. The No. 25 ranking Duke carries into today’s game is evidence of that.

Cutcliffe let his team know he thought they were good long ago. They’ve gone about proving it ever since and showing signs that Duke football will continue to be competitive.

“I told our team quietly what some of our expectations were.” Cutcliffe said. “I feel like we’ll be good. This isn’t a flash in the pan. We’re going to be good next year if our team has the kind of work ethic that this team has.”