Duke savors big sixth win, wants more
Six wins are in the books and a ranked foe has been taken down on the road, which means more awards are rolling in for Duke football.
On Monday, Duke kicker Ross Martin was named ACC specialist of the week while Blue Devils linebacker Kelby Brown won the league’s linebacker of the week award.
The Blue Devils as a whole were named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America for their 13-10 win at then-No. 16 Virginia Tech on Saturday.
That win, the first for Duke (6-2) on the road against a ranked team since 1971, makes the Blue Devils bowl eligible. When Duke plays in a bowl this December, it will mark the first time the program has ever played in bowl games in back-to-back seasons.
“What a wave of confidence for us,” Duke tight end Braxton Deaver said Monday. “What a huge uplifting event to happen for us.”
Now the Blue Devils have to keep pushing to get more wins. All they need to do for a cautionary tale is remember one year ago when Duke started 6-2 but dropped its final four regular-season games.
The six wins were enough to qualify for the Belk Bowl, Duke’s first bowl game since the 1994 season. But the 48-34 loss to Cincinnati meant the Blue Devils carried a five-game losing streak into the offseason.
“I think the pressure of going to a bowl was the high point,” Deaver said. “Coach (David) Cutcliffe was being looked at to get Duke to a bowl. It was kind of like all the weight was off our shoulders. I wouldn’t say it deflated us. But we reached six and it was almost like that was enough. That’s the huge difference about these two different teams.”
Duke offensive guard Dave Harding, one of the four captains on this year’s team, said the team is determined to keep winning. Duke has a bye week this week and doesn’t have another game scheduled until Nov. 9 against N.C. State (4 p.m., ESPNU).
“Losing the last four games is fresh in the minds of everyone on this team,” Harding said. “We are committed to not letting that happen. I think we are a more mature team than last year. We are not satisfied with just getting that sixth win. We know we are more capable of something that is unprecedented in Duke football. Everyone is committed to that process and will prepare each week.”
Said Deaver, “Why not win the next four games? The attitude, is how it’s been taught, is you can’t be complacent. We are on a constant movement to improvement.”
Martin and Brown were at the top of their games at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., last Saturday.
A sophomore kicker, Martin kicked a career-best 53-yard field goal and a 51-yard field goal. He’s the first kicker in the nation this season to hit multiple field goals of 50 or more yards in a single game.
Martin has made his last five field goal attempts.
Brown recorded 14 tackles against the Hokies while also recording a key interception. On what turned out to be Virginia Tech’s final possession, Brown grabbed a Logan Thomas pass that had been tipped and held on for the interception despite absorbing a solid hit while being tackled.
This season, Brown is averaging 8.7 tackles per game – the fourth-highest average in the ACC – while totaling 5.5 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery.
The Blue Devils have had the last two days off from practice. Cutcliffe has allowed the team to enjoy the historic win before returning to practice today.
“With Duke football, we are always preaching the next play,” Harding said. “That still applies, I guess. But we can let the last play linger a little while longer in this case.”