Duke wrapup: Devils last loss was 20th straight
DURHAM — For the fourth time in 11 years, Duke went an entire season without a victory. Once again, the Blue Devils have to settle for several close finishes and now will spend an offseason wondering “What if?”
What if Wake Forest hadn’t blocked that game-winning field goal attempt?
What if Thad Lewis had threaded his final pass through Miami’s defense and into the end zone?
What if the Blue Devils hadn’t wilted in the second half at Alabama?
What if UNC hadn’t blocked a late extra-point that could’ve meant overtime?
“I think in the close games … we were really poised, especially with the young team we have,” fullback Tielor Robinson said. “I think you take that away along with how we execute in the big games.”
But Duke couldn’t make the big plays when they counted, and that’s largely why the Blue Devils are one of two winless Division I-A teams — Florida International can match Duke’s 0-12 finish with a loss next week at Troy — and have a 20-game losing streak that is the longest in major college football.
“There are a lot of examples of the fine line between winning and losing, and the importance of every single detail,” coach Ted Roof said. “We’re not in the position to take anything for granted. We have to make sure all the details are buttoned up.”
They’ve been talking about turnarounds for years, which went 0-11 under Fred Goldsmith in 1996, had the same record in 2000 and ’01 under Carl Franks and now finished Ted Roof’s third full season 0-for-the season.
But at least this time, there might be reason for optimism. The Blue Devils knew they’d have early questions at quarterback when starter Zack Asack was suspended in the preseason for plagiarism, and Lewis, a freshman, made strides all season.
He nearly engineered a comeback win against Miami, threw four touchdown passes in the season-ending 45-44 loss to North Carolina and, if nothing else, made Duke football exciting to watch.
“There has been a lot of excitement,” said defensive lineman Patrick Bailey, who returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown against the Tar Heels and put Duke in position to force overtime. “We’ve made some plays. We can do it.”
They just didn’t make enough of them.