ACC: Different feeling for Duke
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM ó Fred Roland was talking about Duke’s latest loss to rival North Carolina. The offensive lineman could have been referring to the Blue Devils’ entire season.
“Close doesn’t get it,” Roland said Tuesday of the Blue Devils’ overtime loss to the Tar Heels last year. “The close ones always hurt, probably, the most.”
Yes, another season at Duke will wrap up in November and not January. Another losing streak is on the line in its matchup Saturday against its oldest rival, the Tar Heels.
But for a change, the final game week in Durham doesn’t feel anything like it did during those numerous years recently when those old Duke teams merely played out the string after winning only once or twice ó or even less often.
“As I define this team in November, it might be different than what people look at the record, particularly those somewhere way off that say, ‘You’ve lost four in a row in November,’ ” coach David Cutcliffe said. “Our program has grown. That’s what we’ve seen. (The seniors are) leaving the place better than they found it, and what more can you ask a group to do?”
Cutcliffe may not have made the Blue Devils (4-7, 1-6 ACC) into a bowl team during his first season, but he did keep them in postseason conversations for far longer than usual.
Still, the players took little satisfaction from simply sticking around longer before the school’s 14th consecutive bowl-less holiday season became official.
“I never get used to losing. It’s never really acceptable,” Roland said. “As one of the leaders on the team, naturally, (the seniors) shoulder a lot of the responsibility. Not because the team or the coaches make it that way, but because you’ve been here the longest, so you feel like it’s up to you to get the team prepared to go in and fight to the end.”