ACC Football: Duke wants to take another step

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Associated Press
DURHAM ó Though Duke made great strides during coach David Cutcliffe’s first season the Blue Devils know an even tougher job lies ahead: Taking the next step forward and becoming a bowl team.
“That’s a bigger task, when you’re talking about basically doubling what you’re doing, trying to have a winning season,” Cutcliffe said Tuesday during media day. “That’s significantly different than winning four games.
“Look at our schedule, and they all could be challenging, but there’s nobody on there that we’re going to forfeit to,” he added. “We feel like we can play with anybody if we play well.”
Playing well, of course, was often too much to ask for a Blue Devils program that over the past decade had established itself as one of the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
They went winless four times in the 11-year span between 1996 and 2006 and averaging one victory a year during the four seasons that preceded Cutcliffe’s arrival. In his first season, they finished 4-8 and were above .500 in late October before ending the season with a five-game losing streak.
“It definitely has opened a couple of eyes, but all it is a step forward,” linebacker Abraham Kromah said.
Yes, for all the progress they made, they still found themselves as one of two ACC teams left outside the postseason. But those brushes with occasional success left Duke’s players hungry for more than just moral victories.
“We felt like we should have had a winning season, because we had the talent and we just didn’t make a couple plays that would have led us to that winning season,” cornerback Leon Wright said.
They have quarterback Thaddeus Lewis back for a fourth season as the starter, a healthy top running back in Re’Quan Boyette and a deeper understanding of Cutcliffe’s systems.
The Blue Devilsneed to win seven games to qualify for their first bowl game since the 1994 season.
“If you’re a .300 hitter in baseball … you’ve got a chance to be a Hall of Famer (or) a well-thought-of player. If you’re a .200 hitter, how long are you going to last in that league?” Cutcliffe said.