Blue Devils football, heretofore a model of futility, managed to roll into Blacksburg, Va., today and slip past a Virginia Team that was favored by almost two touchdowns. The 13-10 win made Duke bowl-eligible for a second straight year — a feat for a team that has played only nine bowl games, none of them consecutively. Duke has plenty of time left to stink up the year, but the Devils are no longer a soggy diaper on a hot dashboard. They might actually be adequate.
The No. 14 Hokies were the first ranked team Duke has beat since 1995, and the first ranked team to lose to the visiting Dookies since 1971. The Devils still have every chance to make a monumental botch of this season — cousin program Northwestern is sketching an open-source blueprint of how to melt down to historical mediocrity. But Duke at least can savor the pained tears of rural Virginia for now. This represents possible progress.
The Devils didn't exactly win this one pretty. They racked up all of 198 total yards (about half of the Hokies' total) and converted just one of their 12 third downs. Quarterback Anthony Boone completed seven passes for 107 yards and was intercepted four times (a total Virginia Tech matched). But their defense shut out Virginia Tech for nearly three quarters and hung on in the fourth, barely converting a ballsy fourth down in the waning minutes to seal the victory (video above). In other words, they still played trademark Duke football.
Virginia Tech may just be that flimsy. But then, the Hokies' only other loss came against Alabama in Week 1. Maybe instead Duke, still stinging from its seven-game losing streak to end 2011, and its 3-9 2010, and its 1-11 2007, and its winless 2006, and its 1-11 2005, and 1-11 2002, and almost 20 straight losing seasons overall, has advanced from everyone's favorite homecoming opponent to a team that can impersonate competence.
The Devils looked terrible today and still won. They are 6-2 going into a bye week, and miraculously duck Florida State and Clemson on the schedule. Duke fans could be in for the ride of their lives, which the rest of us will recognize as the worst season Ohio State or Oklahoma churns up each generation or so.