3 ½ HOURS
“It’s your moment, it’s your time; play every play like it is the most important play of the game,” he instructed, then he added the reason they would win the game. “To be physically tough, you first have to be mentally tough. You have to play a full game. No man plays harder than a Duke football player.”
And he ended with –“3 ½ hours” – The time it would take to win this football game. They had to play hard for 3 ½ hours. This game wasn’t going to be won or lost in the first half. It would be a long afternoon.
“We knew it was going to be a battle and we would have to fight the entire game so we were ready to play hard for the entire 3 ½ hours,” explained Blue Devil quarterback Anthony Boone.
And that is exactly what this Duke football team did against the North Carolina Tar Heels. They played hard for 3 ½ hours with the trademark teamwork that has placed them on a historic plateau of 10 wins in a single season.
Boone passed for 274 yards and two touchdown passes, the running back firm of Duncan, Powell, Snead and Thompson rushed for a combined 167 yards, Braxton Deaver and Brandon Braxton combined for 12 receptions -- most on big third-down plays, while the offense ran up 461 yards in total offense. On the defensive side of the ball the Blue Devils intercepted two passes, held the Tar Heel offense to just 2-of-12 conversions on third-down plays and were led by a host of players including Jeremy Cash with 13 tackles and David Helton with nine. And the special teams hit on the most explosive play of the game with a 99-yard kickoff return by DeVon Edwards and closed things out with a 27-yard game winning field goal by Ross Martin.
Total teamwork at its finest.
“It doesn’t matter who people pick to win or lose, we know what we have on our team, each one of us knows,” explained linebacker Kelby Brown. “We know we are a good football team and when it comes to crunch time we just believe in each other and get the job done.”
It’s been that way all season. Just when things start going bad on the offensive side the defense makes a big play, or the offense has a big explosive play that gets everyone back in synch, or the little freshman from Covington, Ga., DeVon Edwards, steps in and returns a kickoff for a touchdown to get his team back into the lead.
“When one side of the ball starts clicking the other side does too,” added Brown. “The momentum shifts and all three phases of the game begin to work together.”
“I think its confidence in what they are doing,” said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. “David has built confidence in this team.”
Many observers feel that Duke was very lucky to be where they are today with a school-record 10 victories.
“We’re not just fortunate we are a good football team,” added Cutcliffe. “Our guys have believed and have done all they can do to the best of their ability this season. This entire team is beaming with confidence, which is a good thing.
“What we have managed to do is progress each year in recruiting,” he added. “Each year we have made a right step in the right direction and players have seen we are a pretty special place to some to and be a part of this team.”
Not only will the Blue Devils be facing an undefeated Florida State team in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte on Saturday, they will be battling the No. 1 team in the nation.
“This is one of the finest teams in recent memory in college football,” said Cutcliffe. “They have more weapons than anyone in the country.”
Last year the Blue Devil lost to another very good Florida State team 48-7 in Tallahassee.
“We can’t play like we did last year and hope to win this game,” said Cutcliffe. “We have to put together a total game. We have to play for 3 ½ hours.”
3 ½ hours – a term that will most definitely be used Saturday night around 7:45 in the Duke lockerroom in Bank of American Stadium as the Duke football team prepares to take the field and face the No.1 undefeated team in the nation for the ACC Championship title and a trip to the Orange Bowl.
“You keep winning and the next one gets bigger,” explained Cutcliffe. “And this is the biggest one of all.”
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