Duke season review

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Overview: In his first season in Durham, coach David Cutcliffe brought the program back to respectability by winning four games and matching the combined win total of the past four years. It was the most wins in a single season by a Duke head coach since 1994. Cutcliffe did it without Duke's 2007 leading rusher, senior Re'quan Boyette, who underwent knee surgery before the season even began. Duke started the season with a 3-1 record and there was a buzz around the program that had been missing for a long time. Cutcliffe said his team would be defined by what it did in November, though, and the excitement fizzled as the Blue Devils finished the season on a five-game losing streak that began with a 33-30 overtime loss at Wake Forest. The team never quit, and almost beat ACC champ Virginia Tech with its backup quarterback in Lane Stadium before falling, 14-3, on Nov. 22. Not all of the improvements could be measured in wins and losses, as average attendance at Wallace Wade Stadium increased by 8,397, and Duke showed significant progress statistically in all three phases.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. Lewis completed 224 of 361 (.620) passes for 2,171 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He set school records for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception (206) and most pass attempts in a single game without an interception (52 vs. N.C. State) and was named ACC Player of the Week after a 317-yard, three-touchdown day against Navy.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Michael Tauiliili. Tauiliili finished the regular season with a conference-best 140 tackles and had 13 tackles for loss, four interceptions, five pass break-ups, five quarterback pressures, three caused fumbles and one fumble recovery. Tauiliili is the only linebacker in the conference to rank among the top 10 in four different statistical categories.

Turning point: Duke's 31-3 win over Virginia was its third of the season and legitimized the program as one ACC opponents could no longer take lightly. It was the first time Duke had beaten an ACC opponent since 2004.

What's next: Recruiting. Cutcliffe and his staff are out trying to lure legitimate talent to Durham so the program can take the next step -- winning more than one conference game and becoming bowl eligible. Cutcliffe is also working to upgrade the football practice field.

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