Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Season wrap: Duke
By Matt Fortuna
Duke coach David Cutcliffe has made a recent habit of saying that the Blue Devils are here to stay. If it means more seasons like 2013 are on the horizon, those record books in Durham, N.C., could be re-written an awful lot in the coming years. Duke put together a historic season in 2013, winning eight straight games to go 10-4 (6-2 in the ACC) and win the Coastal Division title before dropping its final two games, against the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners. Still, the Blue Devils proved a lot this fall, with Cutcliffe taking home a number of coach of the year honors and his program achieving a first in reaching bowl games in consecutive seasons.
Offensive MVP: WR Jamison Crowder. The junior was one of the league's best offensive players, finishing second in the ACC in receptions (108) and receiving yards (1,360) behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins, to go with eight touchdowns (fifth in the ACC). He earned first-team All-ACC honors as a receiver (media and coaches teams), while making the first-team coaches list as a special-teamer and second-team media list as one. Crowder was second in punt return average and punt return touchdowns, averaging 16 yards per return and tallying two scores. (UNC's Ryan Switzer was first in both.) In total, Crowder finished fourth in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game, with 130.9.
Defensive MVP: DE Kenny Anunike. The Blue Devils had a number of different faces step up here throughout the season, but Anunike was the consistent voice and leader of the unit. A sixth-year senior who has been around since day one of the Cutcliffe era, Anunike put his injury-riddled past behind him en route to a second-team all-conference campaign (coaches and media). He finished with 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and a blocked kick. Nicknamed "The Nighttrain" by defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, Anunike's 66 tackles were fourth on the team, and he added two break-ups and two passes defended, as well.
Best moment: The Oct. 26 win at Virginia Tech was when everything started to turn for Duke in 2013, as it was a monumental upset that clinched bowl eligibility for the program. Still, it does not get much better than a tight win at rival North Carolina, one that was clinched by a last-minute interception and was concluded by Cutcliffe being carried off the field, as the Blue Devils notched win No. 10 and a berth in the ACC title game.
Worst moment: The loss to Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the freshest wound, and one that Duke could have easily avoided. Still, the Blue Devils were phenomenal for a half, and there is no shame in losing to Johnny Manziel when he plays the way he played on New Year's Eve. So we'll go with a 58-55 home shootout loss to Pitt back on Sept. 21, a game that seems ridiculous in retrospect considering how much better Duke's defense ended up playing and how mediocre Pitt's offense ended up being, as the Panthers averaged just 26.3 points per game on the season, good for 81st nationally.