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Saturday, October 20, 2012
Duke becomes bowl-eligible

By Heather Dinich

In fantastic, dramatic fashion, Duke became bowl-eligible on Saturday night for the first time since 1994, and the Blue Devils did it with a 33-30 come-from-behind win against rival North Carolina.

The players grabbed their cans of Devil-blue spray paint on the sideline and coated the Victory Bell as fans rushed the field at Wallace Wade Stadium. It has taken almost two decades for Duke to reach this point, but only five seasons under coach David Cutcliffe, who solidified his spot as front-runner for the ACC's Coach of the Year award. What made this victory so special for Duke was that it had to come through in the clutch and win in the fourth quarter -- something it has not been able to do in the past. But this Duke team is different.

It not only had the confidence to get it done, it had the talent.

North Carolina entered the game having played the most complete football to date of any team in the Coastal Division. It was hot off its first road win of the season, which came against Miami. It couldn't, however, beat the boys next door.

Duke led for the majority of the game until the fourth quarter, when UNC receiver Erik Highsmith fumbled, and standout running back Giovani Bernard recovered it for a four-yard touchdown and the 30-26 lead. And the stuff movies are made out of happened.

Duke marched 87 yards in 2:59 to score the improbable game-winning touchdown, a five-yard pass on fourth down from Sean Renfree to Jamison Crowder. It was an instant classic.

This has been a team that college football fans and even media members have come to embrace this year, regardless of school or conference affiliation. Duke has stolen a few hearts. And finally -- finally -- a sixth win.