After a remarkable and brilliant first half against Texas A&M, Duke came up just short in the second, losing to the Aggies, 52-48.
How close was it? Duke had a chance to clinch the game on two late drives. The Aggies intercepted the first and ran it back for a touchdown. The second ended with an interception as well, though no touchdown, but it didn't matter. The game was over.
Johnny Manziel was absolutely brilliant, particularly in the second half. Duke really kicked A&M in the teeth before halftime; after the break, Manziel showed why he is a singular presence on the football field. There was nothing Duke could do with him. When the defense broke through, he escaped, or he threw a completion, or both.
The guy is just remarkable. He's almost certainly off to the NFL, where he'll get questions about his size and technique, but never about his heart or passion.
Those questions will be answered later.
Duke has answered a lot of questions already, including several Tuesday night. We got the clear impression that a lot of people around A&M football thought Duke football was just a joke.
Well, anyone who thinks that now is just delusional. It's worth mentioning that this is still a young football team. Players are still maturing and most will be back.
This loss will sting and probably worse than the loss to Florida State. This program has come so far and this team so close. For us fans, we can look at it and be proud of how far the team has come. For the guys on the team and the coaches on the staff, that won't cut the bitterness of this loss. It'll hurt.
Still, we're really proud of what this team has done. It's carved a unique place in the history of Duke athletics. Somewhat like the Class of 1986 in basketball, it has seen Duke football reborn.
The difference though was that other than a dip in the '70s, basketball had been good for a long time.
With football, it's been bad, with small exceptions, for decades. A lot of people gave up. Bringing it back, waking up the sleepy ghosts, that's an amazing accomplishment. We suspect that Wallace Wade, who in a different era built something incredible, would be impressed.
The guy who did the legwork, who found the players and coaches and who believed they could prosper together, was of course David Cutcliffe. What he's accomplished at Duke in a small time is also pretty incredible.
What we like about Cutcliffe is what we admired in Wade, in Eddie Cameron, in Vic Bubas and Coach K. None of them were or are perfect. All of them, though, did and do things the right way and showed or show considerable character. It's nice to know that a college athletic team can prosper in the current environment without completely surrendering what drew people to college sports in the first place.