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A Tough Way To Lose A Bowl Game, But Duke Will Be Back

Like all Duke fans, we hated the way the Belk Bowl ended: Duke was in position to pretty much lock the tied game up, on the five late in the fourth and ready to punch it in.

But they fumbled instead and Cincinnati scored a quick TD. Even then, with very little time left, Duke could have tied or won. They moved the ball down the field quickly and the Bearcats helped with a 15-yard penalty.

But Sean Renfree was intercepted and the resilient Devils, instead of tying or going ahead, lost as the ball was run back for a touchdown and a 14 point lead.

It happened faster than a Rick Pitino quickie.

But it shouldn't overshadow what has been accomplished.

David Cutcliffe has done what many people thought was impossible.

No, not taking Duke to a bowl game. That has admittedly been difficult, but Steve Spurrier and Fred Goldsmith both did it, and people have generally understood that Cutcliffe is a fine coach who could accomplish that. Three guys have done it in relatively recent times. But getting to the Belk Bowl isn't what's impressive.

What's impressive is that Cutcliffe has revived a football culture at Duke. Moreover, he's not just here as a stepping stone; the man seems truly committed to making Duke into a first-rate football program.

Consider also how many players were lost to injury, and still this team made a bowl game and were in position to win it.

Consider also that this coming summer, as universities across the country watch many, perhaps most of their seniors lose their eligibility, Duke will see its graduate. There's a lot to be proud of here.

We're not suggesting that Duke is going bowling every year, by the way. Not many schools do.

But Cutcliffe has built a program which is capable of going any year. The players are buying in, the coaching staff is relatively stable and recruiting has been at a much higher level than it has been for years.

It's worth mentioning, again, that this was a very young group. They've learned a lot, they're buying in as we said, and they're going to be older, stronger and tougher next year. We're excited for the future.

But what's really nice is this: we've said for a long time that we respect Duke football immensely for doing things the right way. They've won in every way except on the field. Now they're starting to do that and what's more, it's an exciting brand of football.

We hope that next summer, when the season starts again, that Duke fans show up and support Cutcliffe's program. He's more than earned our support.