By almost any measure, the 2007 season was one of the worst seasons in Duke football history.
Record-wise, 2007 wasn’t as bad as the four winless seasons in the previous decade. The Blue Devils did win one game – a road upset of Northwestern.
But the team’s ACC losing streak stretched to 25 straight as the team went 0-8 in the league, blowing at least a couple of chances to end the futility. Overall, Duke’s 1-11 season gave the team a cumulative 13-90 record under coaches Carl Franks and Ted Roof.
Actually, the 2007 team had some talent.
Sophomore quarterback Thaddeus Lewis would play in the NFL. In fact, he was twice second-team All-ACC – in 2008 and 2009. Junior Eron Riley was a second-team All-ACC pick at wide receiver and was one of the top deep threats in the league, averaging almost 21 yards on his 40 catches – nine of which went for touchdowns.
Defensively, Duke was led by future NFL linebacker Vincent Rey and future All-ACC linebacker Michael Tauiliilli. The defensive front was very young, but also very talented with future standouts Vince Oghobaasde, Ayanga Okpokowuruk and Cliff Respress. Defensive back Leon Wright ended up eighth in career interceptions at Duke.
The season got off to a bad start when the team took on Connecticut in Wallace Wade Stadium were thrashed by the Huskies, 45-14. After a tough loss at Virginia, the team recorded its only win at Northwestern as Lewis threw for three touchdowns and the defense forced an incompletion in the end zone on the game’s final play.
At that point, it looked like Duke was poised to win some more games, but the Northwestern win was followed by a heartbreaking loss to Navy in Annapolis. The Blue Devils led 36-25 at the half and 43-32 entering the fourth quarter, but the Middies rallied to tie the game at 43 —then win it on a 44-yard field goal on the game’s last play.
That was the crushing blow for a young team, which proceeded to lose its final nine games. The Devils came close in a wild 41-36 loss to Wake Forest in Wade Stadium and in the finale at North Carolina.
In fact, that loss was even more heartbreaking than the earlier defeat at Navy.
Duke took a second-half lead on a pair of touchdown passes from Lewis to Jomar Wright, but UNC tied the score with seven minutes to play. In the closing minutes, Lewis drove the Blue Devils to the UNC 23, setting up Nick Maggio for a 40-yard field goal to win the game on the last play.
Unfortunately, his kick sailed wide left, forcing overtime.
In the first overtime period, Roof called on kicker Joe Surgan – benched earlier in the season – to try a 42-yard field goal to give the Devils the lead. Like Maggio’s earlier kick, Surgan’s try also went wide left. UNC scored a touchdown on its possession to escape with a 20-14 win.
The 2007 disastrous season can be seen as the low point in the decline of the Duke football program. At that point, Duke was probably the worst power five program in the country.
But it did set the stage for the program’s revival as Roof was fired and former Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe was hired. He began to bring the Devils back to respectability almost immediately – he snapped Duke’s ACC losing streak in his first conference game and between 2012 and 2015 led the school to four straight bowl games.
By 2017, that terrible 2007 season was just a bad memory.
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