Last season, when Duke decided to replace David Cutcliffe, it came down to Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko. When Virginia entered the chase for Elliott, it’s not that Elko seemed like a consolation prize, but most Duke fans didn’t know much about him.
Well they do now.
Saturday’s 38-17 win over UVA broke a 13-game ACC losing streak and an ugly seven-year losing streak to the ‘Hoos. It moves the Blue Devils to 4-1 on the season and two games away from bowl play. It also, almost certainly, puts Elko in the driver’s seat for ACC Coach Of The Year, at least for now. Who has done a better job so far?
Given that the weather called for even more rain on Saturday after Ian passed through Friday, we thought this would be a grind-it-out game, and it did rain early. Well, it wasn’t a slugfest in the mud, at least not for Duke.
QB Riley Leonard was again very, very good, with three touchdowns and 18-24 on completions.
Charlie Ham might have had the play of the day as the kicker caused a fumble by Virginia’s Demick Starling but that probably has to take a back seat to Jaquez Moore, who had a 59 yard run for a touchdown.
Duke outgained Virginia on the ground 248-93. Jaylen Coleman outgained the entire Virginia team by four yards. In short, Duke didn’t look like a lucky football team. It played like a team that understands it can be really good.
Things will not get easier schedule wise. Georgia Tech is next up. The Yellow Jackets fired AD Todd Stansbury and coach Geoffrey Collins last week which may have fired up his former team: they went into Saturday’s game with #24 Pitt 1-3 and knocked them off on the road. We’re sure they had a point to make, but still, that’s impressive.
After that it’s UNC, which is always a tough game. Then it’s road games to Miami and BC followed by a home game with Virginia Tech.
Duke then closes out with a visit to Pitt and Wake Forest at home.
At the beginning of the season we expected a difficult year. Instead it’s been a great pleasure. We don’t know how far Duke can go but a bowl game is certainly possible and we’re pretty sure most of us weren’t thinking along those lines in August.
Indeed, we may soon find that Duke’s biggest challenge, if not this year then soon enough, is fending off suitors for Elko’s services. Because if he keeps this up, they’ll come calling.
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