When the Blue Devils took the field last Saturday in Wallace Wade in front of more than 27,000 fans, expectations were as high as they have been in quite some time. Duke had come through the preseason without a the usual rash of critical injuries, and several players were poised to make their long awaited debuts in the royal and white.
Even before the final whistle had blown the mood inside Wallace Wade, and throughout the entire Duke fan base had decidedly soured. Check that…the mood had gone from hopefully optimistic to hopelessly doomed. Fans predicting a possible upset victory over Wake Forest just a week prior, are now convinced the Demon Deacons will roll over Duke with little effort.
That fan base defeatism is something the Blue Devils have been forced to deal with for nearly a decade. Factor in that Duke will once again play more freshmen and sophomores than any other team in the country, and there is a recipe for disaster. It's something the team's leaders have become distinctly aware of. And yet, there are more important things to worry about for those inside the Yoh Center -- such as turning the season around.
"We can't afford to waste time dwelling on the loss because we have another task coming up this weekend," said junior offensive lineman Zach Maurides. "We're using it to propel us into this Saturday. I think you can take something like that one or two ways. You can let it bring you down or you can let it motivate you. We know we can perform better than that. We know we're better than that. We're using that for fuel to get ready for this weekend."
After making a successful debut, redshirt freshman DT Vince Oghobaase agrees.
"We have to make sure we don't get down ourselves," said Oghobaase of his team's opening week. "Of course we're upset that we lost on Saturday but all throughout the week we have to keep it behind us; we can't dwell on the past, we just have to move on and prepare ourselves for the next opponent."
Even with the internal pulse of the team remaining positive, the Blue Devils must now deal with a disappointing opening loss that has their long suffering fans looking for the softest landing point after jumping from the bandwagon.
"It's going to be really important for us to get a win because it will turn around the whole outlook on our program and bring our fans along with us," said Oghobaase. "There is nobody with us right now; the only people we have are ourselves. Everyone is saying, we can't do this, we can't do that, but all we have to do is stick together."
Earning that atmosphere changing victory won't be easy either. The Deacons will open their home campaign looking to win their seventh straight decision against Duke. Last season Wake dismantled the Blue Devils in every sense of the word, cruising to a 44-6 victory. The previous year Duke nearly pulled the upset, before falling 24-22 in Groves Stadium.
This season the Deacs have once again proven the ability to run up and down, as well as side to side in their season opening victory over Syracuse. Stopping that running attack will be crucial if Duke is to have a chance.
"They ran the ball for almost 250 yards on Syracuse and they'll continue to run it and run it and run it until the cows come home unless we can stop them," said head coach Ted Roof. "It will be a factor on our level of success if we can stop the running game or not."
Duke will look to start the turn around at noon in Winston Salem. The game will be televised on Lincoln Financial Sports Regional television.