Blue Devils Trust The Process

Duke fans rush the field after the Blue Devils’ thrilling 33-30 win over North Carolina last Saturday.

Duke (6-2, 3-1) at No. 10/11 Florida State (7-1, 4-1), 3:30 PM, ESPNU

In the aftermath of Duke’s last-minute win over North Carolina, the Blue Devils were reveling in the joy of regaining the Victory Bell for the first time since 2003 and gaining bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994.

The looks of disbelief and sheer joy were still plastered on the players’ faces an hour after the game  when they met with the media. The emotional swings had been almost too cruel to Duke for any other outcome besides a win. Carolina took a 30-26 lead with 3:12 to go on a flukey play, and Duke mounted an agonizing 14-play drive to go ahead with 13 seconds left.

But less than 24 hours later, with the Victory Bell still ringing in their ears, Duke would have to start preparing for Florida State. Head coach David Cutcliffe even understood that right after the Carolina game. He said he would come in early in the morning, ring the bell, and then move on.

So there’s a mental balancing act between Duke deservedly enjoying a huge win, the relief of earning bowl eligibility and the knowledge that FSU presents a huge challenge. “I don’t think you can just squash that feeling either. That’s part of what they’ve earned, too,” Cutcliffe said. “Now, show me you’re mature enough to feel good about yourself and work hard because if you’re ever going to have a real good program, that’s what you’ve got to learn to do. … Handling losing is not easy. Handling winning is much harder.”

The team played won an emotional rivalry game in front of a packed Wallace Wade Stadium, and the energy surrounding the program right now is palpable even to them. Linebacker David Helton said that he has more and more students each week randomly approaching him to congratulate him for a big win.

But Helton said that this team has come to trust the process each week: enjoy a win or stew over a loss for 24 hours (or less), and move on to practice Sunday afternoon.”We created a routine that we’ve been working on all year round that it’s not hard to go back to because we do it every week continually, year in and year out. Going back to our normal routine for this week is just like any other week,” Helton said.

“I don’t think it was difficult. Yes, it was a great win. A lot of guys were riding on emotions, big rivalry game. But we know after the game, celebrate, have a great time. Next day, it’s time to come back to work,” tailback Josh Snead said.

Senior cornerback Tony Foster has been around the program for a long time. Despite the different results this year, he said that this team has always trusted Cutcliffe and his process. Whether they lost by 40 points or won by 40, they have always been ready to get back to work.

“(Cutcliffe) preaches enjoy the process. Enjoy the practices. Enjoy the work that you’re putting into it because it’s not just about the scoreboard at the end of a game. It’s about the process. It’s about being with your teammates, going through those struggles so you can enjoy the victories that much more.”

And like every other week, Cutcliffe is honest about the challenge his team faces. Florida State is the type of team that Duke will have to execute very well against, hope FSU makes some mistakes and then get a little luck as well. Just a week before the North Carolina game, Duke had a bad road trip to Blacksburg that saw the Blue Devils lose a 41-20 lead. Clearly, they responded well in the week between those two games. They’re capable of responded well again. Cutcliffe knows that they are in position to win the Coastal Division, and he wants his team to believe.

“They’ve got to believe. You don’t have a chance if you don’t. I told them that. I said, ‘You’ve got to believe in yourselves or I can promise you one thing: you won’t win. You have no chance if you don’t believe’,” Cutcliffe said. “And I’m not talking about trying to talk yourself into it. The only to have any confidence, people can’t give you confidence: you earn your confidence. That’s the message to them. It’s right outside this wall right here (on the practice field) is where that’s earned.”

Moments in Duke-Florida State history: The teams haven’t played a lot in recent years, and not many of the games have been notable. Duke’s last trip to Tallahassee in 2007 actually resulted in FSU’s narrowest win in the series (25-6, 19 points). So here are a few random highlights (vaguely) associated with each team. Antone Smith had the most rushing yards by a Seminole against Duke in that game, though (146).

FSU defensive end Tank Carradine loves snakes, which somehow makes him more terrifying.

This is not technically FSU or Duke, but this Miami fan was very excited last week and the FSU fans around him appear to be horrified:

Here’s the Miami fan that ran out on the field last week in the middle of a play. “There’s somebody streaking across the field, although he’s not a complete streaker.”

From Duke’s big win last week: GET THE BELL!

Jamison Crowder’s game-winning catch seemingly gets more impressive on each viewing.

Prediction: Florida State, 37-27. This might be a bit closer than the actual final score, but it’s asking way too much of Duke to go to Tallahassee – for the first time under Cutcliffe – and beat the Seminoles, who are better “on paper” at every position. Duke will still compete, though.

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