The A-Line It is what it is, unless it is not
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There was a strong sense of déjà vu. The familiarity was stark. There we were in a small, on-campus stadium. The crowd was overwhelmingly a maroon-clad one. Tech was treating the host team like the Wehrmacht treats the French Army. We had seen this before. It finally hit me after we disembarked from the bus that returned us to the tailgating lot. Walking back to the Clubhouse I noticed a car bearing New Jersey license plates. This was just like Rutgers.

Virginia Tech continued its mastery of ACC football in general and road games in particular by pounding Duke 45-0 last Saturday in what became for the day an annex of Lane Stadium. It was not a pretty day for those wearing Royal Blue, either the team or the handful of what can laughably be called Duke fans. There are rented mules that have fared better.

What happened was very reminiscent of what had occurred during Tech’s last few trips to Rutgers, all of them, in fact, but one. From the fan support to the total ineptitude of the team, this was as good a rendition of DORKS football as Tech has yet seen in their new conference, or is likely to. The spirit of the Dear Old Rutgers Knight of Scarlet [DORKS] is alive and well at Duke. When they decide to become a New Jersey school, they go all the way.

Tech has opened its 2005 football season by being treated to the absolute extremes of North Carolina’s Big Four football. The spectrum is wide. The outstanding football atmosphere inside NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium bore about as much resemblance to the Maroon Pride celebration seen inside Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium as today’s New Orleans does to the Sahara. If the 15,000 or so Tech fans in the stadium had not been on hand, the crowd would not even have been a good I-AA one. In fact, you can find out this Saturday. Duke will host VMI and you can subtract about three zeroes from the number of visiting fans that will be on hand. All of those campus cops griping about having to deal with the numbers of Tech fans cruising around Methodist Flats can take the day off.

There was very little to be gleaned from the game. Tech is very good, which most already knew. Exactly how good remains to be seen and will be determined over the next couple of months. Duke is very bad, which was certainly obvious to anyone watching them lose to woeful East Carolina. Tech is probably not the best team in the country. Duke is probably not the worst team in a BCS conference in the country, considering some of the CUSA dogs brought in by the Li’l E. Still, there are miles of quality separating these two programs.

As bad as it was, it could have been worse for the home team. Frank Beamer displayed his usual aversion to RUTS over anybody not named Syracuse. In the Third Quarter, Tech starters began heading for the sideline at roughly the same rate at which the few Duke fans who even bothered to show up started heading for the exits. By midway of the Fourth, Frank had gone to the walk-ons and was roaming around the stands asking Tech fans if they cared to get in a few snaps.

Despite all of the griping done by certain Duke-oriented Web sites about Tech watering down the ACC’s signature sport, the two schools are closer in basketball than they are in football. Maybe the next bet I make with a Duke buddy should not be whether Tech beats Duke in basketball before the Devils knock off the Hokies in football, as that issue has certainly been decided. Let’s make a new one as to whether Tech beats Duke in roundball YET AGAIN before Duke SCORES on Tech in football. Those ‘Just like basketball’ chants heard at the end of the game seem to have infuriated the snobbish lords of the DBR who don’t take too kindly to having their revered basketball team made sport of. Tough. Do something about your lousy football team. That Duke is the ACC’s football equivalent of RUTSgers has much to do with Tech being in your precious basketball conference in the first place.

The ‘doing something about the lousy football team’ problem has proven to be a tricky one for Duke. The program is pathetic and has been for quite some time. Back in the Sixties, there was a contentious discussion at Duke about de-emphasizing athletics. There were those around who considered big-time sports incompatible with the school’s lofty academic mission. There was a slight de-emphasis, one that cost Duke the services of what had been the ACC’s best combination of football/basketball coaches, Bill Murray and Vic Bubas. When Duke decided again to get serious about athletics, they cobbled together a fairly decent basketball program, to say the least. Football is still waiting.

Duke’s problem for decades was that they simply didn’t care about winning football. They did not field the maximum number of scholarships allowed or permit red-shirting. These were not exactly ingredients for football success. The hiring as coaches the duds Fred Goldsmith or Carl Franks did not enhance the program, either. Things have not been helped the last couple of decades with the residence of a coaching demi-god with very little use for football. All of this added up to something other than eight or nine-win seasons, or in a few cases even one or two-win ones. This is how you become the ACC’s football DORKS.

This is all supposed to be changing. Duke AD Lackey Joe Alleva swears that Duke is indeed getting serious about football. There is the new Yoh Center, the S&C building looming over one end zone that obscures the view of Cameron from the stadium. The football budget has been beefed up and Ted Roof now has the bucks to recruit on a national scale. Supposedly, recruiting at Duke has gotten a lot better, although they managed to keep those terrific new players well hidden last Saturday. For all of the theoretical positives, however, the ‘new-look’ football at Duke still bears a startling resemblance to the old one. They are very bad and very bad in the new ACC means horrendous beatings such as that inflicted upon the Black and Blue Devils last weekend.

Can Duke get better? For all of the cash that has been pumped into this program by people named Yoh and Jurgensen, right now they still stink. Based on what was displayed last Saturday, they will for a while. It is going to take more than a couple of top recruits each year to reverse this train wreck of a program.

Around the rest of the ACC, North Carolina gave a good account of themselves in losing their opener at Georgia Tech. Quarterback Matt Baker played well, but what was considered Carolina’s biggest offensive weakness, lack of a credible running game, did in the Tar Heels.

Clemson became the second ACC team to draw league road blood, winning at Maryland. It’s amazing what an experienced senior quarterback can do for you. Wake Forest again demonstrated the difference between run and shoot and shoot yourself in the foot football. Fredo waxed Army while Florida State likely heard an interesting halftime speech from Bobby Bowden.

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Week Two of the 05 season is in the books. My 05 tour of the RTP is as well. That will be covered in the next column. For now, there are two absolutes: Tech is 2-0 and Duke is the football Rutgers of the ACC. There really is a little piece of New Jersey in North Carolina. Tech changed conferences, but it is Deja DORKS all over again.

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