It's a good day to be a Duke fan.
Duke defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre has been named the National Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), and quarterback Thaddeus Lewis has been named one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Lewis has garnered most of Duke's attention so far, so let's star with the overshadowed improvement the defense has made.
Through 10 games this season, Duke ranks sixth in the ACC and 41st nationally in total defense, allowing 342.8 yards per game. For the first time in 15 seasons, the Blue Devils held three consecutive ACC opponents (Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina) to fewer than 20 points.
"He's got a great knack for calls and matchups and taking some mismatches and minimizing them," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "He's a great planner, he is absolutely tremendous with his X's and O's in general. A lot of guys have gimmicks, but really a lot of the great NFL coordinators I've been around, like Monte Kiffin, they just know football. They're successful under any circumstances because they study the game, they're real students of the game. Mike's M.O. is being a student of the game."
Cutcliffe said he's not worried about MacIntyre leaving the staff, unless it were for a head coaching opportunity.
"I'm not going to lose Mike unless he gets a head coaching job," Cutcliffe said. "That's not an arrogant statement, but he's not going anywhere to go to another place as a coordinator. Mike deserves a chance sometime whenever it's the right fit to be a head football coach, and I'll always be happy to lose a guy to that."
MacIntyre, a Georgia Tech grad, joined Cutcliffe at Duke prior to the 2008 season after five years in the NFL, serving four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2003-06) and one with the New York Jets (2007). Prior to entering the professional ranks, he served on Cutcliffe's staff at Ole Miss from 1999-02, helping the Rebels to a four-year record of 29-19 with three bowl appearances.
One person Cutcliffe will miss next year is his quarterback. Lewis is joined on the list of finalists for the Johnny Unital award by Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), Colt McCoy (Texas), Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State) and Tim Tebow (Florida).
Not bad company.
Lewis holds school career records for total offensive yards (9,300), pass completions (829), pass attempts (1,425), touchdown passes (63), touchdown responsibility (71), touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.66-to-1) and total offensive plays (1,772).
He's just one of three players in ACC history to throw for 2,000 or more yards in four seasons, and he's a big reason why the Blue Devils are two wins shy of bowl eligibility right now.
He has completed 226-of-364 pass attempts for 2,640 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for an another three.