Duke’s magic ended the minute Osceola and Renegade charged onto the field last Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Call it awestruck. Starstruck. Whatever it was, the Blue Devils weren’t ready for it.
“It was so different,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “None of them had ever been to Tallahassee. I’ll be honest, let’s put it this way -- it was irritating to me how many of them were standing there watching the horse pregame.”
And worse, the scoreboard postgame.
Duke, which is in the midst of its best season since 1994 and the only team currently bowl-eligible in the Coastal Division, was humbled last weekend in a 48-7 loss to Atlantic Division-leading Florida State. It was Duke’s 18th straight loss in the series. Those within the program are hoping it wasn’t a foreshadowing of what’s to come this weekend, when Duke hosts No. 13 Clemson, the second-best team in the ACC.
“Hopefully the lesson learned there is that we should know against this caliber of an opponent you’ve gotta bring your A game every play, not just to the game,” Cutcliffe said. “You have to compete every play to try to win every play.”
Are the players buying into that?
“They better,” Cutcliffe said. “I’m not going to give them a choice. I’ve bought into it and that’s enough for me. I would expect everybody here will.”
Florida State limited the second-best passing offense in the ACC to just 129 yards on 37 attempts, and jumped out to a 31-0 lead. Clemson has the ability to do the same, as it is No. 10 in the country at 41 points per game, and No. 14 in the country in total offense, averaging almost 500 yards per game.
Clemson’s defense has made progress in each of the past two games, but Duke will have to be equally concerned about keeping pace with the Tigers offense -- especially considering the uncertain status of quarterback Sean Renfree, who suffered a head injury against Florida State and did not practice on Sunday. Clemson has won the past three games in the series, but the two programs haven’t played each other since 2008.
One thing is for sure -- Duke is not wasting any time looking back on what happened in Tallahassee.
“The biggest thing is you understand and respect the ability level of people and how hard you have to compete every play,” Cutcliffe said. “I think we know that, it was just one of those circumstances that happens. To be honest with you, we’ve talked a little bit about the fundamentals and things we think caused us not playing very well, but getting into any depth about that game after that, we’re not going to. We’ve got to leave that one in Tallahassee. We don’t have a choice. We’ve got to emotionally be charged and ready to have any opportunity against a Clemson team of the same talent level.”