Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 10/22/12
DURHAM, NC -- Dukes celebration after becoming bowl eligible with a last-minute victory over hated rival North Carolina on Saturday night was one rarely, if ever, seen at Wallace Wade Stadium. Jubilation hasnt visited this old house very often over the last half-century, so the Blue Devils and their fans were excused for pouring onto the field and prolonging their joy. It was emotional, as it should have. Duke will play in a bowl game for first time in 18 years and just the third time since 1961. Its a goal the team has set each season since David Cutcliffe took over the program five years ago, but only now has it become a reality. But once the euphoria died down another reality hit the Duke players: They still have plenty to play for. Its a huge burden off our shoulders, said cornerback Ross Cockrell. Every year we talk about going to a bowl game and every year we didnt reach that goal. This year, we have met that goal and we still have four or five games left to play. I think the skys the limit for this team. We have a lot of talent, a lot of athletic ability so were going to go after it. At 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the ACC, Duke sits atop the Coastal Division. Miami is a half-game behind at 3-2 in the league and Virginia Tech, which is 4-4 overall and in serious danger of seeing its nation-best streak of eight straight seasons with at least 10 victories snapped, is 2-2. The scenarios that could lead the Blue Devils to Charlotte to play in the ACC championship game arent that far-fetched. Certainly not any more than driving 87 yards in the final minutes to beat a UNC team that had won 21 of the previous 22 meetings and had just scored three unanswered touchdowns in about 10 minutes of football time. And really, no more implausible than the program qualifying for a bowl game. But it has, and in the often-bizarre world of ACC football, just about anything is possible, especially when a club is well coached, like Duke is, and believes deeply in itself, like Duke does. Were going to enjoy this one right now and then start preparing for a big one next week, senior safety Walt Canty said after Saturdays game. Thats a big game because of who were playing and where were playing them. There was a time not long ago when Duke wouldnt have looked forward to playing Florida State in Tallahassee. It would have been a rather unappealing assignment. But these are a different group of Devils. They are confident and resilient, yet based in the reality of their past Duke experiences. They arent taking success for granted by any stretch, yet it almost seems expected. Sundays short practice gave Cutcliffe another indication of his programs growth. I like the way our team responded, he said. You could tell they were locked in to what they were doing. I like the fact that they looked and appeared ready to go. Regardless of what happens at No. 11 FSU (7-1, 4-1 ACC), Duke can still win the Coastal Division. After traveling to FSU, the Devils host No. 14 Clemson before visiting up-and-down Georgia Tech and closing with Miami at home. Georgia Tech has three ACC losses, so its likely out of the race. The Miami game could decide the division winner, and if it doesnt, Virginia Tech owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, but the Hokies still must visit Miami and host FSU, so it may never factor into the equation. Thus, beating the Yellow Jackets and Hurricanes may be enough. And, if Due falls short of that mark, it can become just the second Duke team to win more than seven games in a season since 1962. Only the 1989 Blue Devils, which were coached by Steve Spurrier and shared the ACC championship with Virginia, have won as many as eight games in the last 50 years. Dukes last 9-win season was in 1941, when is hosted the Rose Bowl because of fears the Japanese, which attacked Pearl Harbor a month earlier, may target the popular game. It remains the only time the Rose Bowl has been played outside of Pasadena, CA. Duke cant play in the Rose Bowl, but the Orange Bowl is a possibility, though for now the Devils are viewing the remainder of the season just like theyve looked at the first eight games, and thats without looking too far ahead. But that doesnt change the teams goals. We still have things we can accomplish, senior quarterback Sean Renfree said. I dont think anyone of us see this as the ultimate accomplishment.
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