In just a few days, the 2022 season of Duke Football will come to an end. Head coach Mike Elko’s inaugural season was a huge success. In just one year, he turned his 3-9 Blue Devils (he’s 0-8 in the ACC) into his 8-4 bowlbound team. And the bowl game with UCF is fast approaching.
Since the program began in 1888, Duke has appeared in 14 bowls, including six, over the past decade. Before the Blue Devils take to the field Wednesday in Annapolis, Maryland, let’s take a look back at that bowl’s history.
Duke Football’s first season was in 1888, but was not very successful until outgoing Alabama head coach Wallace Wade took over. Under his leadership, Wade achieved his season record of being a perfect regular, before in 1938 he led the Blue Devils to his bowl over the Roses. Although they lost to him USC 7-3, this crew put Duke on the college football map and earned the name “Iron Dukes”.
Only three years later, on the brink of World War II, Wade recalled the Blue Devils to the event. After Pearl his harbor bombing in December, Rose his bowl on January 1 was moved to Durham. It was the only time the legendary game was played outside the stadium of the same name in Pasadena, California. On the 16th, to Oregon.
Duke reached four more bowls and won three of the four from 1944-1960 under head coaches Eddie Cameron and Bill Murray.
From the 1960s to the 2010s, Blue Devil’s success was an isolated event. The program struggled consistently until 2008, when the former head coach was replaced by David Cutcliffe. When Cutcliffe arrived at Durham, the Duke had won only two games the last three seasons combined, including his 0-12 record in 2006. This season’s turnaround wasn’t quite as dramatic as Elko’s magic, but it was effective.
In 2012, the Blue Devils went 6-6 to qualify for the Berg Bowl. They lost to Cincinnati, but that didn’t deter them. The crew returned in 2013. After an impressive 10-2 record in the regular season, Duke won his ACC Coastal division for the second consecutive time.
This trend continued in 2014 and 2015. Cutcliffe’s first bowl win occurred in the latter, with the Blue Devils defeating Indiana 44–41 in overtime in Pinstripe his bowl. The drought of 55 years of bowl domination has finally been broken.
Daniel Jones era
In 2016, the redshirt freshman won the starting quarterback role for the Blue Devils. Daniel Jones quickly left his mark. Duke’s 2016 season was anything but mediocre, but the Charlotte native has established himself as a top-notch signal caller, earning numerous his ACCs and national accolades as a rookie. However, it was during his sophomore and junior seasons that his name was etched into the Blue Devil history books.
As Duke’s final two-year collegiate captain, Jones continued the streak of success that Cutcliffe began a decade earlier. The Blue Devils finished his 2017 regular season with his 6-6 record. Once they got there, they took control. Jones threw for 252 yards and rushed for 86 yards for a total of three touchdowns in the 36–14 Quicklane Bowl victory over Northern Illinois. The following year, he made those numbers look subpar. In a walk-on Independence game against Temple in his bowl, Jones recorded his 423 passing yards and his five touchdowns in a 56–27 win.
Although brief, Jones’ success at Duke reignited the program. After Jones moved to his NFL, Cutcliffe’s losing streak of his three seasons sparked a change of leadership. Now, Elko is looking to get back on those winning paths and continue his three-bowl winning streak for the Blue Devils. If he can lead Duke to victory, he will go down in the history books as the first Blue Devils head coach to win a bowl game in his first season.
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| | Assistant Blue Zone Editor
Rachael Kaplan is a sophomore at Trinity and Blue Zone Assistant Editor for Volume 118 of The Chronicle.