Seven games into the 2003 season, Duke athletics director Joe Alleva fired head coach Carl Franks and temporarily turned the program over to defensive coordinator Ted Roof. On that Sunday in October, Alleva gave Roof "no chance" of keeping the job on a permanent basis.
Five games, two memorable wins and one anticlimactic coaching search later, Roof defied his own boss' odds and dropped the "interim" tag from his title.
With Miami and Virginia Tech joining the ACC and a schedule that includes seven bowl teams, Roof will again be given no chance this season. And actually, that's fine with the 40-year-old former Georgia Tech linebacker, who after 17 years as an assistant, enters his first full season as a head coach with a 2-3 record.
"Before you can get to great, you have to get to good," Roof said. "Right now, we're building to get to good."
The Blue Devils have rarely been good since Steve Spurrier left for Florida in 1990. But in Roof's five games, they showed signs of hope, ending a 30-game ACC losing streak with a win over Georgia Tech and closing the season by beating rival North Carolina ... something that hadn't been done since Spurrier's final ACC game.
Now the Blue Devils have to continue the momentum from that improbable finish without Chris Douglas, the school's career rushing leader, or Ryan Fowler and Matt Zielinski, a pair of All-ACC defenders.
OffenseThe pressing question for Duke in Roof's first full season is whether quantity is better than quality on offense. The Blue Devils have three quarterbacks who will play, with sophomore Mike Schneider slated as the starter, and four running backs, including two true freshmen, who will get carries.
As a redshirt freshman, Schneider started eight games but threw more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (four). He has the best arm and natural ability of the trio but must improve his decision-making. Chris Dapolito and Curt Dukes, a transfer from Nebraska, are both mobile but undersized.
Junior Cedric Dargan is the best of the running backs. He has the task of replacing Douglas, who gained 1,138 yards last fall. Dargan (264 yards, five touchdowns in 2003) will have four new blockers in front of him. Right tackle Christian Mitchell is the lone starter back on the offensive line.
Under new coordinator Marty Galbraith, the Devils will throw more short and intermediate pass routes and use multiple formations. That means returning receivers Lance Johnson and Senterrio Landrum should be active, but Roof is counting on sophomore tight end Ben Patrick and freshman receiver Chancellor Young to emerge.
DefenseThe middle of Duke's defense has to be revamped due to the graduation of Zielinski, Fowler and strong safety Terrell Smith. Smith and Fowler combined for 276 tackles and Zielinski, an All-ACC tackle, led the team with seven sacks.
The Devils have depth and experience on the defensive line with both starters returning at end, including junior Phillip Alexander (6.5 sacks), and three veteran tackles.
Senior linebacker Giuseppe Aguanno will move from outside to inside to replace Fowler in Roof's 4-3 scheme. And three of the starters return in the secondary, including vastly improved corner Kenny Stanford.
SpecialistsSenior Matt Brooks made 6-of-9 field goal attempts last year but was the designated short-range kicker, meaning his three misses came from 39 yards and in. He will handle the field goal and extra point duties by himself this season. Senior punter Trey McDonald averaged a respectable 40.7 yards per punt last season.
Final AnalysisFor one month, Roof convinced Duke it could win, as it went 2-3 to close the 2003. Now, Roof has to do it for a full season, with a new group of players against a tougher ACC. Losing has been a way of life for the Blue Devils, who have been to two bowl games since 1961. Roof will try to change that attitude with the oldest of football game plans -- run the football, minimize turnovers and make big plays.
The Blue Devils, as Roof likes say, do not have enough talent to overcome needless mistakes. Roof's first full season will depend on the development of Schneider. He showed the talent in 2003 but will have to adjust to a new offense and a new offensive line. Roof's team showed a desire and intensity it previously lacked under Franks. That much will have to carry on for the Devils to equal last season's win total of four. Even with upsets, their schedule is too unforgiving to expect much more.