Duke has not been to a bowl game since 1961, and when the Blue Devils got off to a 1-3 start, it didn't look as if they were going in 1989, either. Then came a shocking win over Clemson on Sept. 30 that, says Duke coach Steve Spurrier, "made this team not afraid to win." Or, perhaps, too giddy to lose.
Last Saturday the Blue Devils withstood an NCAA-record 73 passes by North Carolina State's Shane Montgomery and held on for a 35-26 victory. Their sixth straight win gave them a 7-3 record and put them in the All-American Bowl on Dec. 28 in Birmingham, Ala., although the bid won't officially be extended until 6 p.m. on Nov. 25.
Duke can clinch at least a tie for the ACC title by beating lowly North Carolina on Saturday. The Blue Devils will share the crown with Virginia, unless the Cavaliers lose to Maryland, which tied Penn State 13-13 last week. Assuming a Virginia win over the Terps, the Cavs, who earlier beat Duke 49-28, could be headed for the Citrus Bowl.
N.C. State, the preseason cofavorite with Clemson to win the ACC, was jarred before the Duke game when the three buses carrying the Wolfpack on the 25-mile trip from Raleigh to Durham were involved in an accident on Interstate 40. Nobody was hurt, but the shakeup might explain N.C. State's sluggish start. The Wolfpack trailed 28-10 after what coach Dick Sheridan called "the worst half of football we've played since I've been here."
The Duke offense countered Montgomery's 73-pass barrage—he had 37 completions for a league-record 535 yards—with a balanced attack. Randy Cuthbert had 151 yards rushing, to become the first Blue Devil back ever to gain at least 100 yards in five straight games, and quarterback Dave Brown, starting in place of the injured Billy Ray, threw four touchdown passes. Two of Brown's TDs were to wideout Clarkston Hines, who's tied with New Mexico's Terance Mathis at the top of the NCAA's career TD reception list. Each has 35, one more than Houston's Elmo Wright got between 1968 and '70.
Nevertheless, it was the bowl and not the record book that had Hines and his teammates babbling happily after the game. "A bowl is something you wish for and strive for," said Hines. "Now that it's happened, we don't really know what we've got, because none of us has ever experienced it."
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