DURHAM, N.C. – About halfway into the hour and 27 minute weather delay, head coach David Cutcliffe, marched out of the tunnel and made his way to the student section on the opposite end of the stadium. The students, dressed in blue, erupted as coach made his way to speak with them.
“I finally came down the tunnel to see what the weather was like,” Cutcliffe said. “We were waiting, waiting, waiting, and when I got to the end of the tunnel I was amazed at how many students were there. I just made a decision to go over and thank them. I didn’t want them to leave. I wanted them to be into it and stay there because I knew how significant they would be in the ball game. I just went over there and got cranked up with them and enjoyed that myself. It was a fun moment for me, and I hope it was for them.”
The 32,571 fans in attendance were treated to a dominating performance by the Blue Devils. Duke took control of the game first and never looked back breaking the spirits of the James Madison Dukes in the third period scoring 17 points in the 31-7 victory.
The previous year’s home opener against Connecticut had only 17,251 fans in attendance and the largest home crowd of last season was 23,691 when 12th ranked Virginia Tech came to town.
The jaws of students and fans dropped earlier in the day when Cutcliffe visited the tailgate, shaking hands with fans and telling them, “if you guys come into the ball game it will be worth your time, I promise,” before going back to the hotel for the pregame meal.
Two hours and 15 minutes before the start of the game, the coaching staff and players held the inaugural Blue Devil Walk. The walk began at Duke Chapel and ended at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“First, our inaugural Blue Devil walk was unbelievable,” Cutcliffe said. “That set the tone, and then to our students, my hat goes off. They were unreal. They made it fun for our players.”
“Our students were off the chart. They were certainly there throughout that long 90 minute delay. They just did a tremendous job of setting an atmosphere in the stadium.”
The students stuck around through the weather delay singing along to the music being blared through scoreboard speakers to keep the energy level high in the stadium.
The students also stuck around until the end of the game to celebrate with the players, who seemed unsure of how to react following a home win.
“This is almost unreal really,” Greg Akinbiyi, who recovered two fumbles, said. “We never had this kind of crowd, never had this atmosphere. This feeling in the air is like Christmas.”
Cutcliffe wanted the celebration to be fun, but also did not want to see anyone get injured.
“I looked over my shoulder. I looked out at our goal posts. I looked that we had about 10 police officers, and there was thousands of them [students], and I said this is pretty bad odds,” Cutcliffe said. “I went over to that front row, and I just asked them to pick another game to take these things down. Spread the word up please. Stay in the stands. We are going to come over and have some fun with you afterwards, but let’s have our fun in the stands tonight.
“The students were everything we wish they could be tonight.”