DURHAM — There are benefits that come with going to bowls.
The most obvious is the extra practice time, something Duke has used to prepare for Cincinnati but also to look ahead to 2013.
The other benefits, though, are less easy to spot and a bit more intangible.
Theres no school, were all basically eating every meal together, youre spending real quality time off the field with the players, coach David Cutcliffe said after practice Thursday. Weve laughed, weve cut up, weve lived like a family. That in itself has been special.
For one member of the Duke football family, it has brought tremendous relief. Two days after his wife, Geri, lost her fight with cancer, linebackers coach Jim Collins was back on the practice field.
I think that was good therapy, when you get in there as a coach and you start teaching and youre reviewing the practice tape, Cutcliffe said. He actually told me that its the best hes felt, when he was in there with those linebackers.
And then he came out here. Thats doing what he and Geri both loved about this, and thats practice. We were glad to see him back out.
Collins has coached at Duke three times under three coaches. He was a graduate assistant under Steve Sloan during 1983 and came back in 1985-89 to work under Sloan and Steve Spurrier. During the 1989 season Dukes most recent ACC championship Collins served as Spurriers co-defensive coordinator.
Through the years, Geri was at practice, too, serving as the team photographer. It was a role she continued until this year, posting pictures on Facebook and tagging the players so they could share them with friends. She was 60 years old when she died Tuesday and is survived by Jim and their daughter, Jennifer.
The Blue Devils will attend her public memorial service at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Duke Chapel as a team. After that, they will depart for Charlotte, where the Belk Bowl awaits them Thursday.
Its wonderful, senior Desmond Scott said of the chance to play one more game. Like I was telling people earlier, this cold air lets you know that you are alive. To still play football this late in December is a blessing.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley