Although Duke was disappointed with how the month of November went, the football season will end in December on a grand stage.
The Blue Devils (7-5) secured a spot in the Dec. 26 New Era Pinstripe Bowl, played in New York’s Yankee Stadium. Awaiting them is Indiana (6-6) in the 3:30 p.m. matchup on ABC.
“We have a great contingent of New Yorkers who are Duke alumni and Duke fans,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “I think a lot of Duke people will enjoy this holiday trip to New York.”
This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Blue Devils, a program record. All four have been in different geographic locations. In 2012, Duke went to Charlotte for the Belk Bowl, the program’s first bowl game since the 1994 season. In 2013, it was a trip to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl. Last year, Duke flew west to El Paso for the Sun Bowl. And now there’s a trip to the country’s largest city.
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There was a common theme among the three previous games: The Blue Devils had fourth quarter leads against Cincinnati, Texas A&M and Arizona State but lost all three games. The last time the program won a bowl game was the 1961 Cotton Bowl – a fact that is openly talked about among players and coaches, Cutcliffe said. The goal this year is to put an end to that streak.
“We’ve played well in bowl games,” Cutcliffe said. “We just haven’t finished the deal and closed the door in a victory.”
The Hoosiers started the season 4-0 before a string of close losses – they were within one score of Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa – and beat Maryland and Purdue on the road to end the season and clinch a bowl berth. The Hoosiers beat one team with a winning record this year – Western Kentucky. Duke’s best win was against 6-6 Virginia Tech, the four-overtime thriller in Blacksburg.
Duke and Indiana have one common opponent this year as both teams beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Indiana won 31-24 on Sept. 26, and Duke ended the season with a 27-21 win on Nov. 28.
The fact that both Indiana and Duke have fans that historically travel well to basketball games in New York made both schools an attractive option for the Pinstripe Bowl. And it has been quite awhile since the two school met in football. Duke won the last matchup, 31-24, in the 1984 season opener. Indiana won the earlier two games in the 1980s.
The Blue Devils will have a break from official practices this week as the players take their final exams. Bowl preparation will begin in earnest on Saturday.