by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM According to the T-shirts some fans are wearing for today’s Duke home football game with, yes, Alabama, it’s the “Wallace Wade Showdown.”
Back in the early part of the last century Wade was one of the greatest coaches in college football, winning three national titles for the Crimson Tide before putting together a nearly equally successful tenure in Durham.
By anyone’s standards it’s a beautiful and warm, sunny day for college football, one of those “chamber of commerce” days for the television cameras from ABC.
Alabama — the alma mater of Duke coach David Cutcliffe — is the top-ranked defending national champion, which is really as familiar to Tide ears as it is for Dukies to hear the same phrase applied to their men’s basketball team.
Alabama fans have made the trip in droves to see their team play a non-conference game on the other school’s campus for the first time since a trip to Oklahoma in 2002. The powers-that-be at Duke, wanting to play the game in Durham as opposed to moving it to Charlotte or even Atlanta, are ready for the influx, adding temporary bleachers including a big set in the South end zone to increase capacity to 37,845 as opposed to the usual 33,941. The crowd is split something like 50-50 between Duke Blue and Alabama Crimson.
Alabama definitely lives up to expectations, scoring and scoring and scoring some more in a 62-13 rout in front of a standing-room-only throng of 39,042.
Alabama’s Mark Ingram, who missed the first two games of the season following arthroscopic knee surgery, shows why he was last season’s Heisman Trophy winner on the first play from scrimmage, setting the tone with a 48-yard run down the left sidelines. Two plays later Greg McElroy finds Darius Hanks toward the right corner of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown pass, Jeremy Shelley adds the boot and the tone is set just 79 seconds into the game.
The Crimson Tide pours on the points for the rest of the quarter. McElroy hits Julio Jones from 18 yards out at 10:34 to complete a six-play, 62-yard drive. Ingram scores from one yard out at 6:03 to end a six-play, 77-yard possession, then goes in from 17 yards out at 4:52 to end a three-play, 48-yard march with Shelley’s kick making it 28-0.
Duke erases the zero with 1:47 left in the period, going 67 yards in 10 plays to set up Will Snyderwine’s 22-yard field goal and make it 28-3 at the quarter.
But the Tide rolls on its first drive of the second period, with McElroy hitting Preston Dial from the 15 to end a five-play, 56-yard possession.
Duke gets another field goal from Snyderwine at 6:01, but that turns out to be for naught as Trent Richardson brings the kickoff back 91 yards to help make it 42-6.
Sean Renfree gets the Blue Devils into the end zone with 29 seconds left in the half with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Austin Kelly, and on comes Snyderwine for his seventh point of the game.
But the visitors prove to be just as efficient as they are spectacular, as Cade Foster hits a 44-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer.
Alabama keeps scoring in the second half, but it’s more of a drip, drip, drip than a deluge. Foster adds a field goal to end the Tide’s first drive of the second half at 10:17, and then Richardson sprints for a 45-yard score at 9:11 on the first play after a three-and-out from Duke.
The only fourth-quarter scoring is on Eddie Lacy’s one-yard run with 11:47 to go.
Ingram leads the Tide with 151 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Richardson finishes with 66 yards rushing. McElroy is a solid 14-for-20 for 258 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, with Jones hauling in five passes for 106 yards and the score.
Renfree is 17 for 37 for 144 yards and the one TD with an interception, with Donovan Varner Duke’s leading receiver with 55 yards on seven catches. True freshman Josh Snead is a bright spot in the running game, with 14 carries for 83 yards.
They said it …
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “It was great to see our crowd today. It was beautiful to see Wallace Wade filled to the brim. I think everyone saw what a team like Alabama does as far as traveling fans. When you play a team like that, I think our kids understand what you have to do to do things like tackle and make plays, and we didn’t pass the test plain and simple.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban: “I was really pleased with the way our players came in ready to play today. I was really concerned coming off last week’s game with how we would respond coming on the road for the first time, how we would compete after a big game. I was really pleased with the way we came out and set the tempo, especially offensively. It was great to have Ingram back. He certainly gives us another weapon and he did a fantastic job in the time that he played.”
Renfree: “They’re definitely a great football team, but in a lot of ways we beat ourselves. You tip your hats to Alabama. They had a lot of team speed on defense, their defenders were able to make us lay the ball underneath and take away the deep threat. And they did a good job covering up the underneath routes too.”
Duke safety Matt Daniels: “They’re the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason. They came out and executed and pretty much dominated us in all three aspects of the game. We just have to go back and regroup and understand where we’re coming from, move on to the next game and prepare for Army.”
What does it all mean?
That Alabama is awfully good. And that although the Duke community showed again that it knows how to put on a good show, the football team is currently a few touchdowns short of being national championship caliber.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Richardson’s kickoff return for the TD.
Alabama leads 3-1.
Duke: Lost 2.
Alabama: Won 17.
Army at Duke, Sept. 25, 3 p.m.
Alabama at Arkansas, Sept. 25, TBA