Cue the Underdog QB Fantasy
Duke DeLancellotti is the guy you gave up on. He’s the wild buddy from Dan Jenkins’ classic football satire Semi-Tough (the book, not the tepid, new-agey movie). He’s got a winning grin and a Homer Simpson semi-beard. He’s a Cali dude who dabbles in lacrosse and beach volleyball. He likes steak, women and cold beer. He’s been around the block a few times.
It didn’t work out at Cal Poly, so he lit up the field at Santa Ana College. The Texas State Bobcats were scouting his buddy, center Tyler Potter, and just happened upon Duke at QB. Fate.
You don’t have Duke pegged as a superstar, but give him the ball and he just might surprise you. He’s a whole lot like the Texas State Bobcats. Nobody took them seriously as they continued the journey that is Big Time Football and a first year in what looked to be a tough Sunbelt Conference. Winning record? Not likely. Who would be the quarterback? Dunno. Could the defense stack up? Sometimes.
The results for both the Bobcats and Duke remain mixed. The Bobcats found their way and their future when they unveiled true-freshman golden boy Tyler Jones and walloped Wyoming. “What if Coach Franchione has pulled the trigger a week earlier?” fans mused. “Could they have beaten Texas Tech?”
But then came a thorough pounding by Sunbelt powerhouse Louisiana-Lafayette and a game the Bobcats should have won but didn’t against Louisiana-Monroe. Then three wins in a row. Oops, two more losses. Jones broke his throwing hand in the first quarter of that first fail but continued to play. Tyler Arndt (just how many Tylers does this team have?) started the second loss, but after three interceptions the banged-up Jones came in and proved his brittle hand is not bionic. Back to Earth.
That left us with 23-year-old Duke for the 6-5 Bobcats this past Saturday at Troy. First start ever at QB. What have we got to lose but a potential bowl game? But don’t underestimate Duke. He’s a member of the 100 Percent Club – as in, that’s what he’ll give you when you finally put him in the game.
Duke started shakily, throwing an interception on the first drive, but then he fired up the desire and both ran the ball and completed enough passes to earn a touchdown and put the Bobcats up 7-0. Troy was explosive and the lead didn’t last long. Duke kept at it, but his Bobcats were down 21-14 at the half. A 68-yard Troy pass completion stretched the lead to 28-14 in the third quarter. Then it was suddenly 35-14 and looking to be out of reach.
That’s when we cue the magic. Duke faked a run to the left, but looked back to the right and dumped the ball to a wide-open Brandon Smith, who took it 70 yards to the one. Duke ran it in himself on the next play. The Bobcats were back in the hunt.
This is when the fantasy says Duke, the unlikely champion, does it all and brings one home for the team. Fantasy, meet reality. Troy scored again and the comeback died : story of the Texas State season. Final record: 6-6. Average. Not a winner, but not a loser. Bowl eligible but not holding their collective breaths. Moments of amazing clarity, beauty and joy. Growing pains. Duke understands. You do your best and laugh at the rest. He’ll remember this game. He’ll reminisce about that pass when he’s on the beach back home in California. He’ll tell you that’s where it all began for the Texas State Bobcats in the year they stretched their muscles and learned to dream again.