While the rest of the Duke University football team was driving itself in spring practice last April the team's star quarterback, Mike Dunn, was driving a forkift.
He had flunked out of school.
He hadn't enjoyed playing football last fall, Coach Mike MCGee's job was rumored to be in jeopardy and Dunn, who is like a son to McGee, placed the burden on his own shoulders and wobbled under it.
He was hurt is the last game. He flunked a course and had to leave school, and when he returned this fall, he injured his thumb.
This is Dunn's senior year and it hasn't been going well for him and the 3-3 Blue Devis Dunn will not start against unbeaten Maryland Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium. Stan Driskell, who has completed 18 of 46 passes, will.
"I could play a lot better, but I just don't know why I'm not," said Dunn. "I'm not getting free to make the plays. Maybe I'm a marked man, or maybe I'm trying too hard. Maybe I need to relax a little."
Dunn's problem, and Driskell's too, for that matter, has been compounded by injuries to other key Duke offensive personel. Leading rusher Greg Rhett has been favoring a battered ankle and his playing time and effectiveness have been cut drastically. The Blue Devils' second-leading receiver, Jeff Comer, will sit out Saturday's game with a sevarated shoulder.
Driskell started the game and completed key passes in Duke's 28-10 opening win over George Tech. Dunn's thumb healed enough to let him start against South Carolina, and the Blue Devils won, 16-12. Dunn started the rest of Duke's games, including the 52-0 defeat at the hands of Michigan.
"That," said Dunn, "took a lot out of us."
"We were surprised not to have any offense, to get beaten so bad. It was a real shock."
Duke hasn't played well in its three games since: a 20-13 win over weak Virginia, a 31-8 defeat by Navy and a 28-8 loss to Clemson.
"Greg (Rhett) came to camp real healthy and gained 100 yards in three of the first four games," said Dunn. "He was taking a lot of (defensive) pressure off me, but then against Virginia he hurt his ankle. I think it might be taking a mental toll on him.
"Against Clemson, we executed well, but in the clutch we lost our concentration and our poise.
"I've thrown a few mental interceptions. I threw passes I never should have thrown, or should have thrown out f bounds. That is something I shouldn't be doing at this stage. I'm just pressing too hard.
"We've been searching for the missing link, trying to find out what's wrong with our team. We're real maybe we'll have a little advantage. Maybe we'll catch Maryland taking us lightly. Be we just can't make the kind of mistakes against Maryland that we have been making.
"Offensively, our probem has been lack execution, too many mistakes. We'll go over our plays every day in practice, then in a game we'll run one outside veer play to perfection and then when we run it again in the same situation it goes for nothing. Lack of consistency - that's what if is.
"The biggest problem with out defense is we let them stay on the field too long. They play 40 minutes and we (the offense) play 20. Last year, the offense would average about 65 to 70 plays a game. This year we get in about 48.
"I've been here three years. I'm a senior, I'm a captain and I'm the quarterback, and I feel it is my duty to lead the offense. With us being such a young team, that put a burden on me. And it got to me."
Dunn speaks easily of his trials over the last year.
"During the season last year, it seemed like the press got away from football. They'd write a little tiny bit about the game and everybody would focus on Coach McGee and his job and how we felt about that," said Dunn. "It wasn't too much fun playing ball. It got to me because nobody knows until you're out there how demanding the job is. The whole thing was getting to me because we are close.
"He (McGee) knows how seriously I took it. When I play, I take the coach's job into consideration, along with our team goals and my goals and just winning, and I try to do my best.
"I was disappointed in myself when I flunked one of my (three) courses, because I always took pride in my education. I came to Duke because of the good education and I felt I let a lot of people down. But a lot of people here care for me and I came back."
Dunn was optimistic when he returned, and even though the thumb injury kept him our of the first game, he was glad to see things starting out well for the young team.
"The first couple games, we were ready to play," said Dunn. "Now it seems like we don't have that same killer instinct.
"I've been here three long years, and I just want to win. I've never beaten Maryland, but we have a very positive attitude. I don't feel like a conference championship is out of the question for use yet. If we can win this game, it could really turn things around. It's probably our most important game of the year."
Fifth-ranked Maryland is a 14-point favorite, and the Blue Devils, who are smaller on the line than Maryland, may have trouble matching muscle with the Terps.
Duke has had basically the same problem competing with Maryland over the last several years. Maryland gets more of the bigger, better players.
"It seems like we're missing a few good players in key spots," said Dunn. "We must always have that problem. But we're young we're improving."