Category Archives: Duke Football

BDN Twitter Mailbag Q & A

Here are the latest questions from our twitter mail bag where I attempt to  answer questions -

I think Coach K's lineups will as always be dictated by each opponent.  We are still talking November basketball here, so there will be adjustments made after the upcoming game with Indiana.  The staff will pay close attention to said ball screen offense and adjust accordingly.  With a young core, the staff must not throw too much at the team at one time and make adjustments that will stick come March,

History tells us that David Cutcliffe will not make any drastic changes in season and that he rarely if ever makes a move on coaches from critics or anyones views.  The fan base is frustrated after the walloping it took against Wake Forest and it is only fair that questions arise.

Something is wrong when a team loses by 52 points in a game where they were favored by 10.  The worst loss in Cutciffes  tenure begs for some inner reflection in that it was simply shocking in a bad way.  That kind of beat down should not happen to a 7-5 bowl bound team.

On the other hand, maybe this is as good as it gets.  Before Cutcliffe came along Duke was one of the worst programs in the nation.  Now, they put out good kids and go bowling.  If he can get to an occasional tier 1 bowl and tier 2 ones, I'd say he will call the shots more than other influences.

The loss to Wake has a lot of people talking.  There is noise where there should not be any.  A hard-fought loss is acceptable, even a turnover prone pitfall, but a 59-7 is a tough pil to swallow, as it should be.  A Blue Devil Nation member posted on the message board that Iron Dukes want a team they can be proud of win or lose.  Well, that was not the case this past Saturday.

It is a fair question.  Duke looked a bit flat to me in their loss to Virginia Tech.  That game reminded me of the home loss to Florida State the season before.  Duke is 0-4 against Virginia in its last outings as well and one would think the team would be pumped out of their minds for this game.  And then the loss to Wake Forest was a complete mail it in from the start affair.

It does not help that the crowds do not turn out even when games have great meaning.  But for whatever reason Duke has not played good home football in some cases since the stadium renovations and that needs to be addressed.

It seems to be hard to get everything right of late and Duke was playing better football a few years ago.  Part of that is that the ACC is good and in the Coastal Division, not a lot separates teams from top to bottom.

But as for Duke not being pumped up for certain home games or playing well I have no answer and hope the staff figures it out next season.


David Cutcliffe Talks Clemson

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.

COACH CUTCLIFFE: Obviously going to Clemson, just playing the quality of that team, the number two team in the country, that certainly plays as if it's a number one team in the country. At Clemson, Death Valley, Saturday night, is a huge challenge. One that our team needs to embrace and look forward to. And you hope you have a program that's excited about challenges rather than getting overly concerned about it.

So we've practiced well. We'll see what happens one day at a time. That's all I've got on this end.

Q. You haven't played Clemson since I believe 2012. That was Brent Venables' first year as defensive coordinator. I'm just wondering how you think they're different or similar since the last time you saw them.
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, obviously it's been a while. So I think they've continued to improve physically. I think Venables has a system in place that veteran players have really embraced. They do a lot of different things they do them well. They were aggressive then. But I think this is a completely different level of Clemson defense.

And I think he's as good as there is in the business.

Q. How much does it help to have a veteran quarterback like Daniel Jones when you're going into an environment like Death Valley, what do you say to some of the younger guys that may not have seen an environment like that?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, it always helps to have a veteran quarterback. He can have a settling effect. We do have some veteran players on offense. That will help. To some level, you still have to -- the environment's one thing. The defense we're looking at is a whole different thing.

So they're both really difficult, but there's no question that a veteran can help not only on the field but in the preparation and just we're counting on our leadership to help control those young folks' emotions. And sometimes you have to -- takes a little while to get through that, the opening quarter even can be a jolt to a lot of young players. But we'll somewhere in there settle down, I believe.

Q. I'm writing a story about Dexter Lawrence. I don't know how much video you've seen of him this week. But I was kind of curious your impression of what you've seen?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, I watched him play in high school, live. I've certainly watched every game they've played this year and watching him play defense. He's a great player. He's, as we all know, a big, powerful young man. His athleticism defies someone that size. Always has had it.

And they've done a great job. He looks like he's in great shape and can play a complete game and plays really hard. So a guy that's 350, 350-plus pounds, whatever that is, he plays really well. Plays really hard.

Q. In terms of trying to contain that Clemson offense, can you take a page from anything that, say, Syracuse or Boston College have done this year to kind of try to keep this within reach there?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, you always watch opponents, and particularly pay attention to games where opponents have played better, maybe, than some others.

I think a lot of that comes down to players that you have in matchups. Certainly you've got to play with great effort, focus and intensity. But you also have to be able to match their physicality. And Boston College and Syracuse both, defensively, are playing very physical right now. And we've got to pick that up a notch to be able to stay on the field with those guys. And then once you do that, you still have to be able to handle an incredibly gifted quarterback with a lot of weapons.

They can run the ball. They are physical but they can also create explosive after explosive in the pass game. So I think our young people realize that they've got a big challenge in front of them. We've certainly practiced with great intensity. But it will be just something you do one play at a time. You can't live and die within a single play. But you've got to play every play as if the game depended upon it.

Q. Obviously you've had a lot of experience with high-profile quarterbacks, having to make decisions about their futures. And I know you still have a couple of games still left to play but a lot of NFL folks liking what they're seeing out of Daniel Jones. When do you begin to have those types of discussions with him as he tries to evaluate his future?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: He should be drawing a lot of attention, because he's legitimately that type of player and person. We've already had a little conversation. Nothing -- I've just tried to help he and his father both, because I've been through it so often, just as to what to expect and here's the thought process that you need to put into it and you need to learn that you don't listen to noise; you need to evaluate your information clearly from the league.

And we'll get to that pretty quickly, once we finish next week. And there's so much in the media that you just -- and I told both of them, you can't ride that wave. It's unimportant. And I'm going to tell you, he has been incredibly focused and will be. He's such an unusual young man that he would not ever -- he's such a great teammate, let me put it that way. He would never let himself get distracted. I've been very pleased with that part of it.

Dabo Swinney


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Dabo Swinney.

COACH SWINNEY: We're excited about being back at home this week. It is senior day for us and military appreciation day. We've got a great military heritage here at Clemson. And so we always look forward to this day. And certainly with this senior class, this is the biggest senior class I've had, just unbelievably accomplished group. A bunch of graduates, and just great young men that we're going to honor individually coming down the hill this week.

So, excited about that. And ironically they'll have an opportunity, if we can win it will be their 51st win, which will be an ACC record for this group. Proud of this group and again looking forward to honoring them.

And then Duke, this is really going to be a big challenge. They're 7-3. Beat Northwestern at Northwestern who clinched the division in the Big Ten.

I think this quarterback is as good as there is in the country. And really impressed with him. I think he's probably going to be one of the top two or three quarterbacks taken in the draft. But Coach Cuts has done an unbelievable job with this football team. And I know that we're going to be challenged in a big way and are going to have to play at a very high level to have a chance to come out of it with a win.

So we're excited about it. And with that I'll take your questions.

Q. What makes Dexter Lawrence such an exceptional defensive lineman? And is it his agility that maybe most stands out among his qualities?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I think it's the combination of his agility and size. There's very few guys that are 345 pounds that have the body composition that he has. He's 345 but he is a muscle. And his composition is really good. And then you couple that with his unique agility, ability to change direction, just strength, makes him really, really special.

And then he's a high character young man that just plays with a tremendous motor and effort. And so those are a lot of great characteristics. Certainly his measurables, but I think it's his immeasurables that make him special.

Q. Obviously you've had some excellent teams in recent years. But have you learned this year, are you better than you were in recent years in any certain area?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I think we're just a more experienced team. Coming into the season, it's one thing, on paper, I felt like this would be the deepest and most experienced team that we had coming in. But that doesn't always equate to performance. But these guys have done a great job to this point. And I think that has proven to be the case.

And certainly we've been able to play a lot of people and we've been able to really use our depth through these 10 games. And I think hopefully it will pay off for us as we get down the home stretch here.

Q. When you're game-planning for Duke or for any opponent, in your opinion, is it more important to concentrate on what you do best and see if they can stop it, or do you have to concentrate on adjusting to stop them to see what you can do to stop them from doing what they do best?
COACH SWINNEY: I think it's a combination of both of those things. I think at the end of the day you always start with who you are and what you do, and you study how they defend those things or how they attack those things based on game tape and all that in the previous games. And then you formulate your plan.

But, yeah, you're not going to change who you are from week-to-week, but there are game plan adjustments and things like that that you have to tweak, or maybe as you study the opponent you realize that you might have to feature some other things more in your package than maybe something that you did last week against a different style of play. If they're going to be more of a man team or more of a zone team, then you're going to call some plays differently. But it's all within your system.

So at the end of the day, regardless of what you do, it still comes down to being able to do what you do better. Blocking, tackling. Just execution. But you gotta be aware of what they do so you can position your players to have a chance to be successful.

Q. Let's talk about the military appreciation day. I know I talked to you about it last year. Just refresh everybody here on the call about what you guys do for military appreciation day?
COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, it's a great event here. We play in Memorial Stadium. And right across from where the rock is where we enter is the Scroll of Honor and that's a memorial for all of our veterans that were lost in war. And Clemson was a military school, all the way until 1955, I believe. And in fact I think only Texas A&M had more officers in World War II than Clemson University.

So just a deep heritage here and something that we take a lot of pride in this day and just the pageantry that we try to instill and it's a lot of fun. A lot of fun. We won't be able to have the fly-over this year because it's at night. But there will still be a lot of veterans coming back and they, all throughout the game, they do a great job of capturing the essence of the day and the tradition of our university.

Q. A question about Daniel Jones, what do you see getting ready for him, do you think he's an NFL-type quarterback next year?
COACH SWINNEY: I don't think there's any doubt about it. To be honest with you, I haven't really studied him much prior to this game. Just because we haven't played Duke in a while. And just haven't studied him a lot closely. But as I watched him, man, oh man, not only is he going to be a pro, he's going to be a high pick. This guy can flat out play, incredible presence in the pocket. He's big and strong. He can fly. You know, he just pulls away from people. He rushed for 180 yards last week and can make every throw. He makes some really, really tight throws against contested coverage. And I can't imagine that he's not going to be one of the top quarterbacks to be drafted.

Duke Secures Victory Bell with Win Over UNC

The Duke Blue Devils defeated their archrival, North Carolina 42-35 to go 7-3 on the season.

This was the third consecutive victory in the series for the Blue Devils.

Duke retained the Victory Bell via its offensive output while earning its fifth winning season in the last six seasons.

"Right now we keep the Victory Bell down there next to the locker room so it is fun to see that every day and do so for another year," said, Duke quarterback Daniel Jones.

Daniel Jones led Duke with a record-breaking performance.  Jones threw for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding another 186 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground which was a career high as well.

The total of 547 yards for Jones set an all-time Duke single-game record previously held by Anthony Dilweg.

Despite the win with several key personell out, Duke suffered another loss. All ACC candidate and secondary team lead Dylan Singleton is out for the season per David Cutcliffe and will have surgery this week and will DL Ben Frye.

Duke rolled up 629 yards of offense and that translated into a huge first half.    The defense stood tall in the second half and only allowed a late, desperation Tar Heel score.

The Blue Devils must now travel to Death Valley minus several starters for a game with the nations 2nd ranked team, Clemson.

More to come.

Remembering My Pal, Al Featherston

Al Featherston passed on today, Monday, 11-5-2018.

My longtime friend, Al Featherston died Monday, Nov. 5th, 2018 at Duke Hospital after a long illness.  Many of you know that Al has been a sportswriter for more than five decades and has authored books on both history and ACC sports.

Al attended Duke University and contributed to the ACC Sports Journal, Basketball Times, Blue Ribbon Yearbooks, Duke Basketball Report, and many other outlets over the years.  He spent a great portion of his career writing for the Durham Morning Herald and the Durham Herald Sun as well.

He battled his illness until the end, but never recovered well from elective heart surgery.  He was also diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.  Being a long time New York Yankees fanatic, Al was able to go out like one of his favorites.

I had a lot of history with Al, which included seeing Duke win a National Championship together.  Having seen a lot of Duke athletics in my time, he enjoyed someone to talk history with,

Towards the end, another good friend of Al's named Ed McIntyre was able to help get our pal into a retirement home.  I would take Al to appointments and run errands while going over on Saturdays to watch college football games.

Make no mistake, Al loved his sports and we watched the Duke away football games together right up until his passing.  Al was staying on a strict diet and got down to 212 pounds, but he liked that I would bring something special for him for football Saturday,

We thought we'd lost Al about two weeks ago,  On a Monday, following the win over Georgia Tech, Al went back into the hospital never to come out,  He would also lose conscience for about five days.

Thankfully, Al came out of that and just in time to inform his sister Libby who was up from Southport on his final wishes.  He was able to get some closure and I can tell you after conversing with him that he was still very sharp minded and at peace with what was to come.

So, as soon as I get to his room, Al spots the box score to the Duke Basketball exhibition game in my hand.  Before he can say hello, he is reaching for it while asking me about Marques Bolden.

Yep, his faculties were intact and he wasted little time in wanting to talk about that game and the Duke loss to Pitt in football which he had just watched.

I spent the better part of three hours with Al the last time I saw him.  I filled him in on what he missed while being out and he sponged it all in while wanting to continue to talk about this years basketball team.

Al was very excited about tomorrows Duke matchup with Kentucky and the Duke-UNC football game coming up this weekend.  He mentioned that he was sad that he would miss this basketball season with this year's talented team, but we had all hoped he could bounce out of his issues and at least make it through this week.

I was saddened to hear the news of his moving on from his sister this morning whom I have been able to get to know through the process.  I contracted a virus and could not make it back to see Al beyond that last conversation.

But in the end, I realized I had a great conversation with him that day and it was a normal exchange which I think he liked.  I will miss my friend greatly and talking Duke Athletics, ACC sports in general and appreciate the many memories with him by my side.

Al wanted his sportswriter friends and acquaintances to know he was thinking about them.  He was in his favorite spot in the world on press row where he enjoyed socializing.  Towards the end, the plan was for him to dictate some messages to me but time would not allow for that.  But, again, he was thinking of many of you.

Whether you are a sportswriter, work at Duke Athletics or in the ACC offices in Greensboro, just know Al was appreciative of the relationships.

Al was the son of Louis Alywn Featherston Sr. and Mary Norfleet Vick Featherston.  He is survived by his sister, Elizabeth "Libby" Featherston if Southport, N.C.; and brothers, Mark Featherston of Caddilac, MI and Richard Featherston of Seymour, Conn.

The family plans a private cremation.  A celebration of Al's life will be announced at a future time. I will let you know of any further details and please pass this information on.

I appreciate your friendship Al, who last told me he was looking forward to seeing what happens next.