Category Archives: Duke Football

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.

David Cutcliffe Addresses the Media

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: We obviously realize how difficult a task it is to go to Miami, and not only to play well, but to win. Extremely athletic team. A team that plays really well at home. We've had good preparation. I think our minds are in the right place. We're trying to overcome getting -- beat ourselves, and a huge challenge and one that we need to challenge ourselves to be able to be successful.

I'll take your questions.

Q. A little off-the-wall question for you. Who was your athletic idol growing up and why?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Mickey Mantle because I saw the Yankees more than anyone else. They certainly were on TV, baseball Game of the Week. I could go out and simulate being Mickey Mantle by myself, throwing the ball up and swinging in the air, and I was a switch hitter, so that helped.

Q. Did you wear No. 7?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Absolutely. The other one was Joe Namath, quarterback, No. 12. I had many of them. Listen, it changed, you know.

Q. From season to season?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, yeah, season to season. You know, the basketball was a little different, a little more removed. There was one game a week. Bill Russell -- I worked on my left-handed hook shot because of him.

You're bringing up good memories, I can tell you that.

Q. Miami's defense seems like they are growing every year into an elite defense. What do you have to do to not put play that fourth ball to those guys and put that turnover chain thing back on?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: They do a lot of things that create turnovers. First of all, they lead the country in tackles for losses, and that's a big part of creating turnovers, creating bad down and distance. You can't be desperate. You have to be smart and patient. You can't play afraid or cautious, but you have to play smart to play a team like that -- we call them havoc plays, and their defense, as we view, it leads their country far and away in havoc plays.

Q. How do you prepare for two quarterbacks or whatever? How do you prepare for that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: They really don't change their offense. I think one quarterback may run more than the other, but they have so many weapons that surround the quarterback position that you'd better focus on that. So that's not as problematic as you might think.

Q. Covered your game in Atlanta and you guys looked so good. I thought you had a pretty good shot at winning the division. Would it be fair to say you're kind of surprised to be where you are now, two weeks later?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I mean, there's no question that this team is not the same team. We have been challenged. You hesitate as a coach to ever say these things, but we've been as many as 12 starters down and it just continues to take its toll. That's something that we are hopefully turning the corner. We still have a lot of people not making the trip to South Florida, but we also know that this team is the deepest team we've had.

So my job is to get our young people playing better, and that's the biggest issue that we have faced are inconsistencies. You saw us in Atlanta, we were able to create some turnovers. In the three games we have lost, we have not created a single turnover. We've lost the turnover margin 4-0 in those three games, and we're playing a team that thrives on it.

You know, it's not a secret. If you're going to win, you've got to do the things that winning teams do. Our young people have got to not be young people right now. We've got a lot of them playing that we didn't think we would be playing with, but we are playing with them. So as I said, my job is to have them ready.

Q. Do you have a guess at who the top team in the league is, or in the division as of this week?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Obviously right now Clemson is playing at an extremely high level. They are left on our schedule. But the Coastal Division, it's just very difficult to say.

The team we're playing this week is extremely talented. But Virginia has played really well. Virginia has played very opportunistic and solid.

But I wouldn't call a winner right now. It's a horse race that you can't call. Too close to call.

Q. Can you put your finger on what's made the division so balanced?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think the coaching has just continued. Paul Johnson and I have been in this league the longest, and we know the kind of job that he does. Georgia Tech has been really impressive here of late and just really, year after year.

Then you start looking at what Justin Fuente has done to follow up a legend in Frank Beamer.

And then Bronco Mendenhall is just an outstanding coach and got Virginia playing well.

Mark Richt is at Miami and got Miami playing well.

Pat Narduzzi at Pitt; you want to talk about physical football, and Pitt football teams have been that way for as long as I can remember.

Larry Fedora at North Carolina can score on anybody. They have just hit over the last two years a rash of injuries and circumstances.

I think I've covered the Coastal there. I just have great respect for the coaches, both in the Atlantic and the coastal, and I think our league is terrific right now.

Like I said earlier and somebody else asked a question, it's no secret. You have to do the things -- if you're normal, if you're not just overly talented compared to everyone else, you've got to do the things that win football games, and that's no secret. There are four or five things that a team has to do and embrace together to be a winner, and we haven't done it as well as we needed in the three losses.

It was very disheartening in Pitt that we kept giving up when we'd get two or three scores up. That's my job is to get us over that hump and we're going to find a way to do it.