Category Archives: Duke Football

Cutcliffe, Johnson Talk Duke at Georgia Tech

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, we needed the open date, let a few people heal, hopefully enough to play in some cases. Absolutely realize we've got a very difficult task -- I think Georgia Tech is playing right now as well as anybody I've seen, period. You see where Coach Johnson has influenced this team from the start of the season until now, they've gotten better in all aspects. They're hitting on all cylinders on offense. Defensively you can tell they're more and more comfortable in their system, so they're doing more things, and their kicking game continues to improve. They've got weapons as specialists.

This is a really good Georgia Tech team. We've got to get back on track. It feels like forever since we've played. Our players, I think, are anxious to get back playing, but certainly this is a huge challenge in Atlanta this weekend.

I'll take your questions.

Q. In your opinion, is it harder to get a team focused for the next game after a big win or a big loss?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: You know, it's a really good question. Unfortunately I've been around more big wins than I have big losses, but I've learned a little bit more about the losses as you go. I think sometimes the losses are depending upon the time of year. If you suffer a loss late that's pivotal to your season, I think it becomes very difficult to pick a team back up and refocus them. Do it a little earlier in the season, I think the loss sometimes fuels you where you're not dealing with the complacency. Win a big game early, I think you can be complacent.

I have found, though, when you win big games at the end, they're meaningful. They propel you forward. So I think, again, it depends on the time of year. You get a team six, seven, eight games in that's winning and knows they're in a championship hunt, they can't wait to go back and practice. If you lose, I think probably in that same frame, it probably is much tougher.

Q. Georgia Tech, offensively they're playing really well the last couple weeks and they've mentioned how they've simplified things, and I'm curious if you've seen that or anything else in terms of their real steep improvement in play the last two games?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think -- I don't know if you would call it simplified. I think they're executing what any option offense does really well. If you look at the balance, they certainly are having success running the fullback. Quarterbacks are running wild, but I think they're running the option all the way out real well. By simplifying it that means running a little more triple and arc, they're doing a good job of doing that. They've got other ways to get the ball on the perimeter, but when you -- their slotbacks or A backs are averaging 10 yards a carry. So that indicates that you're having a lot of success across the field.

You see very much that they committed themselves to running their offense. Marshall is -- he's pretty slick, now. He's really great at running it, and you've got to honor the pass. That's the other part of it. You can stay simplified, but at any moment they're going to throw the ball and throw it well, and you're trying to limit the number of explosive plays that they can produce. But nobody seems to be doing that right now. It's pretty tough.

Q. You mentioned Marshall. I know that he considered coming to Duke. What do you remember about your recruitment of him?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he's just a great person. He's a great athlete. He's a fierce competitor. I like players that you can see on film that look like they want to -- they can't wait to play the next play, regardless of the result of the play, they get up and they go back. And I think that's his personality. That's why anybody would like to have him on their football team. He loves to compete.

Q. How did you envision using him if he came to Duke?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he's obviously a great athlete, and he's not the prototypical size drop-back quarterback, but they've probably used a lot of players in a lot of different roles. But he's a guy that -- yeah, he can play quarterback. He's proven that every game. But he could also be a running back. He could be a slot receiver. He could be a DB. So I think when you sign a player like that, you're really not sure what to expect. You get them on your roster, but I promise you, you'll find lots of ways to use them.

Q. In terms of your own offense, what improvement do you need to see coming off the Virginia Tech game?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, you've got to produce explosive plays this day and time to get your points per game up. We didn't do that against Virginia Tech. It was the first time this year we didn't produce it. We had chances, and we missed them. Close calls are not what we're hunting. We've got to execute better when we throw the ball down the field. We've got to block not only up front better but you've got to block the second and third level better to create explosive plays in the run game. We've got to continue to take care of the football, and one of the things you've got to do to play good offense is keep the change normal. You can't have sacks, and we gave up three of those last week. You can't give up tackles for losses. You don't want to get behind the chains.

So really we've worked very hard over the open date at just our general consistency and just extreme execution of what we're doing. So hopefully that hard work pays off, but regardless of what you do on the practice field, you've got to make it happen on Saturday, and that's going to be a real test.

Q. Especially given the popularity of RPOs in college football today, I'm curious about your thoughts on the ineligible receiver downfield rule.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think first thing everybody has got to represent, there are two types of RPOs. Where it first lived, it can be a legal play. You're throwing a bubble or a screen outside behind the line of scrimmage, and those things, linemen can be downfield. Then officials have to do a great job of seeing where the ball was caught. Often in the bold days you would see a flag go down and then they would have to pick it up.

As far as the throws that go downfield, people are throwing slants and quick outs, and it's very difficult for the officials to officiate it right now. Whether you give it no leeway or two or three yards' leeway -- we've had it called on us once this year, and it should have been called. We had a lineman that went downfield, and the play was not designed for him to release, and he did, and we threw it, and they caught it. So I think the officials are trying to do a great job of it. Whether it's three yards, two yards, whatever you choose to do, you just have to enforce it.

The other thing that gets really difficult is whose call is that. The guys on the side are moving downfield as the play develops. The umpire is trying to survive. I don't know if a referee and a center judge can see it. So it's a pretty complex question. But what you want is you just want fairness. You want something that can be uniformly called. I do think it's difficult on the defense.

But I also think it is a weapon that you can use offensively if you use it properly. So I just -- if we look at the rule, and I think we have to continue to look at it, we just have to make sure it is something that we can actually officiate. We've got some other things going on, I think, that I wouldn't want to be an official trying to figure out what blocking below the waist was right now. If you get in that rule book and read it, you can't call it. It's very difficult. Probably the only aspect of it that you can call, in that case, is that it can't happen five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

I'm using that as an example because I think you've got to be careful with these rules and make sure that it's something that the officials can execute. I know that's a long answer, but it's a very complex question that you asked right now in football.


PAUL JOHNSON: Good morning. We're looking forward to being back home and having a chance to play a really good Duke team. I think that Coach Cut has done a really nice job there. They're really, really good defensively. They run to the ball, play hard, and when they have their quarterback in there, they present a lot of problems offensively, as well.

Q. Coming off the offensive performances and the wins the last couple weeks, obviously the opponents haven't been South Florida or Clemson, but what can you discern from what the improvement has been in terms of your offense versus maybe the caliber of the opponent you're playing?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think Clemson is Clemson. You mentioned South Florida. We had 600 yards on South Florida and 38 points. We just didn't get enough to win the game.

You know, I think we've played better, we're executing at a little higher level, and it'll be a challenge this week. This will be the best defense we've played for sure since Clemson, and they're really good in their own right.

Q. What have you liked about Marshall's play in recent weeks?
PAUL JOHNSON: I think he's limited his mistakes and played within the system, and he's got good ability. He's quick, and he's made good decisions, and when we play with no turnovers and no penalties, we can be pretty effective.

Q. I've heard some of your colleagues say that they sleep better during seasons in which they're pretty confident that they have a quality backup quarterback. Does Tobias give you that comfort?
PAUL JOHNSON: Yeah, he's a good player. He's played well every time we've asked him to go in, and I think he's just going to continue to get better and better the more he plays. I feel good about both those guys, absolutely.

Q. Just to follow up what you said about Duke, when you look at them on film, what impresses you that has made you impressed with them?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think their talent level has gotten better each year. Certainly their two linebackers, really they've got three linebackers that are all good players. The Harris kid and the Humphries kid have been playing for a long time. They've played against us a bunch.

I think that their team speed is much better. They've got guys up front that can get pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz, and it just looks like when you watch them play, they understand their scheme, and they play fast, which is what you want with a defense.

Q. You mentioned the guys from Duke who have played a long time. So, too, has Parker Braun played for you. How has he improved specifically this season and perhaps even bringing leadership to that line given his experience?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think the biggest thing, he's just a year older and stronger. He's always been a pretty good player. He has to play within himself sometimes. He gets a little outside because he likes to compete so much.

But you know, he's got a good skill set, and he's tough. He's fearless, and he likes to play the game. I think the longer he plays, the more he becomes aware of defenses and understanding what they're trying to do and all those kind of things, and he's been a really good player for us ever since he played as a freshman really.

Q. You mentioned getting outside of himself; how does that manifest during a game?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, what I'm talking about about that is he may go after -- he gets in his mindset he's trying to get somebody and he becomes too physical or too out of control. When he plays within himself and plays in control, he's really good. He just can't allow himself to get out of control. He plays nasty. That's a better way to put it. He gets after you.

Q. Where do you feel like your defense has made improvements over the last couple weeks?
PAUL JOHNSON: I think we're getting better. I think the kids are starting to understand a little bit. We've had some issues on 3rd down, and that's something we're trying to work hard on. I think that that's right now the biggest issue over there, still having too many missed assignments. But I think the more they play, the better they're going to get. So we've got a lot of young guys over there, and I think we're finally starting to get to the point where we're kind of settled on who we want to play with, and I expect that they're going to get better as we finish it out, and certainly they're going to have to.

Q. Talk about Daniel Jones from Duke, talk about his development, how he's played the last couple years. Does he look like he's much improved this year? I know he's coming off an injury.
PAUL JOHNSON: Right. I thought he played well last year. He's a good player. He's got good size. He's a dual-threat guy. He can hurt you running the ball as well as throwing the ball. I think probably the thing that's most impressive with him is he doesn't usually make mistakes. I think he understands what he's doing. He understands defenses, and he operates their system at a high level. I think he's a really good player.

Q. Talk about last week when you guys played Louisville. What did you like about your team? You played on a Friday night. Do you feel like your team is finally making that turn to finally go in a positive direction?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think we've played better the last two weeks, especially offensively. But I thought we got off to a good start. Defensively we got a couple turnovers and were able to capitalize and get ahead in the game, and as well as we were playing on offense, once we got up 21-0, they were going to have a hard time catching up because we weren't missing a turn. It was a good way to start the game, and hopefully we can continue to get better and continue to execute at a high level the way we have the last two weeks. Certainly the defense this week will be a little better.

David Cutcliffe Bye Week Q & A

COACH CUTCLIFFE: This open date has obviously come at a good time for us with the number of injuries that we've had to starters. We still, right now, have six out that will return.

We've got both Mark Gilbert out for the season and Marvin Hubbard. But it's come at a good time. And also obviously at a tough time, when you get beat and you go into an open date, sometimes the reaction that you have can be panic. And this team's not that way. I think this team understands it's got to play well to win but it knows how to go about its business.

And we've practiced really well to this point. We'll practice again tomorrow and give them the weekend off and then start preparation for Georgia Tech Sunday evening.

Q. Ricky Walker didn't pop off the stat sheet Saturday night. But you made a point to praise him in your postgame remarks. What makes him so difficult to block?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, he's obviously -- he's really strong. He's big. Not necessarily tall. But you know he's just a big upper-bodied guy that has extreme quickness. He has great hands. So he's a penetrator. He's what I call a disrupter.

Anybody that can penetrate your line of scrimmage as much as he's done against us, he certainly has given us many problems. I think there's no question he's an all-conference performer and I voted him that way every year.

Q. I know it's early in the conference season. Do you suspect that the parity this year is just as strong or maybe even stronger considering the rise of Syracuse and BC and your team, too?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think in 11 seasons that I've been in the league, that this is as balanced as it's been, but it's been coming this way, and more and more so.

There's not a game anybody's going to play that you're going to ignore anybody; that you can ignore as a game you already got it in the left-hand column. You've got to play well. And you're going to have to play hard for 60 minutes.

And we didn't play well Saturday. And Virginia Tech did. People kind of looking at what happened. We got beat. That literally was the fact of the matter that they just played better than we played. And I thought we had prepared well. And when this parity in this league -- I told our team, welcome to the next seven games you're going to play. Every ACC game is going to be the same. It's going to require that you play as well as you can possibly play.

Q. I know after the game you talked about the frustration of not being able to run the ball as consistently as you had last week. When you look back at the tape, was that something that they did, something that you did, and how much of an emphasis have you placed on trying to get back to more consistency in the run game during the bye-week practices?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think probably the most (lost audio) there was a lot of eight-man coverage that they were playing. We couldn't run the ball. There were various reasons. Everybody takes credit, but it starts with me. You gotta schematically do things right. And that's my responsibility and we didn't do that as well as we should.

Then you have to physically win some battles. And at times we weren't doing that as well as we could. We got really good byes and we're better in the offensive front. But to run the football, what you have to do is be consistent. And that means everybody. That means quarterback making the right decisions, that means the head football coach making sure we're in the best position possible to get it done and then all five linemen at tight end usually somebody involved, also receivers.

I told our team: This open date next week, next week, a lot of that (indiscernible) football is just doing one thing and that's blocking well. And so we've got to continue to grow in that regard as well.

Q. Just reevaluate your team after the first five games, what did you like and what (inaudible) your team?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: We love the resiliency of our team. We love our team speed. It's very evident that we've got a lot of people that can run. We've been consistent for the most part all year long. We're not going to let one game -- we didn't play as well as we could have played in any form at Virginia Tech, but we didn't play awful. They just played extremely well and we didn't play well enough.

I think our team can find a way to be consistent. We've got a lot of weapons on both sides of the ball and we've got outstanding leadership.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

Duke Football Has A Lot To Play For

Daniel Jones returned for Duke Football

The Duke football team suffered their first loss of the season last evening, where Virginia Tech came away with a 31-14 victory.  Despite the disappointment, the Blue Devils still have a lot to play for and I will break that down while adding some perspective.

Anyone would have taken 4-1

Duke goes into their bye week of the season 4-1 and how many would have gladly taken that record at the beginning of the season?  The Blue Devils played two games without starting quarterback Daniel Jones and every game without multiple starters yet have positioned themselves two wins from bowl eligibility.

Duke is a better team than the one which showed up against the Hokies

The Blue Devils did not play their A-game and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster had a masterful plan against Duke.  He kept the Hokies in mass deep zone coverage keeping everything in front of him.  In other words, he dropped eight players which took away the long ball while allowing his front to get to the quarterback.  Duke also lost the turnover battle, not to mention a key call where the Hokie ball carrier appeared to be short of a first down via his knee touching.  Of course, the defense while playing well for Duke created no turnovers and that happened for the last eight quarters of football.  Still, these things are correctable and with a few different outcomes on key plays and Duke would have been much closer to winning the game.

Off Week Healing

First, the bad news in that running back Marvin Hubbard is out for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon.  That takes a toll on backfield depth.  But in with the off week at hand, Duke will be allowed healing time for players injuries.  The Blue Devils will be much healthier when they get back to action against Georgia Tech.

The Key Cutcliffe Statement

The key quote from Cutcliffe says it all, "We will win out share if we keep our fight."  He was talking about the upcoming games on the ACC schedule and he was referring to how important it is for the team to remain hungry and play with more of an edge than they did in their loss.  A season ago, Duke went on a tailspin losing streak after going 4-0.  No games in the ACC are a gimme, so the most important game is without a doubt the matchup with Georgia Tech for a win puts the thought of a drought out of peoples minds.

A Little Perspective

Many fans were disappointed with last evenings loss.  Duke had a chance to remain in the top 25 for a few weeks and go for the Coastal Division crown.  Duke will now play for a good bowl game in that they still have road games with Miami and Clemson, making a division crown a tough get.

But this team is capable of playing in a good bowl game against a good team.  And they should get up off the mat after not showing up in the way they wanted to on national television.

You know how far the program has come when fans are in angst over losses and demanding more.  Before Cutcliffe came to Durham, catching wins were akin to a tortoise getting across the street before a car came by on US Highway 15-501.

Duke should be going bowling for the fifth time in six seasons and that was once unheard of.  The program is in pretty good shape and I feel the team may take this last loss personally.

Only time will tell, but Duke can position itself to play in a top-notch bowl game against a power five foe.  But to do so, they have to take it one game at a time and simply improve in the off week.

 

Blue Devils Fall to Hokies

Duke had a golden opportunity to go 1-0 in the ACC and remain undefeated and ranked in the top 25, but a fired up Hokie team spoiled the party.

The Blue Devils could not get things going offensively until late in the game despite the return of Daniel Jones and that made for a frustrating evening.  When the dust cleared, Duke was on the short end of a 31-17 score.

Virginia Tech quarterback Ryan Willis exploited the Duke secondary early and often and ended the game  331 yards passing including 3 touchdowns.

Big plays haunted Duke which included a 67-yard touchdown pass which made the score 17-7 going into the half.

Duke took a 7-3 lead early in the game on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Noah Gray, but everything started to go wrong from there.

Jones suffered his first interception of the season which led to a score as well.  And Duke was stuffed at midfield when they went for it in an effort to get back into the game.

Meanwhile, the Hokies seemed focussed not turning the ball over and scoring each time they were in the red zone in the first half.

Jones would end the game with 226 yards passing, one for a score.  Duke wound up with 327 yards of offense with 18 first downs to the Hokies 413 yards a 17 first downs.  The difference being big plays which helped to  Hokies to a 3-1 record on the season.

Duke will try to regroup with a bye week coming before they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech.  A season ago, Duke went on a vicious losing streak after a 4-0 start and the emphasis for the team will be to prove they're better prepared for adversity this go round.

 

 

 

Duke Football Faces Their Biggest Test

Duke football will face their biggest test of the season when they take on Virginia Tech at 7:00 Saturday on Brooks Field in Wallace Wade Stadium.

The Hokies are sure to have their ears pinned back after being upset by Old Dominion a week ago.  While fans may disregard how dangerous a wounded Virginia Tech team can be, the same cannot be said for Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils.

During both of his press conferences Cutcliffe pointed to the fact that the upset loss was an anomaly, going as far as to say that if the two teams played tens times, the Hokies would lose one of them.

A week ago, Virginia Tech was rated 13th in the country while Duke broke into the top 25 this week.  The game which will be nationally televised by ESPN2 still features two ranked team in the coaches poll.

But the Blue Devils are now the slight favorite over a team they have not beaten since 2015.  And the bottom line is with a win they remain ranked going into the bye week, yet a loss would certainly take them out of the poll for a while.

The importance of this game cannot be underestimated and the fact both teams need a win should make for a spirited affair.  One of these teams will be 1-0 in the oh-so important Coastal Division standings, while the other will enter the cellar at 0-1.

The Hokies lost their starting quarterback a week ago, but the Blue Devils have been playing theirs of late in Quentin Harris who replaced Daniel Jones.

Both quarterbacks will face a good defensive effort.  The Blue Devils despite injuries have been solid on defense and Virginia Tech is coached by perhaps the best assistant in the country in Bud Foster.

Duke will have to be careful of the Hokies special teams efforts where they are notorious for picking up scores.  They must also be aware of big plays downfield for Virginia Tech will take their shots.

Another important factor will be the battle of turnovers.  In a game which is projected to be close, the team which capitalizes in that area will hold an edge.

As for Duke, they just need to execute for four quarters and be resilient.  The Blue Devils need to protect their home turf remaining aggressive the entire game.

If those things happen, I will have some good things to say for the only thing standing in the way of a joyous bye week are the Hokies, a team that has for the most part had the Blue Devils number.

Today’s Q & A With David Cutcliffe

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Obviously this is our biggest test to date and the best team we've played, a team we're very familiar with, a program we're very familiar with. I don't think there's anybody that you can respect more than the way they do things, have done things. I think Justin Fuente has just been tremendous there. Bud Foster is an icon in the business.

This is the thing -- the benchmark. This is where you find out what kind of program you've got. Our guys have practiced hard. We'd better, because we're going to be in for a big challenge, obviously, this Saturday night.

I'll take questions.

Q. Bud Foster and obviously the stability that he's brought to the defensive coordinator's role, you had some stability there with Coach Knowles. How would you evaluate how you guys have transitioned with Ben and Matt in those roles this season?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, it's a unique circumstance, and I realized that as I did an evaluation -- Jim Knowles and I talked a lot about this when Jim -- when he was offered the job at Oklahoma State, he and I were on the road together recruiting. You know, I did a lot of thinking.

But the reason that we went co-defensive coordinators is the quality of the people that we have in Ben and Matt and the quality of the rest of the staff, Derek Jones and Lanier Goethie. So we're at a point where we're still growing in that regard, but we clearly defined their roles. It is a transition, but our players were very familiar with both coaches. We have had a lot of stability in this program, so that helps a great deal.

We certainly wouldn't be the same without Jim Knowles. There's no question about that. But we have continued to try every year to grow and build on what we're doing, and I think Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri have done a great job of doing that.

Q. Is one of the biggest challenges they and you have faced is the injury situation in the secondary, just having to plug different guys in and switch roles and such?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, it was the most unique thing. It started, obviously, at Northwestern, and then it escalated at Baylor. It's been unique. It's a great tribute to our assistant coaches. They've recruited well. We do have some really good young players in the secondary, and they're performing at a high level. They hopefully have -- when you come in here, you develop great practice habits, and so if it does happen, that makes it a little easier to adjust.

But very proud of our -- not only our staff in that regard but proud of our players, you know, just managing adversity. And there will be more to come, not only here playing football but in life. I am proud of them. We've just got to continue along that path.

Q. I'm writing a story about the nomadic lifestyle of assistant coaches, and wondering if there isn't a little bit of a trend toward giving a little more security to assistants by longer contracts, and a second part of the question, do you think there's -- have you ever seen anything really unusual happen within the style of jumping from one program to another?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think it's been a long-standing trend for certain people. When I was a younger assistant, a young assistant at the University of Tennessee, we were working without contracts, period, not one year. Just no contract. We had a pretty revolving door. I was there for 17 years, and the number of different assistant coaches that I worked with was in the upper 30s.

I never -- I think that's sometimes personal preference. I think there are a lot of people -- I think it's problematic to people because I do think, and I tell young coaches this all the time, be where your feet are. I've known a lot of people in the industry that were always trying to get the next job, spending more time trying to get the next job than doing a great job with the one they've got.

I do believe that if you have assistant coaches that are committed to your program, they're doing what they should be doing, I think they should earn longer term contracts. Two- and three-year contracts are becoming more commonplace. Buyouts are now more commonplace for assistant coaches because with that security goes a price with it, and if the university is going to commit to that, most universities now are going to require some form of buyout where people don't just jump.

So it's an interesting era in football. It's changed quite a bit since I got into it.

Q. Anything really unusual that stands out to you that happened along the way, like owning three houses at one time or --
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I mean, I can tell you this: It was interesting, guys I worked with that came from California that sold houses were shocked what they could buy out east. They were in mansions in my mind. That certainly happened. But I know Derek Jones on our staff, between being a graduate assistant for us at Ole Miss and then kind of jumping around, he had a couple of homes and was -- you're trying to lease homes and you're not there, and it certainly can end up being a nightmare.

I've always -- I guess maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I've always liked being in a place, particularly when our children were young, trying to raise our children in some form of normalcy. So it's an interesting study. I think that's a great idea to write an article about.

Q. If you look at the way they struggled defensively in the secondary against Old Dominion, when you're looking at that, are you seeing schematic breakdowns, guys just getting beat, or what did you make of that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I would say for the biggest part, it's an outlier, and that's taking nothing away from ODU. Good gracious, they made great plays and they were ready and well-coached. But everything just kind of fell right. I mean, literally just fell right. You hate to call anything luck, but it was like, okay, you play zone, they scrambled and then just found a way to make a gain to keep a drive alive. You play man, the ball just dropped down right in the exact right spot. I mean, it literally was like that.

I've watched Virginia Tech defense for a long time now. It is storied, as we all know, its excellence in athletes, its excellence in coaching strategy and scheme. So it's just one game. Really, honestly, that's the honest answer I can give you.

Q. As you watch them, No. 94, their defensive end, who they dismissed from the team, are there moments that you're prepping for a game and you see him and think, man, I'm glad he's not going to be somebody I have to deal with?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I've got too many -- there's 10 others, 11 others that you're worried about. I think he was a really fine player. I don't know the young man at all. But there's no question he was an outstanding football player.

Q. I'm just wondering if there's maybe a right word or description to kind of nail down the energy or vibe amongst your guys just going into a national TV game? I'm sure they obviously know what's at stake, but if there's one thing you've taken away from their energy this week.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think that's a really good point because I have watched it. I think our program has grown from different points where we had big games that you worried about getting too hyper, too into the moment as opposed to preparing for a ballgame. I think right now what I would say is focused. These kind of games should create focus, but that's what I've seen, and hopefully that carries over into Saturday night.