Category Archives: Duke Football

Duke Defense Stymies Northwestern

Jim Young, A.P.

The Duke Blue Devils moved to 2-0 on the season with a 21-7 road win at Northwestern on Saturday afternoon.  The Blue Devils gained their fifth consecutive win dating to the Georgia Tech game a season ago.  The Blue Devils also snapped the nations longest winning streak where Northwestern had won nine consecutive games.

Northwestern jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a Jeremy Larkin run but the Blue Devils would then reel off 21 consecutive points all in the 2nd quarter.  Duke scored on three Daniel Jones touchdown passes, the first one going to T.J. Rahming, the second a 51-yard bomb to Jonathan Lloyd and the third a 7-yard toss to a wide-open Davis Koppenhaver. Duke went into the locker room with a 21-7 edge and that is all the scoring that would take place in the game.

The Duke defense stopped two Northwestern drives with interceptions by Marquis Waters and Micheal Carter.  Their play was key in that Jeremy McDuffie not making the trip and Mark Gilbert going out of the game with an injury earlier int he contest.

If that was not enough bad luck on the injury front, Daniel Jones was sacked where his no throwing side was driven into the turf early in the second half.  He went to the locker room and would not return.  His stat line for the shortened day was 16-22 for 192 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 turnovers.

The Duke offense stalled time and time again due to bad field position but the Blue Devils defense was up to the challenge.  Northwestern had the ball in Duke territory on numerous occasions to start the 2nd half but was turned back every time they threatened.

Duke was aided by several quarterback pressures and four sacks on the day.  Ben Humphreys led an inspired Duke defense with 5 solo tackles to go with 10 assisted takedowns.  The Blue Devils had 22 players play with the stop troops on the day.

The Blue Devils did not turn the ball over and their special teams were solid where Austin Parker punted nine times for 42.4-yard average.  Duke will head to Baylor for a 3:30 kickoff next week.

There is no news on the injury front to report and the NCAA allows team not to share news in that are this season.  But judging by the injuries, it is likely that some Duke players will miss some significant time.  That means much of the week will be spent on game planning and breaking in new players.


Duke at Northwestern Preview

Duke at Northwestern preview

Something has to give when Duke visits Northwestern this weekend where both teams come into the game 1-0.   In short, we are in for quite the battle for both teams covet a solid early season start.

Duke won their opener by defeating Army 34-14 at home, while Northwestern is coming off a road win over conference rival Purdue.  Both performances were impressive for varying reasons which points to what I expect will be a highly competitive game.

The Blue Devils played their best game of the season a year ago against Northwestern where they came away with a 24 point win.  But the Wildcats rebounded to go 10-3 on the season earning national recognition, while Duke hit a tough stretch if losses before righting the ship for a bowl win over Northern Illinois.

About Northwestern

If you want to know how tough Northwestern will be let me offer up this one factual stat.  The Wildcats have the longest win-streak at nine games than any other team in the country and they are favored to win this game for that reason.

The Wildcats will also have the revenge factor going and they will look to start the game fast and play consistently.  All these worries about veteran quarterback Clayton Thorson not playing are out the window.  He played well against Purdue taking the vast majority of the snaps and will play even more this week.  Even if they do play backup TJ Green some, he was 7-11 in passing where his team did not miss a beat.

A question going into the season was what would their running back situation look like.  Well, they are solid there if not better.  Jeremy Larkin averaged 5.5 ypc and ran for 143 yards and two scores against Purdue.  They also have speed with their backups.

If that is not enough, the offense features solid wideouts as well.  Flynn Nagel leads the way as a veteran and they have newcomers with speed.  Like Duke, they spread the ball around a lot using tight ends as what they call super backs.

The Northwestern defense is big up front and their linebackers come at you hard as well.  They are more athletic than a year ago in their secondary despite two new starters.

About Duke

The Blue Devils did not show their hand last week against Army on offense in that they had limited snaps.  But  Daniel Jones was efficient which is a good sign and seemed more comfortable in the pocket.

The Duke rush game was effective with Brittain Brown leading the way with 75 yards but he was hobbled towards games end.  Duke was also aided by a breakout game by wideout Aaron Young who had catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.

Duke allowed just one sack, but Army was close a few times and they will need to bring their A game against what will be a much better rush this week.

The defense let up some passing yards but was solid against the rush considering they were playing Army which annually leads the nation in that area.  However, there were times when the secondary let up some big plays, especially on late downs.  That will have to improve this week for the team to stay in the game and seek a win.

The kicking game was a pleasant surprise for Duke and it could come down to overall special team plays this week if the game is close.  Duke had a good start to the season and will look to build momentum as the schedule toughens up.

What will happen?

What will happen is a tough call.  On paper, these are evenly matched teams but the home-field advantage for the Wildcats makes them the clear pre-game favorite.

Northwestern knows how to win as evidenced by nine straight wins and they do not want the Blue Devils to break that record in what has become a bit of a rivalry.

Both teams have some veterans and that points to a hard-fought contest.  Duke can really gain momentum with a win going into another tough road game at Baylor next week.  A victory for Duke would be a very sweet win.

That said, I am not going to make one pick this week, but two.  If the Blue Devils have two or more turnovers they will come away from the game with a loss.  If they can match Northwestern for the full game and limit turnovers while creating some of their own, they will win.

The bottom line is that this is a tough game for Duke in that they are playing a Northwestern team ranked 27th and 30th in the polls and rising.  ESPN currently favors Northwestern to cover as a 3 point favorite by a 61.7% to 38.3% margin.

It will take a near perfect game to win and resilience along the way.  This game has huge implications for both programs and can be seen on ESPNU at 12 noon EST and 11:00 CST  this Saturday.





Q & A with Duke Coach David Cutcliffe

Wednesday September 5, 2018

David Cutcliffe


DAVID CUTCLIFFE: It's always challenging after the first game, it may not sound it, but challenging to jump right back into a game week. You've got to grind it out Tuesday and get back after it Wednesday. I think our team has adapted to that. It's really been hot, but we obviously are playing a very good Northwestern team, very good Northwestern team. They've won nine games in a row. They're playing as well as a team as anybody I've seen on film. I think our squad is well aware of that, a huge challenge, but when you go on the road, it's a huge opportunity to say something about your own program. So I think they're looking forward to the challenge, but they do know it is a big one.


Q. How closely would you say your team in the opener mirrored what you expected them to look like, and how did that match up during your career with how well do teams kind of meet your expectation that first time out?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think that's a great question. I think people probably were aware that we did have a little greater expectation of this team with returning players. I think one of the things that probably I was hoping for is that this is a much more physical team. We are the fastest team we've had, but I think probably the biggest thing that we found in the first game is that we were definitively the most physical team on the field against a physical football team. Army West Point has developed a physical mentality. They play the game that way. But I thought our team responded to that really well, and that was something we were certainly hoping we would see in week 1. Now we've just got to grow it. We're going to play a bigger, faster, stronger team in week 2, and we'll learn a little bit more about ourselves.

Q. We hear often, and I've been asking the guys, but the idea that teams make their biggest jump from week 1 to week 2; do you subscribe to that theory, and what do you think about that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think it depends on the quality of your team. As I just mentioned coming in, you have camp, and then all of a sudden in this environment, you're overloaded with schoolwork already, you've got to turn around and re-key and re-focus on a new opponent. So if you do that, playing the game, there is nothing like playing the game, but we don't get to scrimmage much anymore in college football, hardly at all really in a year compared to what it used to be. So it should be one of the biggest jumps you have during the season. But all of that is dependent upon, again, how you come work out of that first game.

Q. You obviously beat Northwestern pretty decisively last year, but how much better do they look to you on film this time when you're preparing for them?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think there's a couple things. It was an early game a year ago. They didn't play as well as they would have liked. That team was obviously better than people thought. That particular team was a very good football team, Northwestern. They went on and won 10 games for the season. But this team to me looks better. This team is more athletic. They look very committed. You can tell they've had a great spring and summer. So yeah, I think this is one of the better Northwestern teams we've seen since we've been here. We saw them our first year here, but we've played them four times. So I definitely think this team is one of the best if not the best we've seen.

Q. I know you played three true freshmen in the game. What was your assessment of how they did? And secondly, I know you had more true freshmen than that that pushed for playing time in camp and didn't play. How have they responded to that, and is there still a chance that may get into some games in September?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think the three that did play did all right. We didn't play them enough probably. Certainly Jake Bobo is going to continue to get in the mix. It's a very competitive environment at receiver. We've got two young receivers, Jarett Garner and Dennis Smith, that are doing awfully well. But you get into the D-line, Tahj Rice, he's just a big, strong, powerful youngster, and we want to continue to get him in better shape, but we feel like he's going to impact us before the year is over. He did well when he was in there, played hard. Casey Holman, an offensive tackle, is a very talented young man. He certainly can impact our team. You can't ever have enough depth in the offensive line.

And then I think, too, that we thought might would play would be Maurice McIntyre and Mataeo Durant, but Mataeo had a great day yesterday and today in some live work, and he's ready. But again, it's a very competitive environment. There's only one football, and there's some backs that are playing well. But he's going to help us this year. No doubt in my mind, he is a terrific prospect, as are others in that class.

I'll give you an example. I thought one of the best performances of the practice today was done by Gunnar Holmberg who's a true freshman quarterback that was being Northwestern's quarterback. I thought he was terrific today. Even what people don't see in games I think may surprise -- this class may surprise people just how talented the overall group is.

Q. Aaron Young had a big game for you last week; do you feel like he's capable of having a breakout season for you guys?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: He is. He is a very big -- people that walk up to him, I don't think they realize initially how big he is. I don't know what we list him at, but he's tall, he's very strong -- had an incredible summer. It's important to him, and I think he probably is going into his junior year realizing maybe he hasn't reached his expectations. He and I sat down and had a conversation about that. But you know, he's been flashy in the past. Now, let's see if he can put one week after another. He's definitely capable of being a guy that burst on the scene, and I know Daniel Jones has a lot of confidence in Aaron. Hopefully it heads in that direction.

Q. What do you think it's going to take for him to play more consistently and string big games together instead of just having one here or there?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, that's a great question, and I think he would answer it better than I, but I will tell you we'd have the same answer. He'd got to become focused in practice and at every little thing that he does. Just consistent focus, practice habits. It's been something that -- all young people fight it, but he's had to battle that a little bit. So whether it's alignment, just getting up off the ground and being ready to play the next play, those are things that he's working on, and I think with that will come a consistent performance that people will look to -- he's capable of being an All-Star player, and hopefully that happens for him.

Q. Touching on Aaron again, obviously with the big game he had on Saturday, have you kind of maybe allowed yourself to think of an exciting wrinkle that would be if he did have a great season kind of paired with your other wide receivers that really have some talent?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think when you -- and we feel like we've got a chance to be this, and Gerad Parker has done a really good job with our receiving corps this year and trying to build depth and confidence, and you've got the seniors -- we actually have four seniors in the receiving corps, including Trevon Lee, with our other three that are basically starters, and I think when you get Aaron playing at that level and we get others, Scott Bracey, Jake Bobo, we're one -- one of the wrinkles, as you call it, is just the size we can put on the field at receiver. T.J. may be the quickest we've ever had here, but we've got some big guys right now that can play, and I think we can use that to our advantage.

Q. Talk about the running back from Northwestern, Larkin. He played against you guys last year, but he wasn't a factor. But this past week he ran a lot through Purdue. What do you see on film to try to stop him?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he's extremely quick, and his change of direction -- he's really just a really good back. We were very aware of him in high school, recruited him out of high school. He makes people miss. He's strong enough to break tackles. He's very athletic. He's got great family DNA. He's elusive.

I thought he was one of the bigger factors in that Purdue game. He gave them some explosive plays in the running game that -- that's how you win games. He took care of the football, so he's a complete player, no question.

Q. What did you like about Daniel's performance last week?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: He was just consistently efficient. You know, he threw the ball very accurately. He knew where and why and what he was doing at every second out there, total control, I thought. 13 of 17, and it could have even been higher. We didn't throw the football a whole lot. We didn't get a whole lot of possessions. But basically of the eight real possessions in the game, he led us to six scores, so that's pretty stout efficiency.

Duke Defeats Army 34-14 in Opener

The Duke Blue Devils move to 1-0 on the season with a 34-14 opening night victory over Army.  It was the seventh consecutive opening night win for a David Cutcliffe coached team,

Duke took a 17-0 lead into halftime where Collin Wareham knocked down a 25-yard field goal to get the scoring started.  Two Army fumbles led to a Brittain Brown 12 yard rush and a 1-yard plunge from Daniel Jones to make the score 17-0.

The Blue Devils came out sluggish in the 2nd half when Daniel Jones fumbled in Army territory.    A scoring drive of 11 plays for 54 yards, chewed up close to seven minutes off the clock and a Kelvin Hopkins plunge made the score 17-7.

Duke answered when Deon Jackson rolled into the end zone from 7 yards out after a 7 play 68-yard drive in only 2:09.  "We responded well and I think that caught them off-guard," said David Cutcliffe in the post-game press conference.

Army answered again on a  Kelvin Hopkins to Cam Harrison 45yard pass play to make it 24-14 in just 2:16.  The last time Army threw for over 100 yards was two years ago against Wake Forest.

But the Blue Devils would not be denied and Duke went up 31-14 on a Daniel Jones 25 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Young who had his first career 100-yard receiving game.

Ben Humphreys would later block an Army field goal attempt and Dylan Singleton returned it 33 yards to the Duke 35.

Collin Wareham would later tack on a 30-yard field goal to make it 34-14.

Daniel Jones finished the night 13-17 for 197 yards and one touchdown completion to Aaron Young who finished the evening with a career-high 114 yards in receptions.

"Aaron is big, fast and has matured.  We are more physical at every position including the receiver," said Cutcliffe.

The Blue Devils were led on the ground by Brittain Brown with 75 yards and Jones added 43.

Dylan Singleton led Duke with 11 tackles, while Koby Quansah added 9.

The Blue Devils will travel to Northwestern next week in a battle of 1-0 teams.

Tidbits -

  • Cutcliffe said Army threw 21 passes against Duke and 24 all season a year ago,  He mentioned his team had not worked on that part of the game as much but that his team still won by 20 points.
  • The Duke coach also said players who did not play in this game could see action moving forward for it was hard to play a lot of players due to Army's style.
  • Duke was just 2 of 9 on 3rd down conversions.
  • Cutcliffe was especially happy with the kicking game.
  • Duke is 4-0 in August under Cutcliffe.
  • Duke is on a 4 game winning streak dating back to last season.

Q & A with David Cutcliffe

Opening Statement -

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think it's been good for us, really a shorter August than maybe we're used to having in years past with 25 practices, but I think because of the opponent, the quality of Army, a team that won 10 games and it's no accident, and our players have been intense, they've worked hard at preparing well, I do believe they're ready to play. I know they're ready to play a game. They're tired of hitting each other. It's going to be difficult with the offense they run. They led the country a year ago in 3rd down conversions and 4th down. Got to get stops where we can, and then offensively we'd better be efficient when we have it.

Q. To speak on the wide receivers, Johnathan, T.J., Chris and company, just what you can say coming through fall camp with the weapons that are out there for Daniel Jones and what you're taking away from the wide receiver group?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I'll tell you, they're veteran. Obviously, you just mentioned three seniors, Aaron Young, a junior, is a big strong target who has had his best camp. Johnathan Lloyd has had probably the best camp of all of them. But T.J. coming back is the leading receiver in the ACC in the number of catches. It's just veteran people.

What I like the most, Gerad Parker is a veteran coach, but they really set a tempo on the practice field, all of them. We've got some talented young people in Scott Bracey and got three talented young freshmen, but their work ethic has been outstanding.

I think Daniel is excited about the amount of time they got together during the summer on their own. So it looked -- I mean, they really, you can tell they look very comfortable with Daniel, and Daniel is very comfortable with them.

Q. I know that you and I have spoken about Daniel a lot, but you've worked with so many different quarterbacks, so many different calibers and talents and whatnot. What can you say about working with Daniel Jones? And with all of the work that you've had with quarterbacks around this country that have had a lot of success, where does he stand out and kind of stack up in your opinion with all of the work that you've done?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, the physical parts of it, he is really physically gifted. He's got a big arm. He's got great brains, he's got a great touch. His accuracy is really, really good. I think he's learning at a rate that most of our guys have learned. It's been fun to have him two years as a starter. It's not an accident. He's had some really big wins. He's played hurt. He's tough. He is a very smart young man. I think his football IQ is really growing. As he's played more, he really understands some of the things you've got to do to be successful consistently.

And then one of the things that I think you always look for in your quarterbacks and as a third-year starter, he certainly has taken charge. He is much more demonstrative, and he knows how to run our offense, but he also knows what to expect from his teammates, and I think we'll benefit from that this fall.

Q. What's your assessment of your run defense heading into that game against the Army rushing attack?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, that one is so different. A year ago, we did a solid job against them. We held them scoreless the second half. They only scored 14 points on us. I think we're better than we've been up front physically. We've got very veteran linebackers, but it doesn't make it any easier. They've got a new quarterback that probably will throw it a little more. They've got their fullbacks back, which makes it -- that's where all option attacks start, and in my opinion, they do the best job of all the option teams attacking you with their fullback and with their quarterback. So they minimize their mistakes.

So when you get right down to it, what you just said is the most critical question: Can we defend them? We can't count on getting any gifts from them, but can we be physical, defeat blocks and make tackles? We'll know more about that after Friday night, but I think we are more equipped than we've been.

Q. I know you've talked in the off-season about your confidence in both the offensive and defensive lines being better this year for you. How have you seen both of them progress through the fall, now that the season is ready to start?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I've had good conversations with Ben Albert and Jim Bridge as we've competed with each other. I've gone to a lot of those drills, and we've spent a lot of time against each other, a lot of inside drill work, a lot of broken-down live work, where it's full speed pass rush but one-on-one, full speed run blocking half line. It's been fun because it's been a war.

We are more physically physical. We're stronger, and it very much shows. Our strength staff has done a great job. We made an emphasis -- we went to a four-day lift week, and we did it through our entire cycle, and in trying to become more physical. We play in such a physical league. I'm anxious -- it's hard to tell when you evaluate it against each other, but it certainly looks and feels more physical, and I'm hoping that is true when we get on the field with Army Friday night.

Q. Daniel Jones is already getting a lot of talk about a potential round 1 guy if he comes out in the draft this year. What do you see of his ability to shut that noise out and kind of focus on the task at hand?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he's an unusual young man. I promise you, he doesn't hear any noise. He is so tuned in to being a teammate. Daniel has never really been about himself. Every bit of his being is about being a part of the team. And that's really our program. We've got other guys that are underclassmen that that may well happen. If it does, I've been around it a lot before. We'll help them make what is the best decision for them. But we don't have to worry about that for a while. The fastest way to make that not happen is to be distracted, and so I think he has been tremendous this spring.

Another thing I would tell young players all over this country, if you play this game trying to keep from getting hurt, you're going to get hurt. I've seen it too many years. I've done it a long time. We've met about it with all of these guys, or I did, met with them back in May after spring practice, and we feel great about where we are with that.

Q. You're the elder statesman of the conference, and I hope this doesn't happen for a while, but when you finally hang up that whistle for the last time, in one sentence, what would you like your legacy to be as a person and as a coach?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I would hope that maybe if there's one sentence, it would just be that he did things the right way. I don't know that you have to kind of get beyond that, but that's what we've tried to do, and that we've cared about people. I think probably through the years, what I would -- the other part of it is trying to raise young coaches because they're going to affect a lot of folks; boy, he had a lot of good people work for him, and that is important to me as a legacy.