Tag Archives: David Cutcliffe

Thaddeus Lewis Sets Career Passing Yards Record

thad lewis-block-300x200Thaddeus Lewis is now the all time leading passer in the history of Duke Football. He broke the record in his penultimate college game by throwing for 303 yards against the Miami Hurricanes to bring his career total to 9,678 yards. The record was previously held by Ben Bennett with 9,614 yards.

As a senior, Lewis has excelled by breaking multiple career passing records. In addition to becoming the all time leader at Duke in career passing yards, Lewis set records for touchdown passes thrown, career pass attempts, career pass completions, and career total offense. Lewis has thrown for 64 touchdowns during his career, attempted 1462 passes, completed 849 passes, and rolled up 9,599 yards of total offense eclipsing Spence Fisher’s previous mark of 9,110 yards.

The 303 yard performance against Miami was Lewis’ 10th career 300 yard game, which ties him with Anthony Dilweg for the school record.

After completing 40-50 passes for 459 yards and five touchdowns, against North Carolina State, Coach Cutcliffe stated, “I believe that was the finest game I’ve had a quarterback have in college.” That is high praise coming from a coach who previously coached Peyton and Eli Manning.

But Lewis wasn’t finished; he went out and completed 30-43 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns in leading Duke to a 17-13 victory over Maryland. Then he led Duke to their third consecutive ACC victory, 28-17 over Virginia, by completing 24-40 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown.

Lewis, and the entire offense, has benefited from playing in the same offensive system under the same coaching staff for a second consecutive season, for the first time in their careers. Lewis knows the offense, which allows him to be comfortable and confident on the field. Duke heads into the final game of the season with a 5-6 (3-4 ACC) record in a season that has kept fans in Durham excited about football into late November for the first time in many years.

Lewis' career at Duke started on September 2, 2006, when the true freshman was inserted during the first game of the season against Richmond and completed 15-24 passes for 148 yards in the 13-0 loss to the Spiders. Lewis started the next 11 games and threw for 2134 and 11 touchdowns on the season. However, he was sacked 38 times and threw 16 interceptions.

The Sporting News named Lewis honorable mention Freshman All America as his 2134 yards passing set a Duke record for passing yards by a freshman. Lewis threw four touchdown passes against North Carolina, which was the most thrown by a Duke freshman since Dave Brown threw four against Wake Forest in 1989.

As a freshman, Lewis had his two best games against in-state rivals Wake Forest and North Carolina. On September 9, 2006, Lewis completed 21-32 passes for 305 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest. Against North Carolina, on November 25, 2006, Lewis completed 20-35 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, Duke lost both games as part of a 0-11 season.

As a sophomore, Lewis would have to learn a new offensive system as Duke brought in Peter Vaas, from Notre Dame, to serve as passing game coordinator. Lewis responded by completing 199-360 passes for 2430 yards with 21 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. However, Lewis was sacked 44 times during his sophomore season.

Against Navy, on September 22, 2007, Lewis had the best game of his sophomore season throwing for 428 yards and four touchdowns to wide receiver Eron Riley. However, Duke lost the game 46-43 as the Midshipman scored the games final 14 points.

The arrival of Coach David Cutcliffe in Lewis’s junior season meant Lewis would have to learn another offensive system. His third system in three years as the starting quarterback at Duke, and Lewis quickly proved he was up to the challenge and proceeded to earn Second Team All ACC honors by completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 2171 yards and 15 touchdowns. Moreover, Duke won four games with Lewis decreasing his interceptions to six and only being sacked 16 times. Those numbers suggested real success for Duke Football was just around the corner.

As a junior, Lewis enjoyed his greatest success in a 41-31 defeat of Navy on September 13, 2008. Lewis completed 25-35 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns to wide receiver Eron Riley.

Duke hosts Wake Forest at Wallace Wade Stadium next Saturday November 28th in the final regular season contest of the 2009 campaign. Blue Devil Nation encourages all Duke Fans to come out, join in the festivities, and cheer on Lewis and the entire Blue Devil squad.

Duke Football Coach David Cutcliffe talks of spring practice and the coming season

Coach David Cutcliffe and the football program has the support of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White.  Coach Cutcliffe encourages fans to turn out for the annual spring football game on April the 18th.
Coach David Cutcliffe and the football program has the support of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White. Coach Cutcliffe encourages fans to turn out for the annual spring football game on April the 18th.

Coach David Cutcliffe has made his way out through the dew-covered turf at Wallace Wade Stadium to spring practice several times in the past couple of weeks.  As he makes that stroll each crisp spring morning, signs of change are in the backdrop.  Construction workers are going at it early on both ends of Wade and, just behind the practice field itself, a visitors locker room is being erected.

But the construction doesn't stop there for it is happening on the field as well.  Cutcliffe is now in his second year as coach of the Blue Devils and, like the construction crews, he has to tear down and build.

When Cutcliffe arrived in Durham, it was his job to demolish the old way of thinking around Duke Football.  He assembled the best support staff in Duke Football history and then they immediately hit the road recruiting.  After that, he led the win-thirsty Blue Devil Football program to four victories, but he didn't stop there.

To this day, Cutcliffe has demanded a work ethic from his players and he's been unafraid to challenge the fan base and those who can get the ball rolling on much needed changes to Wallace Wade Stadium and the football program in general.

"We're continuing to work on changing the atmosphere around the football program and we will not stop until that task is finished," stated Cutcliffe before last season began.

Cutcliffe has held to his promise thus far and he is making strides to build a program, not just a winning season.  That kind of change takes time, but there is little doubt that Duke is finally on the right track and that football is once again exciting.

The Blue Devils suffered some key senior losses and must break in a lot of young players this spring.  A quick look up and down the roster and then adding the incoming players clearly shows that Duke is one of the youngest, if not the youngest, teams in the  ACC.

"We're so much further ahead than where we were last year,  it's like night and day.  Not a lot of numbers (players), but sometimes that's a good thing with a lot of young guys getting reps.  It's been one of the more energetic springs I have been around.  We are a faster football team on both sides of the ball.  That's one of the things we felt like was key.  Our conditioning level is excellent, which has allowed us to work hard," said Cutcliffe when questioned as to how spring practice had been going.

Coach Cutcliffe had also mentioned earlier this spring that, despite the losses and the youth replacing them, this looked like a football team.  Perhaps he was referring to what the team looked like when he came in last year, for he more or less said they were fat and lazy -- or perhaps out of shape is a kinder term.  I asked Cutcliffe if he could elaborate on what he meant when he said we looked like a football team and he replied -

"Just the overall fitness, bending our legs, playing lower, using our hands better - things that a football coach would look for.  I don't want to confuse that statement with we are ready to take on the world, but it's starting to really look like football and when you can compete and the energy level is as high as it is it has that feel and sound at football."

Cutcliffe is still well aware that his team must replace some key components, especially on the offensive line.

"We have a lot of work to do, obviously, in replacing three starters in the offensive line.  That's obviously a work in progress, as is replacing Eron Riley."

Despite those areas of concern, Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis recently told the Blue Devil Nation that the receivers had made good strides.  That is good to hear from the senior who will lead the offense.  But it was a player on the defensive side of the ball who said good things about the offensive line.

"Those guys are working really hard," said Duke linebacker Vinnie Rey.  He continued, "Sometimes they get a pancake on us and sometimes we knock them back, but they are coming along."

When Cutcliffe was asked about Vinnie Rey and what he meant to this years team he stated -

"Vinnie Rey has had a great spring - Vinnie is our leader.  He is our passionate and vocal and work leader and not just with our defense but with our football team."

Another concern is the secondary where Duke has some bodies but needs players to step up and claim the position with their play.

"We are still trying to deal with the secondary.  I see some growth but, unfortunately, Leon [Wright] has been out with his hamstring again.  That's allowed Zach Greene, Lee Butler, Colin Jones and Chris Rawakamba to get some work in.  At safety, Matt Daniels is an extremely talented youngster and we've just got to take our execution to another level.  We also have Byas and, of course, Catron Gainey is in there as well.  The experiment with Greene has been slowed due to his injured ankle, so it's hard to evaluate there.  But this does let us evaluate where we are and, hopefully, we will find some freshman help when we get here in the Fall, but we are not counting on that.  Instead, we are trying to get with the squad we have here currently," said Cutcliffe

Last season the tight end position had little depth due to injury, but this season the position could prove to be a strength and may be the most improved unit.

"Seeing Brandon King and Huff back healthy and Danny Parker who has had back problems all fall is healthy is positive for the position.  Getting Ryan Hall in early has been a big plus, so it is a position that could be a strength for us and I think it will be."

The Blue Devils have a few more practices before they go to the summer break and that means the spring game which will kick off on April 18th is just around the corner.  BDN asked Cutcliffe about that game.

"I'm looking forward to the spring game but I am kind of wondering what the format is that I want to use.  With the squad as small as it is, we may not be able to have a standard spring game, but I am still thinking about that and we'll send a release out to our fans soon.  We had a great crowd last year and I am expecting a good crowd this year with alumni weekend being the same weekend.  I am really anxious to get a huge crowd out here.  We are going to make it fun and I can promise you it will look like football."

You can find out more information on this game by going to GoDuke.com and it would be nice to see a big turnout for the affair.  In closing our chat, I asked Coach Cutcliffe if he had a message for the Blue Devil Nation [Duke fans] and the coach said without hesitation -

"I would tell the Duke fans the same thing I would tell our players in that this is year two.  Anything we did including our fan support was awesome for year one, but isn't good enough for year two.  Everybody needs to step up.  This football program needs to step up and we will, but our fans need to step up.  We need to break season ticket sales, we need to have a full stadium from the corners all the way to the bottom.  It's time to go ... what are we waiting on?  This is good football here and we're really excited and ready to start this thing."

Duke Football Coach David Cutcliffe gets a contract extension

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe has signed a two-year extension that pushes his current contract through the 2015 season, Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White announced on Sunday.
Terms of the contract will not be released.
"Coach Cutcliffe has clearly established himself as an elite player within the entire college football coaching community," White said.  "Without question, David is one of

Cutcliffe spends time with his youngest daughter during his initial signing day
Cutcliffe spends time with his youngest daughter during his initial signing day

the premier coaches in the country.  Not surprisingly, in a relatively short period of time, David has implanted his strong and determined leadership all over the Duke football program.

"David has hired a phenomenal staff, and the efforts of the coaches have already paid dividends both on and off the field," continued White.  "To be sure, David's unqualified commitment to the comprehensive development of the student-athlete, as well as to the mission of this highly unique University, underscores the fact that this is indeed yet another great day for Duke!"
"David Cutcliffe is a great coach, a great teacher and a great citizen of the University and the community," said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead.  "He and his team have restored confidence and excitement in Duke football, and I look forward to his leadership on the field for a long time to come."
Hired on December 15, 2007, Cutcliffe guided the Blue Devils to a 4-8 record this past season -- equaling the victory total from Duke's previous four seasons combined -- while facing the second-toughest schedule in the nation and competing in the top conference in the country according to the Sagarin Ratings.  The Blue Devils faced 10 bowl eligible teams along with the top-ranked FCS team in James Madison.
"I am grateful to Dr. Brodhead and Kevin for their confidence in our staff as we build on something really special here at Duke," Cutcliffe said.  "As I have said many times

Cutcliffe and his youngest daughter
Cutcliffe and his youngest daughter

over the past year, Duke is a fantastic place with outstanding people, and we are thrilled to be a part of this institution."
Under Cutcliffe's direction, Duke showed significant improvement in all three phases in 2008.  On offense, Duke bettered its totals in total offense (+32.7), rushing offense (+42.2) and sacks allowed (-23) from the previous campaign while quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and wide receiver Eron Riley both earned All-ACC honors.  The defensive unit was led by All-America linebacker Michael Tauiliili and All-ACC defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase as the Blue Devils made marked improvement in scoring defense (-9.8), total defense (-67.4), rushing defense (-28.7) and passing defense (-38.7) and held three opponents to less than 10 points for the first time since 1976.
After making a combined seven-of-22 (.318) field goal attempts over the 2006-07 seasons, Blue Devil kickers booted 13-of-18 (.722) field goal attempts in 2008, posting the highest field goal success rate in a single-season at Duke since 1998.  Nick Maggio (28-of-28) became just the third kicker in Duke history to make 25 or more PATs without a miss in a single season while punter Kevin Jones ranks third in the ACC in punting (40.8 avg.).
In addition, Duke saw an increase of 60 percent in season ticket sales for 2008 and had four home crowds of 30,000 or more fans for the first time in school history.  Duke's average home attendance of 28,727 in 2008 was the largest since 1994.[/private]

Struggling Miami up next for Duke

[private]The Duke Blue Devils play host to the struggling Miami Hurricanes on October 18th. Perennial powerhouse Miami enters the game at 3-3 and coming off a sloppy 20-14 victory over Central Florida. The Hurricanes turned the ball over three times and managed just 216 yards of offense in the victory. Miami is 11th in the ACC in total offense at 289.2 yards per game. Prior to the victory over Central Florida, the Canes suffered back-to-back home losses to North Carolina and Florida State.

The Blue Devils are coming off a bye week after losing at Georgia Tech 27-0 on October 4th. The 3-2 Blue Devils are averaging 24.6 points and 324.4 yards of offense per game. Duke's offense is spearheaded by Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis who has thrown seven touchdown passes against three interceptions this season. Six of those touchdown passes have gone to wide receiver Eron Riley who is third in the ACC with 5.4 receptions per game. After the Navy game, in which Lewis connected with Riley for three touchdowns, Coach David Cutcliffe stated, "They are pretty special friends. Eron - he is kind of climbing the ladder...If we can get him healthy, he could have a pretty special senior season."

At 0-2 in the ACC and with upcoming conference games against #21 Wake Forest and #18 Virginia Tech, the Duke game has developed into a must win game for the Canes. The pressure will be on Miami and they could come into the game tight. If Duke can force a turnover or execute a big play early, they could set the tone for the game and exert pressure on Miami.

Duke has struggled establishing a running game thus far this season. The Blue Devils are managing just 118.8 yards per game on the ground, and in the loss to Georgia Tech were held to 35 yards rushing. In discussing the running game, Coach Cutcliffe stated, "It's got to be fixed and get fixed quick." Miami is second in the ACC in Rushing Defense giving up just 95.7 yards per game, so Duke will need to figure out the adjustments that need to be made and execute them in order to establish a running game against the Canes.

The passing game has been the strength of Duke's offense this season. Duke is third in the ACC in Pass Offense at 205.6 yards per game. Miami's defense has yielded nine passing touchdowns this season including two in the fourth quarter against North Carolina. Look for Duke to attempt to exploit Miami's secondary in order to move the ball and establish offensive rhythm. Miami is last in the ACC with just three interceptions on the season. Thaddeus Lewis has completed passes to 14 different players this season with four receivers having double-digit receptions. The offensive line must give Lewis time to throw the ball as Miami is fifth in the ACC with 14 sacks for 123 yards.

On defense, Duke has played solid recording six interceptions and seven sacks. Linebackers Michael Tauiliiu and Vinnie Rey are number one and two in the ACC in tackles per game at 11.4 and 9.4 respectively. The Blue Devils are sixth in Scoring Defense and eigth in Total Defense in the ACC. Duke is third in the ACC, behind Virginia Tech and Florida State, in Time of Possession at 31:50 per game.

October 18th will be an exciting day in Durham. It is Homecoming Weekend and the basketball Blue-White Game will be held at 1:00 pm prior to the football game that is set to start at 3:30 pm and be televised by ESPNU. This year finds the situation in Durham a bit different as Duke fans are still excited about football even though basketball season is set to start. This coming Saturday, the Blue Devils have a legitimate opportunity to secure their second ACC victory of the season against the Hurricanes. Duke needs to execute the fundamentals: take care of the football, win the battle at the line of scrimmage, avoid penalties, and execute on special teams. If they can take care of those fundamentals, there is a very good chance Duke will send Miami back to Coral Gables with an 0-3 ACC record.[/private]

Duke’s New Offensive Coordinator talks about the coming season

[private]The Blue Devil Nation was on hand for media day and we secured this interview with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.  We will have an article daily on Duke Football leading up to the home opener against James Madison.  We will also bring you practice coverage and comments for Blue Devil Nation Premium members.  The Blue Devil Nation loves Duke Football and we will aspire to bring you the same great coverage you have seen with concerns to the basketball program.  If you are a football fan, please pay us a daily visit during the month of August.  You’ll be happy you did!

So!  Are you excited to finally get back on the field?

(Wide smile) Oh yeah!  It’s like Christmas … Christmas Eve anyway.

Tell me a little bit about tomorrow.  Will you just have a walk trough?

The NCAA changed the rules a few years ago to try and help with all the heat strokes.  So, the first five days we can only practice once a day.  We will have about a two hour practice these first few days and on Saturday, we’ll have our first two a days.  We’ll have some intense practices this week.

Are you looking forward to seeing if any freshman can possibly help?

Sure, like I said it’s like Christmas Eve and tomorrow we get to unwrap the presents which is always an interesting thing.  We will try to help them catch up.  It wasn’t that long ago when you use to have two or three days of freshman where you could get out there and work specifically withthem  With all the rules changes they’ve taken those practices away which has been a change.   So, we’ve got to see who can step in and see  guys can play and possibly help right away.

So, I’m assuming the staff will get together and talk about who they might redshirt and such.  What is a realistic time line where you think you might have a feel to make the decisions?

Well, in college football is different than say the NFL, where they get four preseason games.  We schedule in three scrimmages with ACC crews … it’s a daily process, but at the end of those scrimmages, you’ve got to make those decisions and move on.  Our last scrimmage is the 19th of August.  We’ll put them out there and see who makes plays and the ones that are ready show up.

You’ve had a chance to get to know some of the guys here by now.  Are the players where you want them to be at this point and time?

I’m really comfortable with the players and the entire staff.  It’s a day by day thing.  Obviously I know the offensive players better and I think it’s a good group of guys who understand  what we want to do as an offense.  If they buy in and I think they have then that gives you a chance on Saturdays.

Is it safe to say there will be a lot of changes in your offensive schemes?

Well, there’s only so many ways you’re going to skin a cat.  Football is football, there’s eleven on the field.  When you develop tour schemes you do it based on people or personnel as much as anything else.  We’re going to be an offense that … (brief pause) … at the end of the day we want to score one more point than the opponent.  You do that by taking care of the ball and making big plays.

So, it’s safe to say that there is a gray with concerns to how you may call a game?

Sure, sure!  And it changes as the game changes.  We have to find out who the guys are that are going to make plays for us and then make it so guys get the football.

Some felt that the Duke offense wasn’t aggressive enough last season.  Even in the one win, they kind of scaled back the offense in the second half but still managed to hold on.  How do you make those decisions on when to go for the jugular so to speak?

I don’t think anybody say let’s go into the third of fourth quarter and say let’s protect the lead.  But there are certain situations in the game where you don’t want to put our self a bad situation and this is from years and years of position study and down and distance study.  If you take a close look at it and you get the ball within your own twenty yard line the percentages go way down.  Obviously the percentages improve as you get closer.  You have to be smart with play calling.  I learned a long time ago from some food football coaches that you beat yourself a lot more than that opponent beats you with turnovers, negative plays, penalties … before you win a football game you can’t be yourself.  There is that happy median where you want to be aggressive but still be smart.  We want to be our self and be a sound football team and you want to pick up chunks of yardage on big plays.  But you don’t win a game in the first three quarters.  You and I know when you play teams like North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech, well you’re not going to run them off the field.  That’s not realistic I don’t care who you are even if you are number one Georgia.  We want an opportunity to win the football game in the fourth quarter.  You want a drive at the end of the game … that’s why everyone  wants a that great quarterback.  When you look at it those great ones have found a way to take that last drive and score with it just like Eli Manning did in the Super Bowl

I’m assuming you have had a chance to watch some film of last years games in getting an idea of your personal.  In the Miami game in Wade two years ago, Duke had an opportunity to score late in the game after a sustained drive, yet bogged down and turned the ball over.  The same thing pretty much happened there last season.  Have you seen that film and would you have done anything differently?

I wasn’t in that situation, so It’s hard to say what they were doing was the wrong em.thing.  They coached their team the way which seemed right to them.  Does that mean I would do it exactly the same?  No.  But our philosophy … we’re going to be pretty multiple

Speaking of quarterbacks, have you had a chance to look at Thad and what were your thoughts of him coming out of spring practice?  What do you like and dislike about his game?

I think he’s a guy that can throw the football well,  He runs a little bit hot and cold at times but he can throw the football well.  The thing that needed improving were his fundamentals.  You can’t ever take that lightly because when the fundamentals start fading are when the turnovers happen and that isn’t just an interception.  It could be fumbles in the pocket, the center exchange … all those things that you have to concentrate on as a coach.  He’s got to learn in our offense the fundamentals that are important.

I think it’s reps, I think it’s fundamentals.  It’s where he sets the ball up when he finishes his drop.  I think how he keeps both hands on it before he delivers rather than panicking and separated.  In situations like that I think you get your feet too far out of whack and you are not on balance.  He has to understand the timing of plays and apply that to have himself be active.  He was at 55% last year which is okay.  But you need to be 60 and above to really be throwing well.

So what will the team have to do to help ensure his success?

We have to figure that out … how we’ll protect him and how we do it best.  We have numerous protections in our package, no doubt.  So we will find the ones we are good at.  The other thing that you have to look at is that you have to build routes where he can get the ball out of his hands faster.  There are really good routes you can build up, but you will have to be able to protect a little bit longer.  If you can’t protect it, then there is no reason calling it.

You say in your offense …

Our offense is different, the drop back, the run schemes, all the footwork is different and that has to appl into to how you hand the ball off, how you get back into position and set, reading the coverage … which has to apply to the way we will run our offense at Duke.

How do you feel about the time you’re allowed to prepare for the home opener?

You know, when you really think about fifteen practices isn’t very much.  I’m anxious to see how much carry over we had (Spring).  There needs to be carry over and then there needs to be progress.  I’ll be able to tell you here in a couple of weeks exactly what I think.

Is it safe to say that Duke will be running the backs on routes and utilizing the tight ends more?

Sure.  I think last year one of our tailbacks caught 39 passes and he made a big difference in what he was doing.  Our tight ends>  We had four catch TD passes last year at Tennessee.  The goal is to get 55 to 60 percent completions their way for you really don’t have to throw it that far.  You hope those guys then make plays with their feet.

The running game was atrocious last year.  WIll improved quarterback play help there?  What can you do to try and develop a running game which averaged around 50 yards a game?

It’s a good question but a very long discussion when you get into it.  You have to be balanced, there is no doubt about it.  Typically an offense will go one way or the other with what they are good at.  The emphasis went more towards the passing game at Duke last year.  You’ve got to balance up your practice time to get good at both of them.  You’ve got to pick a few things and try to get good at it rather than saying okay that didn’t work let’s try something else.  You have to rep and rep and rep and rep until you become good at anything.  We didn’t come out at Tennessee last year and try to out physical everybody and the same will apply here.  You’ve got to create lanes horizontally and vertically in your running game.

Coach Cut has talked a lot about the speed of the ACC defenses.  The SEC is obviously fast.  Will you approach things differently in this conference?

I don’t think so.  The ACC, especially a couple of year ago was as talented as the SEC on defense.  When you are talking conferences, don’t gage it on offense but on the defensive side of the ball.  Florida won the national championship a couple of years ago because you couldn’t block their front four.  LSU last year won the title.  They were good on offense, but you couldn’t block their front four,  When you look at the ACC you start seeing players like that.

You are the OC and coach most of that side of the ball.  How do you guys work together like with Coach Cutcliffe?

Very well.  He’s done it a lot of years now  so he understands all the verbiage and all the terminology, every scheme we are running he is seen before.  If he sees something he likes or dislikes, he’s going to make a comment.  He is very involved with the process.

Pictured are Coach Kurt Roper and his wife and daughter and Thad Lewis and Coach Scottie Montgomery.  All pictures are the sole property of  Blue Devil Nation and you must have permission to reprint them in any way.