Tag Archives: Cutcliffe

Coach Cutcliffe Weekly Teleconference

[private]Opening statement -

We had four quarters of unbelievably good effort and play.  For the second week in a row, they've maintained that kind of intensity.  That's growth in eight quarters since the Miami game.  Unfortunately when  you have four turnovers and they have one and you set them up for touchdown drives of 22, 33 and 46 yards after turnovers and that's 22 points.  We gave up basically 5 points on a blocked punt for a safety and the ensuing kickoff was fumbled.  Then there was the onside kick that set them up on our own 26 with the penalty and they got points out of that.  We gave them a short field to play with.  Wake Forest is a very opportunistic team.  We played good enough in all areas to have won and will have to get back to practice in an effort to eliminate the errors.

After a tough loss where your team was resilient yet came up short, what do you tell your team as a coach to keep them up? (Mark Watson, BDN)

Well, I just talk to them straight forward about what happened and how it occurred.   We are in between meetings and getting ready to go out on the field and we don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves.  It's as simple as this, football games aren't won in the video room in Sunday.  We're going to correct these mistake and move forward.  When you play as hard as we played you just have to move on.  We have a difficult opponent, a rival opponent in North Carolina State coming off and open week.  They're well coached and have a good football team and we better not be spending any time not getting back up, so we're going to challenge them pretty good.

On the onside kick - (Lucie Chavez, News and Observer)

It's a judgment call.  I felt like the guy was laid out and he would have never  have gotten the ball.  He hit Johnny Williams after he had gotten the ball, but the official has to go out and use his judgement and it's a tough call.  Again, my philosophy on all those things is it could have gone another way.  We could have done ten or fifteen things another way and we would have won the game.  We evaluate it and move on.  I will probably be getting an explanation, but you have to move on. 

Was the reaction similar to that of the Northwestern game?

Yes, it was very similar.  We thought we could win and we competed hard.  We did everything we had to do to win against Northwestern - a return for a touchdown but it was called back.  It was that kind of experience and we are just hoping all of those things help us grow.  We're not just trying to have a good team, that's what everybody needs to understand.  We're going to build a football program here.  We're serious about that.  Thes guys this year?  They are laying the groundwork.  People are missing out if they don't come see htis team play, they're competing.  I certainly hope with a big rival game like N.C. State coming in that we feel this stadium up good.

Duke hasn't played N.C. State since 2003.  Do you feel like you should be able to play a rival every year and what do you think of the divisions the way they are set up now.  Would you rather see them more regional?

I'd love to see N.C. State in there but I'm brand new.  I'm sure if you looked at the economics of the conference, if you let us all be in the same division right here, we'd be playing each other every year and that would be some pretty good road trips for everybody and probably wouldn't be fair to the rest of the conference from Miami to D.C.  There was a lot of thought that went into it and I wasn't privy during those thoughts or meetings but you would love to play that game, not that I want to play N.C. State in particular.  You just love those rival games.  It is what it is and the league is getting better and it is working well as it is, I guess.[/private]

Cutcliffe talks win over Vanderbilt, injuries and preparation for Wake Forest

[private]Cutcliffe's opening statement - It's easier to recruit after a win, I can tell you that!  I'm real proud of our team.  We made a lot of errors and I will take the credit for those which good football teams never make.  I think if you ask our players though, the game was never in doubt.  We played with tremendous grit and determination.  Whatever adversity we might have faced - they were up for it.  The kicking game was off the charts, the defense tremendous and some very timely offense.  Again, if we hadn't of had the errors it could have been a really well played game - it should have been a very well played game.

 You talked about recruiting ... can you elaborate a little bit on what this means for recruiting?  (Mark Watson, BDN)

I think people that are out there in general, whether it's high school coaches or prospects understand that things are changing and that it's going to continue to change.  It means I'm proud of this team and what it's doing.  There is a lot of work left to do, we all know that, but I think people can see that we are going to have success here at Duke and that encourages a lot of people that want to see this program do well.

How important was it in terms of taking steps and progressing for those guys to be able to win that game on the road after back to back losses?  (Heather Dinich, ESPN)

I think it refers to everything we preach.  The more difficult it is, the better the opportunity.  We kind of take that approach in practice in that it's difficult to get through it.  There was never a doubt in mind that we were ready to play.  They took the challenge.

With injuries to Wright and Butler, did you have enough players to go to a Dime (defense) if you needed to? (Lucie Chavez, News and Observer)

We were really limited to five (defensive backs) that we have to play with .  We are looking into adjustments with concern to the rest of the season.  There are a lot of circumstances we have where we are thin.  We are thinning as the season progresses.

Are you getting any idea of how the injuries ...

We're getting some images on Leon (Wright) and Lee (Butler) That's all still day to day.

Are there other position groups where you are in that groove now?  (Brian Strickland, Herald Sun)

Well, we didn't take two receivers to Nashville, Chestnut and Kelly.  We have a few bumps and bruises there as well.  You just hope people stay well.  Eron has a torn ligament in his thumb and we are just going to be thin in a few places.  It's that time of the year.  I just told our team a little while ago that this is when we are all defined in college football.  Every team has injuries and some of the other kids don't feel great. This is the time of year where you have to be at your best.  Whatever teams that have some backups step up in key roles - that's the team that will be successful down the stretch.  Chris Rwabukamba did that for us on Saturday and he got a standing ovation for doing so.

On relationships with the media ... (Ben Cohen, Duke Chronicle)

I've had a good relationship with most of the media.  You get a lot of good people, intelligent people that you work with and I admire talented people.  The only thing I don't like is sarcasm.  I think people that are consistently sarcastic probably don't have much else to say in their life.  That's just a real negative way to do business.

These kids haven't won this many games in their entire career.  How long do you let them enjoy this win before you move on to Wake Forest? (Mark Watson, BDN)

We've already moved to Wake Forest.  We had a team meeting and I visited with them about that game.  We watch a tape on offense and defense.  After that's put to bed, it's 100% Wake Forest.  We'll go out tonight and work on Wake exclusively.  We might correct some mistakes where we are working on Duke tonight, because we had a number of them.  We are going to jump start into the kicking game and some situations with Wake tonight and then we will do a few two minute drills.  I want them to enjoy the win and hopefully they did it the right way.  Today should be a little bit upbeat.  They should have a little bounce in their step.  They've worked out with weights already.  I think we'll run them tonight ... I think after we run them that they'll move forward.  They're always looking forward to moving on after a Sunday night run.[/private]

Gridiron Devils serve notice with win at Vandy – Hoops can wait!

[private]Normally this time of year marks the beginning of basketball season in Durham.  The stage was set once again when the Duke Men's Basketball team walloped Virginia Union on Saturday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Just seconds after that win, the Duke Football team received the kickoff in Nashville, Tennessee against previously ranked Vanderbilt.

The Commodores had Duke in as a supposed sacrificial lamb for their homecoming and were ten point favorites.  A win would make Vandy bowl eligible and they had quite a streak going against the Blue Devils.  The majority of the fanbase and the nation thought it would be business as usual and that Duke would sport a losing record at days end.

Nobody told David Cutcliffe that it was basketball season.  Nope, he didn't get that memo.  Nor did anyone tell him that football usually folds up in late October.  Instead he served notice to the aforementioned fans and the nation that it's still football season in Durham.  Duke held on for an important 10-7 victory on Saturday pushing their record to 4-3 on the season.

The game certainly wasn't a work of art but the bottom line is that Duke dug down deep in a hostile environment and did what it takes to win.  In the process, Duke showed it is far from done and that they still have some fight left for the stretch run.

You can't blame some of the fans for their apathy.  If one were to add the bye weeks in with losses to Miami and Georgia Tech, they would realize it had been four weeks on Saturday since Duke tasted victory.  Many felt it would be hard to stop the slide in that they are still hanging on to a losing culture.  That's something fans were familiar with having been through more winless seasons in one decade than any school should go through in their history.

That said, make no mistake, the victory in Nashville is huge in many ways.   All of a sudden, Duke is going into next weeks Wake Forest game with spring in their step and there is reason to believe that it's indeed the "Dawn of a New Day."  Duke has now won on the road and defeated a team that has been playing good football.  It's the kind of spark which can carry over into November where Duke takes on its three in state rivals.  More importantly, it's a game where they can point to when on the recruiting trail.

So, let's get a good crowd on the road to Winston Salem this week and win or lose, let's pack the stadium when NC State comes to town.  Basketball season can be put on hold for a few weeks and in case you haven't noticed Duke is over .500 more than halfway through their season.[/private]

Duke Football is still on track


Duke AD Kevin White and Coach Cutcliffe (BDNP)

Duke lost that second half magic on the road against Georgia Tech this weekend and in the process dropped to 1-1 in the ACC and 3-2 overall.  The defense made enough plays to be in the game, but the offensive execution was the worst it had been all season in a 0-27 loss.

Quite simply, Tech's defensive front manhandled the Blue Devils and a lack of execution in all facets on offense spelled eventual doom.  "You're not going to win if you don't score," said a frustrated David Cutcliffe shortly after the loss.

Cutcliffe said in a Sunday teleconference, that his team had been practicing well, so until he saw them in a game situation on Saturday, he had no idea his team wasn't as prepared as they seemed to be during the week.

So, it's back to the drawing board for the Blue Devils, but before some of you fair weather fans abandon ship, take a few things into consideration.

1) No realistic fan expected Duke to go bowling this season.  Tempered expectations are a must for a team that was quite literally the ACC doormat.  Sure, we are to expect wins, but there will be learning curve and bumps in the road.

2) While the schedule is tough from here on out, you still play those last seven games on the field.  True, Duke might not be favored in more than one game at this time, but they have proved competitive in all but one half this season.

3) These kids are learning a new system and I for one think they have a pretty good grasp of it in a short time, although it can certainly get better.

Now, let's recap the season to date -

James Madison - Duke thwarted a Division II power in the Duke's.  JMU hasn't lost a game since then and currently stand 5-1 with a win over defending champion Appalachian State and chalking up sixty plus to nothing on Hofstra this past weekend.  This was a solid start for the Blue Devils, something fans aren't too accustomed to.

Northwestern - Duke won the game everywhere but the scoreboard.  This was a bitter defeat for victory was in their grasp.  Still, Northwestern entered the coaches top 25 this week at 5-0 and Duke had the better team everywhere but where it counts - the scoreboard.

Navy - Duke rounded the learning curve in this game, never saying die and proving off season conditioning helped immensely.  It was important for Duke to come back with a win after a close loss and they did.  The offense racked up some serious points in the process.  Navy went on to defeat Wake Forest and Air Force on the road and like Northwestern, they almost certainly will go to a bowl.

Virginia  - This 31-3 win snapped the dreaded ACC losing streak.  That would have been a great season by itself in the past several years.  When one takes a closer look at the stats, you can see a trend where the offense started to get out of rhythm, but the defense proved itself a worthy adversary after letting up 31 to Navy.  Virginia then went on to wallop Maryland, showing they aren't so bad after all.

Georgia Tech - Duke was very much in this game in the first half and the defense played well with the exception of a few cover situations.  Duke held down one of the nations top rushing attacks, but couldn't find any points or put together drives to keep the defense rested.  The end result was an ugly goose egg, but this was a game that could have gone down to the wire with a little production.  Georgia Tech, amazingly, is still not ranked after a 4-1 start.

Dukes first five opponents are 20-7 overall to date which isn't bad!

The reason I am going into a lot of this is that I find it interesting that a trip around the message boards have some calling Miami a must win or a disgusted few saying it is doom and gloom and or the same old, same old.  Trust me, it is a good sign that some of you are aching, for it shows a couple of things.  It means that you care enough to where the losses are painful and proves that the sweetness of success is a good taste that makes the losses tougher.

I could say Rome wasn't built in a day, but let's just state the facts.  Duke is playing a lot of young players at skilled positions, yet most teams are able to red shirt these kids.  What this means is that the talent level has a ways to go before we can let the newcomers season and mature like Wake Forest and Vanderbilt and the traditional powers are doing.

Make no mistake though, Duke is moving in that direction, but it is not an overnight patch job.  One of the things which has stuck in my mind was hearing new AD Kevin White say he worried about fan expectations in which he may have had the foresight to see what might develop.   When thirsty fans tasted a couple of wins, they naturally want more.

Just this past week, the New York Times was checking in on Duke Football.  Many media outlets were talking up the Devils as well.  This too, was both good and bad.  It was good in that Coach Cutcliffe has improved a team which many felt was an impossible task.   And he is winning in just one season.  Duke is no longer a team everybody wants for homecoming.

The bad is that Duke is in the process of learning how to win and become a football team and they are not ready for prime time just yet.  They will have to continue to work hard in practice.  But it is more than just on the field improvements which need work, but a plan is in place.

That plan but it will take some time and work.  There will be some occasions, we'll get a butt whooping which generally makes players coaches and administrators want to work harder.  As fans, we must work as well and that job entails being there supporting and growing with this team.

With the administration showing a willingness to improve facilities and change the culture., the team needs continued support.  The staff is already making significant in roads with recruiting as well.  In short there is a foundation which a loss to Georgia Tech or any upcoming opponent cannot derail.

This is a pretty good football team with seniors which will pick them back up and I guarantee you no coaching staff is working harder on or off the field than Cutcliffe and company.

So, temper your expectations a bit, but expect some measure of success for this team can win some football games.  There is no reason for fans not to turn out in force for an attractive remaining home schedule with just three games left.  I know, I will be there when Duke takes on Miami in two weeks and it'll be interesting to see if the team rebounds.

One thing I can tell you  for certain is this team will not quit.

Late note - Another sign of progress is that the Miami at Duke game has been picked up by ESPNU for a 3:30 time slot.  This will be the third nationally televised game in a row.[/private]

Cutcliffe opens up about defeating UVA, Duke freshman and Georgia Tech

[private]Here is today's question and answer session with Coach David Cutcliffe -

Opening statement -

I want to first say that looking at the tape, it's good to win 31-3 with so many things that we can do better.  We rushed offensively, our execution wasn't near what it had been.  Obviously, I didn't do a good enough job keeping us oiled up during the open date.  Defensively, a little slow starting, but in the second quarter we started playing as good as we could have.  We're glad to get the win and it was certainly big for our seniors.  I wish you could have seen those young men in the locker room.  I've already had a team meeting this afternoon and we will shortly be going out on the field to work on Georgia Tech

(BDN) Coach, Michael Tauiliili had a career high 16 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception,  Can you talk a little about his game?

I certainly can.  He had the interception of course and the fumble recovery, but he's been playing like that all season.  He's had a tremendous start to the season.  He's about 25 pounds lighter than he was a year ago and had certainly proved he's game ... playing at a much faster pace.  He's become a much better tackler.  Mike is one of our captains and I think he's probably grown as much as anybody on our team to this point.  I think he's playing like an All American linebacker.

(Go Duke) After playing some special teams the first few games, you got Butler and Daniels in the rotation in the secondary.  Can you talk about the two.  I assume we will be seeing a lot more of them?

Absolutely you will see more of them.  I challenged both of them during the open date to pick it up.  Meaning assignments, techniques, consistency.  It's hard to put a young guy in the secondary.  It's hard to put a guy anywhere if you don't trust them.  They're both really good prospects.  You saw them.  If you've watched us at all you saw them make plays in the special teams area.  Lee and Matt are going to be playing much more over the rest of the season and they will both be really fine football players.

(N & O)  Following up an Lee and Matt - what is it about them physically?  Where are they at this point?

Well they're both extremely fast.  As fast if not faster than anybody we have on our team.  Now days we have freshman come in in the summer.  They are really good athletes, their bodys have responed really well in weight training and conditioning.

(Chronicle)  I don't know if you know yet, but you got a vote in the coaches poll.  I was wondering, does that mean anything?

Well, I didn't know.  Depending upon who made the vote (laughing).  It might be a good friend, or it could be Coach Spurrier again.  All that is short lived if you don't win.  All we are concerned about is becoming a better football team.

(BDN)  Coach, back to freshman a second.  Can you talk a little bit about how Jay Hollingsworth has developed?

Jay took a huge step in this last game.  He's slowly getting there too.  He's another one of those guys with his body  just responding.  He's actually got a little sore hamstring and was able to work through it, which impressed me.  A lot of youngsters can't do that and he's a tough kid, he has great body lean.  If he will continue to work he will be a really fine player.  He has a nice natural body lean and vision - catches the ball real well out of the backfield.  He's going to get a lot of touches over the years.

(NY Times) We are doing a theme on how volatile this weekend was in college football.  You've obviously taken Duke and lifted them up significantly so far.  Can you talk of the line between winning and losing in college football and how chaotic it'll probably be?

I feel sorry for people that take pride in picking winners and have this high percentage.  It's going to be very difficult.  It's a lot of programs like ourselves and there are teams who aren't  your perennial power houses that have made an effort to attract a better player.  And the other part is that a lot of us are doing a much better job of developing talent.  There's a combination of things.  We're a good football team right now.  I would say we are near being a great football team, but we have a good team, which means it could go either way for us every week.  We have to play our best to have a chance to win.  It's going to be harder for teams to put up double digit wins in the future.

(Herald Sun)  Does it help in a kind of backwards way that the team is bringing consistency, that they haven't had in the past?

Well, I think it makes you hungrier.  I would hope we maintain that hunger.  Hey, listen!  We should be hungry enough .. we need a ten or fifteen year stretch of devouring food - we should be so hungry for success.  So, hopefully we'll manage that.  I'm not literally talking about food, you guys know that.

(NY Times) I just wanted to ask - do you have a sense of where you stand in the ACC?  You haven't been through this for a year yet, so there is a lot of newness to it.  But do you know where you stand and do you think Georgia Tech will give you a better answer?

That's a program that has been to eleven straight bowls and they obviously have good players on the field.  They have been successful this particular season.   I haven't played a road game yet.  It's hard to tell where we stand.  From me evaluatiing our team, we've got a long way to go to get to where we want to be.  What we are trying to do is get to where we can at least be competitive and when the game's over feel like we've played well.

(Herald Sun) Do you pay any attention to Navy beating Wake Forest or Northwestern is undefeated?

No, not really but Northwestern should be 4-1, but they are 5-0.  Injuries can change teams, so usually comparative scores in my experience never work.

(BDN)  You've outscored your opponents 76-14 in the second half in each of the first four games.  Is there a recipe for that?

I think it's conditioning.  I also think it's our staff.  We're in systems that we've been in for a long time and we hope we know how to fix some problems at halftime.  I think our staff does a tremendous job of that on both side of the ball and the kicking game.  So, when you are in themes and you are not grab bagging and you believe in the system ... we've really done a nice job of that and I think our players truly are fresh in the second half.  They look forward to it, they really do.  When we are running they're always hollering we want more ... I think it's a ploy to get me to stop, but I think they can go more,  We've shown them you can push yourself beyond what you thought you could.

(AJC) Coach Johnson has kind of developed a reputation down here of gambling on fourth down going for it fourth and three up 14-0 and scoring a touchdown on the play.  When you go against a coach like that who is known as more of a gambler, does that effect your schemes and how you prepare for them?

It effects us because they think they're in four down territory all the time because the style of their offense.  In our study of Navy in the spring and summer - they go for it all the time.  You have to be ready to make fourth down calls on defense every possession.  Their percentage of making them is very high.  So, I don't know if he is gambling as much as he is just confident in what his offense is going to do.

(AJC) Will it help that you've played Navy?

I think it goes both ways.  They have better athletes than Navy.  But they can see us against their offense, so we have got to tweak some things and do some things differently - so there is a little bit of cat and mouse going on.[/private]

Game Week – Cutcliffe talks to the media, part I

[private]Coach Cutcliffe addressed the media today with the emphasis on changing the culture of Duke Football and asking the fans to be in the stands early.

Opening statements - We are going to have a Blue Out.  So, we want everybody to wear blue to the game.  We want to see a sea of blue in the stadium.

Just evaluating our team, there are three phases that have happened already.  There's winter conditioning, there is spring practice and summer conditioning work.  All three phases, we've gotten better.  Is it good enough?  I'm not saying that.  But we're at a point of being so far away, that we have miles to go before we sleep, so to speak.  The fourth phase is the season.  It's very obvious we are better as a team.  I can give some specifics.

We are much better in the kicking game.  Again, consider where we were!  So, much better is not good enough to this point in my opinion.  But we are much better!  Our punting, our place kicking ... our kickoff has been excellent.  I like our ability to be a good return team!  Our coverage has been much better than what it's been.  I think we can make some things happen.  I think we can block some kicks.

As far as throwing and catching the ball -- I was very concerned after spring practice.  They (team) struggled with that.  Our throwing and catching was really poor.  It has now reached the point where it is much better.  Again, it's a little too inconsistent than what I like, but I'm pleased with the progress.

One of the areas I'm most pleased with is the pass coverage.  I think our secondary has done a tremendous job at this point.  I hope it is an indication of them improving, not our receivers not being able to separate.  There has been a tremendous job done by Coach Jones and Coach MacIntyre in that regard.

Our tackling has been better.  You can't play good defense ... the scheme doesn't matter if you can't tackle.  Our tackling is not where it should be at this time, but it is better than any point in spring practice.  If I had to lift something quickly right now, I would pray for great tackling.

The biggest concern I have, although there is improvement are both fronts.  Our front on defense is much better, but I have a major concern about depth there.  The offensive line is the same thing.  There has been drastic improvement, but it's still not where it needs to be and the depth is horrendous at this point.

Overall, the thing that has helped us get better is better practice habits.  I knew the first time I saw this team that was an issue.  We sometimes try to revert back to 0-12, 1-11 habits.  That's what we're here for is to make them understand you practice with the same intensity and the same execution which never waivers and we lose focus.  Our jobs as coaches is to immediately correct that.  If we continue to do that through the season, by the time we get to November, we can be a good football team.  We are not the most talented team in the conference, but we need to be a good football team and if you are a good football team you can carry into the fourth quarter and win the game.

On the importance of a good showing on Saturday night ... Thank goodness there's expectations.  I like that.  Obviously I know of the importance of going out and playing well and people coming back.  The biggest challenge is to generate the interest have some expectations.  If you don't go in expecting to do well, you generally will not.

On changing the culture and the mentality of players -  We have them everyday since last January and we've made progress in that regard.  The thing we had to do was get the people enthused, get them in the stands, sell the stadium out.  There has been too much finger pointing when it comes to Duke Football.  We all have to take responsibility..  Our Administration has been a part of this and very supportive and they've declared that they want to change the culture of football at Duke and we are taking that serious.  I'm not going to be afraid to challenge people.  If it's not good enough on their end then I need to let them know.  They can be mad if they want, but we are serious about changing the football program.

Part 2 is coming soon. Pictured is Coach David Cutcliffe and new Athletic Director, Kevin White. (copyright BDNP)[/private]