In his weekly teleconference, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe talked about a number of things namely his team’s most recent win over Wake Forest and the upcoming rivalry game with North Carolina.
Cutcliffe was pleased with his team despite the early frustrations and falling behind 14-0.
“It took a little while offensively to get going. Though we were closer than you might think in those early miscues where we failed to make 3rd downs,” Cutcliffe said. “Credit Wake Forest, I thought they played really well and really hard.”
Part of the success that Duke had offensively was the re-emergence of quarterback Anthony Boone, who had struggled in the previous three games including throwing seven interceptions in two of the last three contests prior to the Wake Forest game. Cutcliffe said that Boone, who completed 24 of 29 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, has finally gotten healthy following his broken collarbone.
“He feels better. Watching the tape I thought his mechanics were back where they were. He’s really worked hard at it,” Cutcliffe said. “Thought he had his best week of practice last week. I feel like he’s back in his rhythm.”
Duke is certainly going to need him heading into the the final game against North Carolina, a game that can help the Blue Devils clinch the ACC Coastal Division title outright and earn a spot in the ACC Championship game. It was something that Cutcliffe mentioned to his team after the game.
“I addressed it a little bit after the ball game. The bottom line is this, you win this next game the next one is going to be even more challenging,” Cutcliffe said. “No question this is our greatest challenge. We’re on the road playing a really good team. But these are the things as a competitor you want to challenge yourself.”
As for the next opponet, Cutcliffe has said he has seen them play a bit this season and knows they are a talented team especially quarterback Marquise Williams who took over for Bryn Renner who was lost for the rest of the season with an injury.
“I’ve seen some of them. We’ve watched them off and on all season,” Cutcliffe said. “I’m very familiar with him (Williams) from high school. He’s extremely talented He’s an accurate passer with really good running skills.”
Despite their No. 24 ranking and coming into the game with a 7-game winning streak, the Blue Devils still find themselves as underdogs in perhaps the most meaningful game of the year and the rivalry plays a big part of that.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of them. I think it calls on each individual,” Cutcliffe said. “The accountability of the individual player changes. Everyone watches each other. No one wants to be the goat. There is a different accountability on rivalry weeks.”
And don’t think Cutcliffe buys any of the talk that the Duke-North Carolina game isn’t a rivalry just because the Tar Heels have won 21 out of the last 23 games.
“They are not going to overlook us and we’re not going to overlook them. Since I’ve been here it hadn’t needed any heating. My first year here I learned a lot about it from the players that I inherited. I think it is on of the more unique rivalries regardless of whose won what. ”
Regardless of what happens this season is going down as one of the most special in the history of the Duke Football program. Yet despite all his successes prior to coming to Duke, both at Tennessee and at Ole Miss, Cutcliffe ranks this year’s team and season up there with all of them.
“It’s as good as anything I’ve been through and that’s not understating anything else I’ve been a part of,” Cutcliffe said “Being a part of this with so many exceptional people has been amazingly rewarding. Each one of these seniors I feel a deep affection for and that makes it even more rewarding.”
“I think when you are as happy being with the people you are with and you are able to scratch out some success it can’t be any more rewarding than that.”
Cutcliffe even suggested that this year’s Duke squad and the success they have had mean as much as the National Championship team he was a part of as offensive coordinator at Tennessee.
“It certainly has. That was a very emotional year and a rewarding year at Tennessee. Obviously one of those memories you never forget or understate,” Cutcliffe said. “As I said because of all of these relationship it can’t be more rewarding. If we were to win them all next year. It wouldn’t be any more rewarding than to watch this process take hold and be a part of all these people that have worked so hard here.”