Cutcliffe credited his team’s experience and maturity as a major part in the Blue Devils ability to withstand a second half surge from the Hokies and secure Duke’s first victory over a ranked opponent since 1994, the first victory over Virginia Tech since 1981 and the first road win against a ranked team since 1971.
“With looking at the game the thing that most excited me was so many different players that were involved in making timely key plays. As tough as things got offensively, when we had to do some things we got them done,” Cutcliffe said. The experience factor comes into play. A lot of these player went into Blacksburg and went up 20-0. Then we blew a lot of chances in the second half and got beat 41-20,” Cutcliffe said.
“Experience is only good when you use it. We’ve got some guys that used it last week at Virginia. We certainly used it again in different circumstances and situations yesterday,” Cutcliffe said. “I told all of them before the ball game that this was not a 60 minute game that it was a 3 and a half hour game. because it was going to take being mentally tough. We had to handle every part of the next 3 and a half hours.”
That mental toughness was a huge factor considering how much Duke’s offense struggled against a very good Virginia Tech defense. That may have been one of the most amazing parts of Duke’s victory was the fact that they won without having a strong game from the offense, a group that has been the relative strength of the program.
Cutcliffe talked about the struggles of quarterback Anthony Boone against the Hokies and he felt that it may have been a case of Boone trying to take too much on.
“The last thing a quarterback needs to do is to start trying to make plays and put it on his shoulders and Anthony is very competitive, he’d rather it be him in that circumstance than anyone else. It is not a sport where one guy can take the ball and dominate it,” Cutcliffe said.
Moving forward, Duke gets the second of their bye weeks before wrapping up the regular season. The bye week comes at a good time as several key players, including corner Ross Cockrell, could use the time to recover from injuries but Cutcliffe said his team will focus on getting better as well as relaxing and savoring the victory just a little bit.
“I’m very happy we have an open date. We’ve got a lot of healing to do and a lot of work to do in a lot of areas. Hopefully we will be focused on what we’ve go to get done this week,” Cutcliffe said. “I told them its okay to enjoy this for a couple of days. They should relax. It is human nature to relax and I hope they are able to do that and I think it will benefit us down the stretch.”
With the Blue Devils’ sixth victory of the year, they are now bowl eligible but unlike last year when the wheels seemed to fall off, Cutcliffe has his team aiming for bigger things than just getting to a bowl.
“A year ago I would have almost used the word giddy. That was the feeling. People just couldn’t stop talking about it. I think this team has expected it all along that they would play in a bowl game,” Cutcliffe said. “Its a good thing but it wasn’t the goal, and its not just the goal. We are trying to take it one game at a time and put together a special season. The only way I know to do that is keep competing and try to win one game at a time.”
Duke will take that time to rest and relax before getting some work in on NC State but will also focus on getting better themselves, while moving forward into a critical stretch of the season.
Duke linebacker Kelby Brown was named the national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Brown was integral to the Blue Devils victory recording 14 tackles (one for a loss) and intercepting a pass late in the game that all but sealed the victory for Duke.
Cutcliffe also talked about the likely bump in recruiting that will come as a result of such a big victory. He said he was in communication with a lot of people following the victory and will be doing some recruiting during the bye week.
“With this day and time you get tons of feedback. I was communicating with guys all over the country because they hear about it quickly or they saw it.”