Daniel Jones threw for 279 yards against Notre Dame, but is still struggling with turnovers as a ...

Week 4: Cutcliffe previews Notre Dame game

Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe held his weekly press conference Tuesday, addressing the Blue Devils' recent 24-13 loss to Northwestern and their upcoming matchup against Notre Dame. Duke (1-2) faces the Fighting Irish (1-2) at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Here are some of the more notable sound bytes from Cutcliffe’s press conference:

Duke is off to its worst start since 2011. For the past two weeks, the Blue Devils have been unable find solutions for various deficiencies on both sides of the ball. Duke already has 10 turnovers this season and are averaging 7.3 penalties per game—the Blue Devils had previously never averaged more than six per game since 2008.

Offensively, Duke has struggled to maintain drives across midfield. Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones has displayed his youth and looked unsettled in the pocket. Although he threw for 279 yards against Northwestern, the Charlotte native rarely looked downfield. Similar to his outing against Wake Forest, he also held the ball too long, making himself more susceptible to pressure from the Wildcat defense.

The Blue Devil offense’s inability to stay on the field has put more pressure on the defense to make stops. In their last two games, Duke’s defenders have fatigued and surrendered a combined 34 points in the second half.

When you’re inconsistent in your execution, you have to continue to look at personnel and approach.
When you study personnel, you make sure the right people are in place and that you’re asking them to do things they can successfully do, rather than have them struggle with it.

Like the Blue Devils, Notre Dame has had a disappointing start to its campaign. The Fighting Irish were upset against Texas in their season-opener before falling to then-No.12 Michigan State at home Saturday. Notre Dame has struggled to overcome the loss of its three top tacklers from a year ago. The Fighting Irish have been forced to rely on several first-year starters and have surrendered more than 500 yards in both of their losses.

Offensively, however, Notre Dame is explosive and attacks opposing defenses both through the air and on the ground. Dual-threat quarterback DeShone Kizer has kept defenses guessing with nine passing and four rushing touchdowns this season.

Their kicking game is outstanding.... Offensively, their front is just outstanding and their quarterback has incredible skills.

The Blue Devils will initially be short-handed at safety against Notre Dame with senior Deondre Singleton suspended for the first half. Singleton was ejected in the second half against Northwestern for targeting. In Singleton’s absence, Duke will start redshirt freshman Jordan Hayes who has six tackles—including one tackle for loss—this season.

Cutcliffe said that redshirt junior safety Phillip Carter and sophomore Brandon Boyce might also be able to travel and play against the Fighting Irish. The two defenders were suspended for Duke’s first three games for undisclosed reasons in August.

Right now, it looks like Jordan Hayes will start. It looks like, and I haven’t made the final decision, but Carter and Boyce will be on the trip. I cannot give that 100 percent confirmation until I see how they respond over the next few days.

Kicking continued to be a problem for the Blue Devils against Northwestern. After missing two field goals against Wake Forest, freshman kicker A.J. Reed failed to convert a 33-yard try and an extra-point attempt Saturday. Redshirt freshman punter Austin Parker bobbled a snap in the third quarter, resulting in a turnover on downs.

Still, Cutcliffe said that he will not make changes at either kicking position.

You have to treat place-kickers and punters like relief pitchers. You treat them like closers. You don’t go snatch the ball from a closer if you’re a good manager.

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